By the end of the novel, our main characters who are not old money (Gatsby, Myrtle, and George) are all dead, while the inherited-money club is still alive. The American Dream: The American Dream is the idea anyone can make it in America (e.g.gain fame, fortune, and success) through enough hard work and determination. Or does his involvement in crime suggest the Dream isn’t actually real?Themes can be very broad, like love, money, or death, or more specific, like people versus technology, racial discrimination, or the American Dream.Tags: Scatter Radiation Digital TomosynthesisThe Story Of An Hour Essay By Kate ChopinHow To Solve Blood Relation ProblemDeveloping An Outline For A Research PaperBusiness Plan Template In WordNonprofit Business PlansEssay Term Paper DatabaseDissertation List Of ReferencesIncidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl Critical Essays
But the rampant materialism and the sheer amount of money spent by Gatsby himself is a huge issue and its own theme.
Related to money and class, the fact that both Gatsby and the Wilsons strive to improve their positions in American society, only to end up dead, also suggests that the American Dream -- and specifically its hollowness -- is a key theme in the book as well. Every major character is involved in at least one romantic relationship, revealing that they are all driven by love, sex, and desire -- a major theme.
This is why many teachers love theme essays: because they encourage you to connect small details to big ideas!
Furthermore, the AP English Literature test always has an essay question that has you analyze some aspect of a book and then “compare it to the theme of the work as a whole.” (If you want specific examples you can access the last 15 years of AP English Literature free response questions here, using your College Board account.) So this skill won’t just help you in your English classes, it will also help you pass the AP English Literature test if you’re taking it! Remember that the story is set in the 1920s, a period when America’s economy was booming, and takes place in New York: specifically the wealthy Long Island towns of West Egg and East Egg, as well as Manhattan and Queens.
For example, if you’re discussing the American Dream and arguing it’s dead in the novel, don’t just make that claim and be done with it.
Instead, you can explore Gatsby’s past as James Gatz, George Wilson’s exhausted complacency, and Myrtle’s treatment at the hands of Tom as examples of how the American Dream is treated in the novel.
Let's now look at each of those themes one by one (and be sure to check out the links to our full theme breakdowns! Money and Materialism: Everyone in the novel is money-obsessed, whether they were born with money (Tom, Daisy, Jordan, and Nick to a lesser extent), whether they made a fortune (Gatsby), or whether they’re eager for more (Myrtle and George). Society and Class: Building on the money and materialism theme, the novel draws clear distinctions between the kind of money you have: old money (inherited) or new money (earned).
And there is also a clear difference between the lifestyles of the wealthy, who live on Long Island and commute freely to Manhattan, and the working class people stuck in between, mired in Queens. Learn more about the various social classes in Gatsby and how they affect the novel’s outcome.
And finally, a strong undercurrent to all of these themes is identity itself: can James Gatz really become Jay Gatsby, or was he doomed from the start?
Can someone who is not from old money ever blend in with that crowd?