‘The Great Gatsby', a ‘great’ American novel written by none other than F. Scott Fitzgerald. This classic novel takes a close look at the American Dream as it existed in Fitzgerald's time. The book was set out in America in the 1920s which was also known as the Jazz Age. The American Dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of race, class, gender, or nationality, can be successful in America if they just work hard enough. However, Fitzgerald’s novel represents an era of concerns where decayed social and moral values where just the beginning of the demise of the American Dream.
Fitzgerald uses a variety of techniques hidden throughout the text to address and support his concerns. The use of irony is one such technique. When Fitzgerald has Daisy stay with Tom and not with Gatsby, this is situational irony due to this being the opposite of the reader’s expectations. We can see dramatic irony used in the scene where all of the characters are aware of the love affair between Gatsby and Daisy, except for poor Tom, until he finally figures it out for himself.
Fitzgerald uses a materialistic society which vividly reveals to us the craving nature of human beings. Fitzgerald addresses this concern through the use of characterization such as Myrtle who unlike Daisy and Tom, was not born into money. She explicitly shows her wanting nature when it comes to her husband, George’s income status. “The only crazy I was when I married him. I knew right away I made a mistake. He borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married in and never even told me about it, and the man came after it one day when he was out”. Not only does the Myrtle fixate on the money aspect of her marriage, but also seems mercantile. We see Myrtle changing into someone she always seemed to be, falsely rich and materialistic. Through this concern of corruptive wealth, Fitzgerald evidently showed us that money corrupts an individual, and therefore, the society in its entirety.
Fitzgerald made many things in ‘The Great Gatsby’ highly symbolic to highlight his main ideas. He uses many colors, locations, car models and various objects. Fitzgerald uses the symbolism of color to represent the concerns of the Jazz Age. When Gatsby and Daisy are reunited years later, a lot of objects are yellow, Gatsby’s car is yellow, his tie, the buttons on Daisy’s dress and at one point, Nick who is third wheeling on this scene, describes some flowers as “smelling like pale gold”. Gold and yellow are special colors in ‘The Great Gatsby’. Yellow is the color not only of wealth but also symbolizes death. Myrtle Wilson’s house is yellow, the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, which stare over so much death in the novel, are ringed in yellow glasses and Gatsby’s car, is yellow. Wealth was the American Dream. But to Fitzgerald, wealth wasn’t simply good.
Through his literary techniques of symbolism, characterization and irony, Fitzgerald portrays the 1920s as a time of greed and an empty pursuit of pleasure. This became an era of decayed social and moral values where Fitzgerald’s writing captured this lively, turbulent time from its wild parties, dancing and illegal drinking to its post-war prosperity and its new freedoms for women. However, this resulted ultimately in the corruption and decline of the American Dream due to the unrestrained desire for money, status and pleasure.