The Great Gatsby themes

The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a literary classic that continues to capture readers with its captivating characters and vivid depiction of the Jazz Age. The story is set in the 1920s and focuses around Jay Gatsby, an enigmatic and affluent socialite, as seen via the narrator, Nick Carraway. The novel explores themes that are deeply rooted in human experiences and provide remarkable insights into the intricacies of society and the human condition. The American Dream, wealth and materialism, love and relationships, illusion vs. reality, and social class and society are among the themes explored in the novel.

Table of Contents

The American Dream

The American Dream is an important theme in “The Great Gatsby,” and it includes both its charm and its shortcomings. This theme delves into the notion of hard effort and persistence leading to success, happiness, and upward mobility. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work, on the other hand, also explores the darker side of the American Dream, revealing its hollowness and the corrupting impact of materialism.

In “The Great Gatsby,” the characters hunt the American Dream in a variety of ways, each demonstrating a distinct part of the ideal. The enigmatic protagonist, Jay Gatsby, personifies the never-ending quest of the Dream. Born into poverty, he amasses enormous money through unscrupulous ways in order to reclaim his love, Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby’s elaborate parties, home, and flamboyant displays of money are all part of his pursuit of the American Dream, which he believes would bring him pleasure and acceptance through financial things and social standing.

Gatsby’s obsession with material prosperity, as well as his never-ending chase of Daisy, are eventually unsuccessful. His opulent lifestyle and elaborate parties are just a front for his deep loneliness and the difficulty of recapturing the past. Gatsby’s pursuit of the American Dream eventually leads to his demise, highlighting the false nature of his ambitions.

Fitzgerald goes on to criticize 1920s society, in which the pursuit of wealth and social position takes precedence over true personal ties and moral principles. The novel’s characters are frequently superficial, self-absorbed, and ethically bankrupt. The unrestrained consumerism and pursuit of pleasure at any cost emphasize the moral degradation that goes hand in hand with the American Dream.

The character of Tom Buchanan is an illustration of this critique. Despite his wealth and social stature, he is unhappy in his life and seeks satisfaction in extramarital romances and frivolous pastimes. His disrespect for others and lack of moral integrity exemplify the evil side of the American Dream, in which selfish goals and monetary gain triumph over empathy and ethical behavior.

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Relationships and Love

Love and relationships are important themes in “The Great Gatsby,” showcasing the intricacies and superficiality of the characters’ interactions. This theme delves into the novel’s love pursuits’ illusions, wants, and devastating repercussions.

“The Great Gatsby” depicts a complicated network of love relationships, each with its own set of intricacies and reasons. The novel’s key relationships are as follows:

  • Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan: The tale revolves around Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy. He gets enamored with an idealized version of Daisy from his past, believing that their love will transcend time and societal restrictions. Their relationship, however, is based on deception and the pursuit of status. Daisy, though initially intrigued by Gatsby, ultimately chooses the security and comfort of her marriage to Tom Buchanan above a meaningful connection with Gatsby.
  • Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson: Tom’s extramarital romance with Myrtle, a working-class lady, exposes their relationship’s dark underside. Tom treats Myrtle as a simple object of pleasure, using her to fulfill his goals outside of their marriage. Manipulation, deception, and power abuse characterize their partnership.
  • Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker: Nick’s friendship with professional golfer Jordan Baker is a more informal and superficial one. While they have a love connection, it lacks depth and authenticity. It is distinguished by a shared desire for social prestige and the attractiveness of the rich elite.

“The Great Gatsby” shows the shallowness and falsehoods that underlie many of the novel’s relationships. Rather than true emotional ties, the characters are motivated by demands for wealth, prestige, and status. Love is frequently portrayed as a means to a goal, a vehicle for personal ambition and pleasure seeking. Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship shows this superficiality. Gatsby is obsessed with Daisy, idealizing her to the point of putting her on a pedestal. However, their bond is ultimately shaky and based on an inaccurate view of the past. Daisy is drawn to Gatsby because of his financial fortune and the thrill he provides, rather than a strong emotional attachment.

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Similarly, Tom’s attachment to Myrtle is motivated by a need for power and control. He exploits Myrtle to assert authority and gratify his cravings, ignoring her as a person with her own needs and ambitions. Their partnership is a façade that conceals their underlying discontent and emptiness.

Class and Society

Social class and society are dominant themes in “The Great Gatsby,” which examines the divisions, ambitions, and criticisms of 1920s American society. The characters are split into two groups: the old-money aristocracy, represented by Tom and Daisy Buchanan, and the newly rich, represented by Jay Gatsby. Characters like George Wilson also represent the working class. The gaps and inequities that existed throughout the Jazz Age are highlighted by the existence of these various social strata.

The characters in “The Great Gatsby” are motivated by a desire to move up the social ladder and achieve a higher social standing. For example, Jay Gatsby climbs from poor origins to become a wealthy and important man, driven by his ambition to reclaim Daisy and obtain acceptance in society’s highest echelons. His expensive parties and lavish lifestyle are attempts to fit in with the old-money elite.

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Similarly, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, who were born into money and power, cling to their social status out of fear of losing their privileged positions. They utilize their social rank as a badge of superiority to excuse their behavior and keep their sense of entitlement.

“The Great Gatsby” is also a biting social critique of 1920s American culture, highlighting the hollowness and moral rot that frequently follow the quest of wealth and social prestige. Fitzgerald emphasizes the superficiality, corruption, and shallowness that pervade the upper-class characters’ lives.

Aspirations to climb the social ladder are sacrificed in favor of true personal ties and moral ideals. Gatsby’s constant quest of fortune and social approval eventually leads to his disillusionment and unhappiness. Obsession with worldly riches and the relentless pursuit of pleasure results in moral bankruptcy and spiritual emptiness.

The figure of George Wilson represents the working class, emphasizing the wide social class disparity. He is locked in poverty and desperation, while the affluent elite live their lives without regard for the implications of their actions on the less fortunate. The character of Tom Buchanan is one example of societal critique. His discrimination and contempt for people he considers socially inferior indicate the time’s underlying biases and class differences. Tom’s romance with Myrtle Wilson, a working-class lady, demonstrates how those in positions of authority abuse and objectify those from lower socioeconomic levels.

Reality vs. Illusion

Illusion and deception characterize “The Great Gatsby.” The characters create intricate masks to disguise themselves as someone different than who they actually are. Characters in the story go to considerable efforts to develop fake identities in order to shape themselves into what they think to be desirable. Gatsby transforms from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire who lives a lavish lifestyle. In order to earn Daisy’s affection and forget his poor roots, he fabricates a narrative about his background and creates a persona to fit into upper-class society. Tom Buchanan appears to be a strong and powerful man, representing the values of the old-money aristocracy, but his actual nature is distinguished by adultery and arrogance. The contrast between appearance and actuality shows the characters’ shallowness and emptiness.

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“The Great Gatsby” deftly contrasts appearances with underlying truth, exposing the protagonists’ lives to be shallow and void. Gatsby’s expensive parties represent the façade he constructs to conceal his love for Daisy and his unfulfilled goals. The splendor conceals Gatsby’s inner emptiness, as his persistent quest of the past proves useless. Similarly, the Buchanans’ outwardly ideal marriage and lavish lifestyle mask the flaws in their marriage and the terrible unhappiness they both feel. The facade of money and social position is simply a brief distraction from the truth of their empty life. Ultimately, the contrast between illusion and reality highlights the fleeting and misleading nature of appearances, serving as a critique of a culture that favors surface-level achievement and image over sincerity and true interpersonal connection.


“The Great Gatsby” is a gripping story that examines various themes that continue to connect with readers today. Themes such as the American Dream, love and relationships, socioeconomic class and society, illusion vs. reality, and wealth and consumerism shed light on the intricacies of human nature, the appeal of superficial aspirations, and the repercussions of following illusive dreams. Fitzgerald’s condemnation of the American Dream, the superficiality of relationships, and the destructive nature of materialism resonates in our present society, where comparable ambitions and illusions persist. The novel serves as a compelling reminder of the risks of unrestrained ambition, the repercussions of seeking false identities, and the value of true connections in a culture dominated by appearances.

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