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Literary Analysis Of The Great Gatsby English Literature Essay

“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone…just remember that all people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had” (The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald) was a major quote in The Great Gatsby made by narrator Nick Carrway’s father. This quote allows the novel to be told from a non-judgmental perspective which contributes to several themes in this story including love and desire. The Great Gatsby was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and published in 1925. Many people would agree that The Great Gatsby is an example of a great American novel; one reason for this is the historical context of the novel. The novel is set during the Roaring Twenties, a time where big names, organized crime, and jazz ran parts of America. Fitzgerald tied this era into The Great Gatsby in order to provide a historical overview of his time. Fitzgerald also created many similarities between himself and major characters in the novel. Fitzgerald was born in the Midwest, much like Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby. Carraway with his high morals represented Fitzgerald’s ideal self, as Gatsby represented Fitzgerald’s actual self. The plot of the novel is defined by one major theme: desire. Gatsby’s dream in life is to become wealthy after working as a janitor in his younger years. Eventually he meets and loses the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan. These events cause Gatsby to do whatever it takes to fulfill his dreams of getting what he wants. Nick Carraway is the second cousin of Daisy Buchanan and also the narrator of the novel. According to “Frederick C. Millet 2000, msu.edu” his high morals and standards allow him to pass judgment on characters in the story and become a virtually perfect narrator. Daisy Buchanan is the driving force behind Jay Gatsby’s desire for wealth and love. Daisy is highly obsessed with wealth and social status which causes her many pains. If The Great Gatsby is considered to be a great American novel, then perhaps Fitzgerald included a historical overview of the 1920s, a biographical overview of himself, and similarities between his life and major characters of the story, to help the reader better understand the novel and his own personal life.

Even though many critics say The Great Gatsby is a novel with no ties to real life, the similarities cannot be denied. According to “Judith S. Baughman 1994, sc.edu” The Great Gatsby takes place during the Roaring Twenties, shortly after World War One. This era allowed readers to understand much about the 1920s including jazz, bootlegging, and organized crime. According to “John Harbison 6-13-10 Metoperafamily.org” smuggling alcohol, or bootlegging, into the United States was very common due to prohibition. Jay Gatsby kept his life private so many citizens of East and West Egg did not know he got his fortune due to bootlegging. According to “Cliffsnotes.com”, Meyer Wolfshiem helped fix the 1919 World Series. The 1919 World Series, better known as The Blacksox Scandal, was fixed in real life also. The similarities between these real events and the novel give readers an insight to organized crime in the 1920s.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life has striking similarities to characters in The Great Gatsby. According to “Mathew Joseph, a literary reference”, he was born in St. Paul, Minnesota much like Nick Carraway. Another remarkable tie between Fitzgerald and Carraway was the fact that they both enlisted during World War One. According to “Mathew J. Bruccoli’s “A Brief Life of Fitzgerald” Fitzgerald met Zelda Sayre, the love of his life, at a camp upon enlistment. Similar to Gatsby, his poverty could not support his lover and resulted in her departure. Zelda Sayre’s impact on Fitzgerald’s life caused him to create the character Daisy Buchanan in the novel. “Faculty.pittstate.edu” states that one of Gatsby’s biggest downfalls was his desire for love. Much like Gatsby, the devastation love left on Fitzgerald’s life contributed to his own death.

The Great Gatsby introduces very little about Jay Gatsby’s past until the later stages of the novel. “Jessica Teisch Sept/Oct. 2004 Proquest.k12” states that the 1920s were defined by glorious, lavish lifestyles, which is exactly what James Gatz dreamed of along with his love Daisy Buchanan. Jay Gatsby was born James Gatz and was raised by lower middle class parents in the Midwest. After suffering the humiliation of being a janitor, James Gatz wanted to become wealthy. According to “Primo.library.nd.edu”, Dan Cody helped change Gatz’s lifestyle. Cody and Gatz sailed around the world and this is where James Gatz turned into Jay Gatsby. The reason why Gatsby is exempt of Carraway’s reaction because he made bad choices because he had good intentions. Daisy Buchanan was the driving force behind Gatsby’s need for wealth. According to “Penny Satoris Seattle: Enotes.com, October 2002” Daisy says that “rich girls don’t marry poor boys.” The quote made by Daisy wraps up why Gatsby started bootlegging.

According to “SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 9 Jun. 2010”, Nick Carraway was made narrator of The Great Gatsby due to his non-judgmental personality. Carraway’s personality allows him to leave out opinions and state concrete facts. Perhaps Nick’s most important trait is his “cardinal virtue” of him being one of the few honest people he knows. “Kathleen Drowne, Columbus: Ohio State University, 2005” states that Nick moved from St. Paul Minnesota to West Egg to study bonds on Wall Street. The novel also reveals that he went to college with Tom Buchanan and he is second cousins with Daisy Buchanan. Eventually he befriends his mysterious neighbor, Jay Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing implies that Gatsby created a plan to meet Daisy once again because he new Nick was coming to West Egg. According to “memory.loc.gov 1-3-03” the meeting set up by Carraway introduces the central plot of the novel. The novel also implies that Carraway is the moral center of the book and is an example of being defined by where you were raised, not where you reside.

“Homepages.wmich.edu” states that in some ways, Daisy Buchanan can be viewed as an antagonist in the story because of the roller-coaster ride she sends Gatsby on. Daisy’s character is based on Fitzgerald’s lover, and at one point wife, Zelda Sayers. Daisy Buchanan is Gatsby’s lover and also the reason behind his dreams of wealth. “David Henning, September, 2003 xroads.virgina.edu”, states that Daisy is in love with wealth and social status. As said earlier, Daisy says “rich girls don’t marry poor boys” which explains why Gatsby starts bootlegging. Gatsby feels that he can buy Daisy back with wealth and high social status. High social status and wealth is why she married Tom and didn’t stick around for Gatsby. The novel reveals that Daisy is scared of leaving Tom because she doesn’t want to lose her wealth and position in society. “Ray C. Fair June 13 2010, yale.edu” reveals that Daisy represents the unethical values of West Egg. Daisy is immoral for the reason that she is obsessed with wealth and social status.

Despite all of the superior things said about The Great Gatsby, there are many criticisms floating around the novel. (Thomas J. Schoenberg, eNotes 2006) One of the major criticisms of the novel is that it was written two years after the events that took place in the story. Some people felt that Fitzgerald would have been better off writing this fiction fluent to the dates in the novel. One of the other criticisms of the story is that there are various ideas that go along with the American Dream. (The Letters of Maxwell E. Perkins, 1950) Many critics associate different concepts along with the American Dream which causes some confusion in the story. Confusion is created because of Gatsby’s intertwining struggle for love and wealth. Various critics also state that Carraway is a confused and ambiguous narrator. (Laura Barrett, Papers on Language and Literature 2006) They are confused by Carraway’s morality and his naive thought process. Also, his non-judgmental attitude makes it unclear on who is a good person and who is a bad person.

According to “Marie Rose Napierkowski January 2006, 13 enotes.com” The Great Gatsby follows one man’s attempt to recreate past dreams. His past dream was to be with the only women he has ever loved, Daisy Buchanan. Daisy was the women he fell in love with and then lost due to poverty. Daisy is a beautiful woman that has unethically fell in love with wealth and social status. “C. D. Merriman for Jalic Inc, Onlineliterature.com” states that her cousin, Nick Carrway, is the narrator and moral center of the book. His high morals and standards allow him to pass judgment and provide concrete facts as narrator. In the novel, Nick befriends his puzzling neighbor, Jay Gatsby. The Great Gatsby follows Jay Gatsby on his path to achieve wealth and high social status in order to win back the love he lost. Gatsby’s dreams to recreate the past ultimately lead to his tragic downfall. According to “Amy Wood’s, Fitzgerald’s idealism and the question of wealth June 2010” each of the main characters in the novel had similarities to Fitzgerald’s life. Nick Carraway represented Fitzgerald’s ideal self as Jay Gatsby represented his actual self. Gatsby’s struggle for love with Daisy is strikingly similar to Fitzgerald’s struggle for love with his wife Zelda Sayers. The era the novel was set and written in also helps readers understand what was acceptable at the time. The Roaring Twenties was defined by bootlegging, prohibition, jazz, organized crime, and the American dream. Gatsby partook in bootlegging, organized crime, and is defined by being a victim of the American dream. Although the novel and movie share many similarities, there are a few major differences. The biggest difference between the two is the time between Gatsby and Daisy’s meeting and reunion. According to “Tom Lutz June 2010, uiowa.edu” in the novel it had been five years between Gatsby and Daisy’s last meeting. The producers of the movie changed it from five years to eight years. One reason why they may have done this was to emphasize Gatsby and Daisy’s time apart. The last page of the book contains a very important quote saying “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”(The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald) The quote made by Carraway describes that dreams from the past cannot be recreated in the future. Therefore, if The Great Gatsby is considered to be a great American novel, then Fitzgerald included a historical overview of the 1920s, a biographical overview of himself, and similarities between himself and major characters of the story to help reader better understand the novel and his own personal life.


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