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#4 Do you think Fitzgerald is writing a love story that embraces American ideals, or a piece that critiques or comments on American ideals?

Thesis Statement: The Great Gatsby was Fitzgerald’s scathing condemnation on American ideals in the 1920s.

  1. Intro     The Great Gatsby is a severe criticism of American upper class values. Fitzgerald uses the book’s central conflict between Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby to illustrate his critique. Tom is the incarnation of the upper class, Gatsby the nouveau riche. The contrast between them demonstrates that no matter how one gets their money whether it is inherited or earned they are morally decadent and there is no purpose to their lives.
  2. Body  Fitzgerald is an equal opportunity hater.

    1. Gatsby: Fitzgerald makes clear the growing corruption of the American Dream by using Gatsby himself as a symbol for the corrupted dream throughout the text.

      1. Gatsby has not achieved his wealth through honest hard work, but through bootlegging and crime. His money is not simply ‘new’ money—it is dirty money, earned through dishonesty and crime. His wealthy lifestyle is little more than a facade, as is the whole person Jay Gatsby. Gatsby has been created from the dreams of the boy James Gatz.

      2. Daisy’s first tour of Gatsby’s house, he observes that Gatsby re-evaluates all his possessions based on the attention given each of them by Daisy. Gatsby isn’t concerned with the true value of anything he owns. He measures his worth by the degree to which he impresses Daisy.

      3. Gatsby is not a symbol of the greatness of the American dream, but a mere parody of it. Gatsby’s time is filled with prosperity, but corruption as well. People finally acquired leisure time, and it was filled with gluttony and lust. Many authors during this time believed that society was living in excess.

      4. Gatsby, stands out by his wealth; his hospitality secures him a hold on many peoples‘ memories, but Fitzgerald is quick to point up the emptiness of this folly. Fitzgerald’s insistence on Gatsby as a man who “sprang from his own Platonic conception of himself” is important.


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    3. Daisy & Tom

      1. It is not only Gatsby who is corrupt. Nick repeatedly says that he is the only honest person he knows. The story is full of lying and cheating. Even Nick is involved in this deception, helping Gatsby and Daisy in their deceit and later concealing the truth about Myrtle’s death

      2. Tom’s was an embodiment of the American Dream. What Gatsby discovers is that his wealth, his attempts to master some measure of sophistication and taste — even his exemplary service in the war — are not enough. Fitzgerald satirizes the upper class’s distinction not only between the rich and the poor but also between new money and old money. In the words of Tom Buchanan, Gatsby is “Mr. Nobody from Nowhere.”

    4. Nick Carraway, his laid-back and observant neighbor, despises Gatsby’s flamboyant and exaggerated ways. However, he comes to admire Gatsby because of his unending optimism and his ongoing pursuit of making his dreams become reality.

      1. It is not only Gatsby who is corrupt. Nick repeatedly says that he is the only honest person he knows. The story is full of lying and cheating. Even Nick is involved in this deception, helping Gatsby and Daisy in their deceit and later concealing the truth about Myrtle’s death.

      2. Nick is charmed by his lovely cousin Daisy, Tom’s wife, but suspects her charm is superficial. Nick ultimately realizes that Daisy and Tom, despite their wealth, are morally bankrupt, “careless people” who “smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money.”

      3. Nick is impressed that his former Yale classmate, Tom Buchanan, could afford to ship his polo ponies from the Midwest to New York. Nick admits, “It was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough to do that.”

    5. Society as a Whole Fitzgerald explores much more than the failure of the American dream — he is more deeply concerned with its total corruption.

      1. The society in which the novel takes place is one of moral decadence. Whether their money is inherited or earned, its inhabitant are morally decadent, living life in quest of cheap thrills and with no seeming moral purpose to their lives. Any person who attempts to move up through the social classes becomes cannon fodder for Fitzgerald.

      2. Although the story is fictional, Fitzgerald used the novel as a vehicle to offer social commentary on 1920s American life, particularly the upper echelons of society.

        1. In the novel, Fitzgerald uses satire to emphasize the superficial qualities of
          his characters.

        2. He also uses satire to suggest to readers that America’s traditional ideals — uch as loyalty to God and country, the creation of all men as equal and the attainment, by any man, of the American Dream — were quickly deteriorating.

      3. Fitzgerald satirizes what he views as the habit of privileged people acting as though ordinary people, such as Myrtle Wilson, don’t matter.

      4. On the surface, Fitzgerald appears to be suggesting that, while wealth and all its trappings are attainable, status and position are not. While Gatsby has money and possessions, he is unable to find happiness. Those who come to his home do not genuinely like Gatsby—they come for the parties, the food, the drink and the company, not for Gatsby. Furthermore, they seem to despise Gatsby, taking every opportunity to gossip about him. Many come and go without even taking the time to meet and few ever thank him for his hospitality.

  3. Conclusion The American Dream, a long standing ideal embodies the hope that one can achieve financial success, political power, and everlasting love through nothing more than hard work and dedication. During the Roaring 20s, people in America put up facades to mask who they truly were. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald conveys that the American Dream is simply an illusion, that is idealist and unreal, that dances on the waves of hope, but never quite makes it ashore.