Many critics see "The Great Gatsby," as one of the great, if not the greatest, American novels.
Only in America can a poor boy grow up and, through hard work and perseverance, achieve any goal his mind can imagine, along with wealth, power and position, should that be his aim. Such is the American Dream.
"The Great Gatsby" presents the ultimate American dream. The title character, Jay Gatsby, is a poor boy from working class America who grew up in an America where riches lay everywhere, with some people building vast fortunes with their hard work and ingenuity.
Defining what constitutes success, however, is a different story. "The rich are different," is one observation Fitzgerald drives home, and Jay's lessons in these differences form the basis of the novel.
Told through the eyes of narrator Nick Carraway, the narrative presents an objective version of Jay's story as it plays out right in front of his eyes.
By the time Nick meets Jay for the first time, Jay has acquired wealth, some degree of fame and seems in every way to have achieved the American Dream. Nick soon learns that Jay is not satisfied, for Jay has not gotten what he really wants, and that dream, the one that has always lain outside his grasp, is embodied in the shape and form of a woman -- Daisy Buchanan.
"Poor boys don't marry rich girls," Daisy had once told Gatsby, but that was years ago, in their younger days. She could love him, but she could never marry him. Such was the American social code. So Jay went off to become rich, and Daisy married Tom Buchanan, her social peer.
What follows is the story of Gatsby's American Dream.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1896. He often referred to his mother's side of the family as being "straight 1850 potato famine Irish," although his grandfather built up a small fortune. Fitzgerald's father was from good stock, but poor, and struggled to support his family. Money was always a concern for Fitzgerald. It showed in his marriage to Zelda, and it became a motif running throughout his novels.
Fitzgerald published "The Great Gatsby" in 1925. He published several other novels that included "Tender is the Night," "The Last Tycoon" and "This Side of Paradise." He also wrote numerous short stories that proved to be quite popular.
Jay Gatsby is still in love with Daisy, whom he met during the war when he was penniless. Having made himself wealthy through illegal means, he now lives in a mansion across the bay from the home of Daisy Buchanan, who has since married for money. Holding on to his illusion of Daisy as perfect, he seeks to impress her with his wealth, and uses his new neighbor, Nick Carraway (our narrator), to reach her.
Daisy's wealthy but boring husband is cheating on her. When his mistress is killed in an accident caused by Daisy, Gatsby covers for her and takes the blame. The result is a murder and an ending which reveals the failure of money to buy love or happiness.
Fitzgerald's elegantly simple work captures the spirit of the Jazz Age and embodies America's obsessions with wealth, power, and the promise of new beginnings. Download and start listening now!