The Great Gatsby By Scott Fitzgerald: Sharacters Of Jay Gatsby And Nick Carraway

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Table of contents

  1. The American Dream in the 1930s
  2. The Lost Generation
  3. Social-Economic classes

This essay focuses on the novel The Great Gatsby and how the American Dream is portrayed in Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby through the three aspects: beliefs from the “Lost Generation”, social-economic classes, and values towards romantic relationships. Through contrasting the American Dream of the two characters, how Fitzgerald contrives the outlook of the American dream in the specific cultural context displays. It establishes the American Dream’s transformation and influence throughout 1930s American history. Therefore it displays its significance as a representation of desires and goals in the twentieth century beneath shimmering façades distanced from reality. I am able to analyze the definition of success in the 1930s cultural background, and investigate the novel throughout a historical length by examining the American dream through the scope of Nick and Jay in the novel.

With critical insight sources of the novel, literature readings that support are adaptive within the analysis for explaining each character in its background, making it able to then compare them specifically. Research defining the American dream also contributes from leading to a wider perspective on what the population thinks leads to success. The methodology chosen in this essay focuses on correlating the relation between two characters on their pursuits of the American dream and evaluating to what extent does the Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby determine different American Dreams through the life story of characters: Gatsby and Nick? The essay then examines how the portraying of the characters represent Americans in pursuing their dream. Fitzgerald in his novel employs the strategic ellipses of modernist narrative from the design of Nick Carraway, where he stands at a claim of unique and absolute honesty explaining experiences and stories opaquely. On the other hand, Jay Gatsby—the main character representative for the highest economic status and social class in society, however takes role when denouncing the phenomenon of people blindly following “The American Dream” at that period of time, as well as, criticizing that success not only means wealth and power. Throughout Gatsby, characters encounter the gaps between voice and body, intention and expression, expression and response(Bloom 2010). Therefore, as Nick Carraway associates with the culminating moments of Gatsby’s dream, he plays the role more of a listener and observer, influencing their beliefs on how they perceive the American Dream differently from the background, social-economic and, romantic perspectives. While Nick represents the recognition that innocence cannot be regained, Gatsby represents the unrelenting human desire to regain what has been lost by revisiting, and even trying to repeat the past. While they both stand as soldiers who have emerged from the war hungry for success, wealth and position owned by Gatsby has differed him from Carraway. This disparity is specifically emphasized due to their different economic status under similar residential geographic positions—East Egg side. In addition, throughout the novel Gatsby’s journey embraces his pursuit of romance, whereas Carraway is the one who sees through his experience and stands on a higher perspective.

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The American Dream in the 1930s

The Great Gatsby is set in 1922, in the midst of the Jazz Age, a prosperous but complex time following America’s emergence from World War I. (Carpenter 1955) Economic status was influenced as the country transitioned from war to peace, creating larger significance on wealth as a factor of achieving the American Dream. “ The ideal American Dream consisted of three criteria: two children, a marriage, and a three-bedroom house with the infamous white picket fence.” goes the saying, however, the current situation did not last until the great depression which happened from 1929 to 1939, right after the setting of the novel. Millions of immigrants were also lured by the American Dream annually into the new nation, further worsening the employment rates and increasing poverty, making parts to the ideal American Dream inclusive of one’s ability to feed one's family. The generation emerged from WWI idolized the concepts of money-making and mass consumption. Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby employed his characters as metaphors, displaying different roles of people in the society who pursuit different elements of the American Dream, and illustrating the concept in a whole with these combined characters using a narrative perspective. Despite their wealth, and abilities to feed themselves for basic needs, the American Dream is seen as an illusion that never satisfies their current circumstances. Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway in this novel are two representatives of the “lost generation” referred to those who have emerged from war hunger for success. Their experience on the way of pursuing their American Dream correlate with each other in the storyline, but at the same time contrast with each other due to different backgrounds and values of the two characters. Fitzgerald advertised and directed consumerism which was a phenomenon mostly associated with the middle and upper classes in his novel. They were the ones who gloried in unfettered consumption, however criticized by Fitzgerald from recognizing the destruction and waste of materialism among classes. This was interpreted from Jay Gatsby and how he as one of the upper class members failed from achieving the “American Dream” he held. Moreover, the dream in the novel conveyed by Gatsby stresses a relatively independent inner spirits and values, “progressing from an Emersonian stage in a society that is still franklinesque” (Boone 1973). According to the novel, Gatsby never succeeds in seeing through the hypocrisy or acquaintances surrounded, rather, his essence of romantic American vision—broken away from the scales of values in the ordered society governed with traditional manners. “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. ” Described in the novel using Carraway’s words, the dream here has been used in the metaphor representing the hope Gatsby hold on his romantic relationship with Daisy. However, with a reverential humility in the presence in the inside he cannot consciously grasp the struggles. Fitzgerald’s great achievement in this novel suggests effectively that deficiencies on desire from human nature do not just apply to Gatsby, but covers the population of the American vision of “Dream” showing the tragic situation of the American society.

The Lost Generation

In the novel, Nick and Gatsby serve as representatives of the Lost Generation. Referred to their past soldier experience, they tend to hold hunger in success and the concept of achieving dream. Nick Carraway represents the recognition that innocence cannot be regained, whereas Jay Gatsby rather represents the unrelenting human desire to regain what has been lost by revisiting and repeating the past. Jay Gatsby’s dream has been always represented as a “green light” in the novel, it was how Fitzgerald reminded the reader about his desires. In the context, “Involuntarily, I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished and I was alone again in the darkness ” had first described “the green light” at the end of chapter one. Spoken in Nick’s perspective. It has a powerful usage for hooking the audience and obscurely revealing the symbolic meaning by connecting it with Gatsby and his reactions. As a third person, the green light here mentioned stands with the reader provoking their thinking and understanding towards the metaphor used and what it means. Later on in the novel, Nick observes, “Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever…His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one. ” Gatsby’s obsession towards Daisy by now exceeded his every other dream leading him to success—financial support, business opportunities, friend relationships… For Gatsby, the green light acted as a symbol, consoling him that he is there in the same world where Daisy is in, that he will someday on this world again encounter with her. This drives Gatsby in the rest of the novel through the process of struggling and failing to reconcile his dream with reality. At the same time, Nick as a narrator in this novel has witnessed Gatsby’s development on dram chasing, and how his dream has changed from the beginning. He is the one in the novel holding opinions, guiding the readers impression towards what Fitzgerald aims to express. Nick, the quiet and reflective Midwesterner adrift in the lurid East, in his words described“ Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. ” The belief of Daisy as the green light was what has motivated his life, what he was looking for to success. Until Gatsby’s death, time runs further we develop with it, “tomorrow” it becomes a memento to his life story; but at the same time, as people look back at these old traditions from then, societal rules, and regulations finding that it no longer seems applicable anymore. Nick is generally assumed a secondary role throughout the novel. He prefers to describe and comment on events rather than dominate the action. Instead, he functions as Fitzgerald’s inner voice, as in his extended meditation on time explaining what Gatsby has gone through and explaining the American dream at the end of Chapter 9. Nick and Gatsby both came through the background of being a soldier, coming out desperate for seeking success following in the American Dream trend. Nick differs from Gatsby as being the witness of his progress unraveling his dream all the way from the start to his funeral. Nick finally realizes after watching Gatsby’s story the distorted New York City is just filled with moral emptiness, and distortion symbolized as ashes at the end of the novel. As two character representing the “Lost Generation” seeking for a dream, Gatsby and Nick show different values towards achieving their desires and their different personalities shaped different ways of viewing the past.

Social-Economic classes

Fitzgerald has shown his discovery on so the concept of “American Class” and its existence. He was enabled to make this discovery due to the fact that he was aware of appearances he was obsessed into, such as swank parties, jazz tunes, alcohol, and colored lights. The creation of the character Jay Gatsby served as a mythic embodiment in the tradition, by carrying a weight of representatives including his manners, attitudes, and ideals shared by the rest of the city receiving admiring support and influence. Money distinguished character’s ways of living focused in the Ivy League universities, country clubs and homes. Whereas, Nick Carraway in the novel was able to be treated as a representative of a socially solid and defined group rather than a symbolic embodiment placed in the middle class. Concepts of money making and mass consumption was emerged and idolized after World War I, making is part of the traditional “American Dream”. By that time, young business man had been taught to measure success and also failure based on reward and punishments on money. Yet, money was the only convenient symbol for what they dreamed of earning (Johnson 2008). Conspicuous earning and spending was what determined “success” it was an age when gold was melted into fluid, when wealth was no longer measured by land, houses, livestock nor machinery, but rather in dollars per year. Gatsby was more as a virtue, located in the highest class putting up parties all night long. Although Gatsby has possess all these, it was just an excuse for Daisy…

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The Great Gatsby By Scott Fitzgerald: Sharacters Of Jay Gatsby And Nick Carraway. (2021, July 19). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
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