The Great Gatsby: Themes

This article by experts provides an explanation of The Great Gatsby themes. The core issues represented in the novel by Fitzgerald are: the American dream, money, social class, love, morality, and time. Keep reading to learn more about the themes of The Great Gatsby!

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The core themes in The Great Gatsby are: the American dream, money, social class, love, morality, & time.

✉️ What Is the Main Message of The Great Gatsby?

The book raises many social and moral issues. However, its main idea is that the American Dream can’t guarantee happiness. Gatsby’s version of the American Dream – success and money – didn’t grant him love and peace.

🗽 The Great Gatsby: the American Dream

The American Dream is a set of ideals for American society: democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality. It presupposes that upward mobility in society is possible for anyone willing to work hard.

The novel is a satire on materialism as a part of the American Dream. Especially during the Roaring Twenties, the US became the Land of Opportunity for everyone. But the author makes it clear: one can gain wealth and status only by unlawful means. That is why Gatsby’s death is saturated with the symbolism of the failure of the American dream.

As advised in Chapter 1, one should remember that “all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” This statement undermines the idea that “all people are created equal.” On the contrary, some have to strive much more to attain their goals, and their effort should be appreciated. Jay Gatsby obtained his fortune illegally. Moreover, he had no grounds to identify himself with the upper class. Still, he is the most positive person in the book. The reader is led to think that he is the only character deserving wealth and happiness.

The Great Gatsby: Quotes about the American Dream

If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 7

He had a big future before him, you know. He was only a young man but he had a lot of brain power here… If he’d of lived he’d of been a great man. A man like James J. Hill. He’d of helped build up the country.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 9

He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 9

💸 Money & Wealth in The Great Gatsby

Money in the novel is the engine of life. It can buy a luxurious lifestyle, temporary friends, and even a new social status. Happiness is the only thing money can’t buy, which directly causes the tragedy of the protagonists. Neither can money change the past and correct one’s mistakes. For this reason, the theme of wealth in The Great Gatsby highlights its helplessness in the essential matters in life.

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The people who come to the wealthiest mansions in the novel either party or get drunk. An analysis of this idea shows that it is about wealth that can make you drunk. The parties are fun for those intoxicated, just as life is fun only for those who don’t care about money. But unfortunately, every party has an ending. When the time comes, you need to be sober to make correct choices, and money will be of no help if you are corrupt and selfish.

The Great Gatsby: Quotes about Money

His family were enormously wealthy—even in college his freedom with money was a matter for reproach – but now he’d left Chicago and come east in a fashion that rather took your breath away… It was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough to do that.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 1

My house looks well, doesn’t it?.. It took me just three years to earn the money that bought it.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 5

One thing’s sure and nothing’s surer the rich get richer and the poor get — children. In the meantime, in between time.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 5

Her voice is full of money.

The Great Gatsby, chapter 7

👔 Society & Class in The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald divides society into three classes: No Money, Old Money, and New Money. People who have class and material benefits are related to Old Money. Those who have a poor background but managed to gain wealth are New Money. Indeed, the latter would do anything to achieve the status and “pedigree,” but they can only create an illusion of aristocracy.

The principal thesis here is that you are who you were born. Even if you dare to change your class, it will only bring you to an abusive relationship (like Myrtle Wilson) or death (like Gatsby.) The only thing that unites all classes is unhappiness. Perhaps that is why three people attended Gatsby’s funeral: Nick Carraway (Old Money,) Owl Eyes (New Money by interaction,) and Mr. Gatz (No Money.) Still, no relationships between different classes can be long-lasting and fulfilling. After the funeral, each of these three characters goes his own way.

The Great Gatsby: Social Class Quotes

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 1

There were the same people, or at least the same sort of people, the same profusion of champagne, the same many-colored, many-keyed commotion, but I felt an unpleasantness in the air, a pervading harshness that hadn’t been there before. Or perhaps I had merely grown used to it, grown to accept West Egg as a world complete in itself, with its own standards and its own great figures, second to nothing because it had no consciousness of being so, and now I was looking at it again, through Daisy’s eyes.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 6

An Oxford man!.. Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit… Oxford, New Mexico, or something like that.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 7

❤️ Love & Marriage in The Great Gatsby

The theme of love is the central conflict in the novel after the American Dream. Just like wealth, it is an almighty power that promises happiness. However, genuine love rarely relates to marriage, class, stability, and comfort.

No marriage in the novel is built on love, even though the protagonists strive to assure themselves and everyone around them about the contrary. Fake love is ruining their marriages and their live. The overall message of this story is that being a kind and loving person is much more important than being rich.

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The Great Gatsby: Love Quotes

I thought I’d never seen a girl so mad about her husband. If he left the room for a minute she’d look around uneasily and say ‘Where’s Tom gone?’ and wear the most abstracted expression until she saw him coming in the door.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 4

Oh, you want too much!.. I love you now – isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past… I did love him once—but I loved you too.

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 7

I can’t describe to you how surprised I was to find out I loved her, old sport. I even hoped for a while that she’d throw me over, but she didn’t, because she was in love with me too… What was the use of doing great things if I could have a better time telling her what I was going to do?

The Great Gatsby,
chapter 8

😈 Morality in The Great Gatsby

The novel dwells upon several moral issues: illegal money, abusive behavior, murder, greed, infidelity, dishonesty, and carelessness. All of these issues are multifaceted and ambiguous. There is no simple answer regarding them. Illegal money is a means to become happy with a loved one for Gatsby. Tom’s abusive behavior grants him power. For Daisy, murder is a way to become satisfied in her marriage with Tom. Myrtle’s greed and infidelity provide her a feeling that she belongs to the upper class. Dishonesty buys success in golf for Jordan. Carelessness is a way to survive the tragedy of real life for the majority of the characters.

The two sides of these traits justify the moral collapse of the post-WWI society. Any adverse action is done for a purpose. The goal is usually harmless and universal for any class: to become happy.

⏰ Time in The Great Gatsby

In the Great Gatsby, time is non-linear. Nick’s storytelling is skipping back and forth, and the past seems to be as vivid as the present. Moreover, the past makes the present unchangeable. Gatsby dedicated his entire life to live through the happy moments with Daisy he had in the past. But it was wrong to think that one month, even the best in a lifetime, could outweigh years of Daisy’s shared experience with Tom. That is why Gatsby was so perplexed when he saw Daisy’s three-year-old daughter: she was the milestone in Daisy’s life that he was unable to come to terms with. Only Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy survives time.

We hope that our analysis of The Great Gatsby themes helps you get a better insight into the novel. Want to learn more? Then you should check out the Symbols section. And if you’re looking for exciting essay ideas on the novel, read our topics and prompts.

🔗 References

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