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Literary Analysis Essay Examples Great Gatsby

Example of a Literary Analysis essay on Literature about:

american dream / The Great Gatsby / Scott Fitzgerald / money / society

Essay Topic:

Money, class and economic problems as the major issues revealed in “The Great Gatsby” by Scott Fitzgerald.

Essay Questions:

What are the main economical issues revealed in Scott Fitzgerald “The Great Gatsby”? What does mean the American Dream mean in terms of the novel? Why is money so essential for the novel’s characters?

Thesis Statement:

Actually, it won’t be mistakable to say that economical factor or factor of money is one of the most important in “The Great Gatsby” and it makes all things go around this thing.


The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald: Matter of Money, Class and Economics Essay


Introduction: Scott Fitzgerald is one of the most prominent American writers of the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th cc. His work may be viewed as the reflection of his time and the novel “The Great Gatsby” is, probably, the best example that can prove this statement. It was written at that period of American history when people worried the most about their prosperity and richness though one may say that such values were typical for Americans, it was, and by the way still is, so called ‘American dream’. Also it was time when people earned a lot of money illegally using different means to break the laws that existed in the USA and one of the most ‘popular’ business was bootlegging caused by prohibition of alcohol in the whole country. That is why in the novel we can find people who earned money in this illegal and dishonest way. So the problem of making money and the attitude of public to it is quite evident here but more important is the problem of influence of money, social position on people’s life, behavior and character. Actually, it won’t be mistakable to say that economical factor or factor of money is one of the most important in “The Great Gatsby” and it makes all things go around this thing. But, at the same time, though the problem of money and its influence on a person is the principal but not the only one in the novel.

We can also speak about a very complicated relations in an American family of those days, about different affairs that destroyed such a family, and, to some extent, we observe here a revolutionary process which takes place in the whole society when moral values have begun to change. On reading this novel we learn how seriously the American society is corrupted by money and by people’s desire to be rich. That is what Scott Fitzgerald describes in his great novel. As I have already said the main theme of “The Great Gatsby” is the corrupting power which money has over a person and which destroy an innocent personality. The writer tells us how the wealth can ruin a pure dream. In order to prove it we can have a look at the relations and life stories of Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan Jordan Baker, Meyer Wolfsheim and other characters. Analyzing these characters we see the role which play money and social position in their lives. For example, Daisy doesn’t have any purpose in the life the only thing she thinks about is wealth. She married a rich man whom she didn’t really love, and later she preferred to stay with him but not with Gatsby. I think we have to pay a special attention to the relations between Daisy and Gatsby because they demonstrate quite opposite attitude to people and to life in general. So for Gatsby his love to this woman is the most important thing in his life while for Daisy he is a toy, an entertainment, one more love affair. That is why her choice proves that wealthy social position of her husband is more important for her than real and serious feelings of another man. She doesn’t have any moral values. Even her daughter doesn’t provoke any strong feelings in her soul. Actually, her love affairs with Gatsby were caused mainly by her boring way of life, because she needed some new impressions, new feelings. In general, it is evident that Daisy doesn’t care about other people’s feelings and sufferings. May be she doesn’t care about human life itself because “when she kills Myrtle Wilson, she doesn’t even stop” (Bruccoli, Andrew J., ed. New Essays on The Great Gatsby). The same situations we observe when Gatsby is killed. So if she has any aim in her plain life it may be only entertainment or amusing herself.

As for Tom his life seems to be even worse than the life of his wife though they are alike in a way. Like Daisy Tom doesn’t have any purpose in the life. He looks only for new strong feelings and cares only about his earnings. He needs money, it is his God. He is sure that money can give him everything he wants and this attitude to the wealth is usual for people of his type. Tom plays with other people. He has a mistress Myrtle and he demands a total obedience from her side. It shows us that she means nothing for him as well as his own wife. To prove it we need to remember that though he became furious when he guessed about close relations between Gatsby and Daisy but, at the same time, he didn’t do anything to help his wife when she killed Myrtle. I think it would be more natural for a husband who loves his wife to act as Gatsby did but Tom demonstrated his indifference to Daisy’s fate. And one more thing that I can’t ignore is the fact that he uses his wealth as the mean to keep Daisy as his wife. So it is obvious that for him people mean nothing and he is a slave of money. Practically the same we can say about less important characters of the novel. Dan Cody makes fortune in his copper mining business but his life is a mess. Jordan Baker is a champion golfer but she doesn’t have any moral values as well as Meyer Wolfsheim who is a racketeer, bootlegger and a gambler.

The only person in the novel who is not corrupted by his money is, to my mind, Gatsby. He earned his fortune, he surrounded himself by expensive cars, he wears exclusive clothes and lives in a mansion but in reality he doesn’t need all these things because he wants to return Daisy. He is sure that only a serious social position and a lot of money can help him realize his intentions. That is why “he believes that his possessions will convince his golden girl to forget the past five years of her life and marry him. When he takes Daisy into his house and shows her his belongings, he values each item according to the worth that she places on it. When she shatters his dream by accepting Tom over him, Gatsby has no need for any of his possessions.”(Lee Brian, American Fiction 1865-1940). Now on the house, the clothes, and the cars mean nothing for him. So any reader can realize as Nick did that Gatsby is the most positive character among his surrounding and the least corrupted by his wealth.

Conclusion: Finally, I can conclude that all rich characters of the novel use people as toys. Tom uses Myrtle as well as her husband George Wilson. Gatsby uses the butlers and the cooks to organize his parties and we may continue the list. Practically all of the characters are corrupted by their wealth and they are immoral people. Scott Fitzgerald clearly shows us how a wonderful American dream is destroyed by the people’s desire to earn more and more. This desire makes people forget that they are human beings. They forget about moral values and lose their human face. That is why we have to remember that money and high social position are dangerous things they cannot be the aim of life because they kill personality and it is very important to pay special attention to this fact while reading the novel. This is a great lesson that we can learn from “The Great Gatsby”.


How Is the Concept of “American Dream” Presented in “The Great Gatsby”?

With its depiction of a man rising from poverty to a luxurious life, The Great Gatsby of F. Scott Fitzgerald is a truly American novel. In this book, Fitzgerald seems to glorify the Jazz Age and splendid life of the upper classes, with its parties, cocktails, and dances. Nonetheless, the author’s fascination by the Jazz Age glamour can be deceptive. In fact, as many literary scholars have argued, The Great Gatsby is not at all an ode to the carefree life of those on top: on the contrary, the novel is a statement of illusiveness of the American dream, which can never bring one the happiness and fulfillment it promises.

According to Marius Bewey, the key topic of The Great Gatsby is the withering of the American dream. As Bewley states, “it can be shown that The Great Gatsby offers some of the severest and closest criticism of the American dream that our literature affords.” The novel is not a “pastoral documentary of the Jazz Age,” as Bewly puts it, but a text which analyses the particular features of the American experience in a highly artistic form. In this sense, with its acute social critic and depth, the novel can be seen as one of the greatest masterpieces of the American literature.

Nevertheless, to understand how exactly Fitzgerald refutes the concept of the American Dream in his novel, one should define the term more clearly. The capturing account of the American Dream from the Marxist perspective can be found in the book of Lois Tyson Critical Theory Today. According to Tyson, even though American dream can seem like something natural and typical for all human beings, it is only an ideology which is imposed on us by society. The ideology of the American dream values competition, not cooperation as a way of achieving personal goals. It admires free markets exactly because they give space for competition between the entrepreneurs. Therefore, the American dream sees the society as a battlefield, wherein only the fittest will survive. What is more, the American dream is a deeply individualist perspective, which promotes personal self-fulfillment and does not prescribe to care for the common good a lot. Another crucial aspect of the American dream is that it implies that financial success is a result of the hard work and nothing else. From this perspective, if one works hard enough, one will achieve the high socioeconomic status; the poor simply do not work hard enough. Such doctrine justifies the inequality in society and the huge gap between the rich and the poor. From the standpoint of the American dream, the poor are the only ones to blame for their poverty. In his article “Rethinking the American Dream,” David Kamp also states that even though initially the American dream meant an opportunity for everyone, today it is more about the fame and fortune for the upper classes.

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald manages to grasp how the ideology of the American dream operated in the American society in the 1920s; at the same time, the book tells a universal story of human quest and desire. According to Edwin Fussel, reason why Fitzgerald’s novel is a masterpiece is “an uncanny ability to juxtapose the sensibilities implied by the phrase ‘romantic wonder’ with the most conspicuous, as well as the most deeply significant, phenomena of American civilization, and to derive from that juxtaposition a moral critique of human nature.” Therefore, The Great Gatsby can be understood as the story of the protagonist’s quest for such a romantic wonder. According to Fussel, the basic plot of the writer is always a story of quest and seduction. The quest of the protagonists is at the same time a flight—flight from reality, time, death, and normality. As Fitzgerald’s writing is deeply concerned with the current problems of the American society, such romantic wonder is equated to the American dream. Hence, the diffuse desire of Fitzgerald’s characters is concentrated and focused; they strive for the American dream and believe that the accomplishment of their goal will make them happy. Nonetheless, the typical Fitzgerald’s characters discover that their aim cannot be achieved because of the corrupt nature of the American dream. Therefore, their pursuit of happiness is “perpetually damned” (Fussel).

American dream becomes the object of desire to Gatsby because it seems to him that the upper classes live the world of leisure and carelessness, and they are surrounded by youth and grace. Their “high life” promises to satisfy the aesthetic needs of the young boy from the unprivileged backgrounds. The belief that the life of the upper classes is nothing but joy and idyl is reflected in Gatsby’s vision of Daisy and Jordan’s past. Fitzgerald writes about the “clean, crisp mornings,” when Jordan walked on the soft grounds in her new plaid skirt (2000). Daisy dressed in white enjoyed the popularity among men, with the officers ringing her all the day long. All these details create the atmosphere of romance; they promise that Gatsby also will find such a perfect, heavenly life when he makes it to the top.

Another reason for Gatsby’s wish to achieve the American dream is that it implies possessing significant wealth, the goal which is deeply rooted in the Protestant ideal of the material success. As it was observed by Max Weber, the spirit of capitalism is closely related to the ethical code of the Protestants. As in Protestantism, work and activity are among the highest virtues, profit is seen as the merit of such work and something that has an end in itself. For Calvinists, which believed in predestination, success in business was a sign that one is chosen and saved by God. As the American culture is profoundly influenced by Protestant ideals, it also characterized by a belief that the acquisition of wealth has no other goal than simply acquisition of wealth. For Gatsby, just as for many other Americans, money becomes something that can buy the happiness and the “romantic wonder” they strive for. Hence, as Fussel points out, the beauty and love in Fitzgerald’s texts are commercialized and commodified. They become the characteristics of the certain social class, who own large amounts of money.

The mean that helps to achieve the high degree of the social criticism in The Great Gatsby is an unsympathetic portrayal of the majority of the characters. Tom Buchanan personifies narrow-minded, racist, and conservative American aristocracy. He has a significant amount of the inherited wealth, however, he his success makes him neither moral nor hard-working. This disrupts the link between wealth and morality, so typical for the American dream. Tom, as the most reach character in the novel, fully reveals, how debilitating the effects of consumerism and commodification can be. He believes that one is what one owns, and treats other people as if they were his commodity. Tom enjoys the affairs with the women from the working class simply because he can “buy” them and likes his economic power over them. His wife Daisy, who was a personification of desire for Gatsby and is the personification of the American dream for him, is, in fact, empty and indifferent (Boyle). She is interested in Gatsby only because she is sure that he is terribly reach and has higher socioeconomic position than she does. Thus, immediately after finding out the truth about Gatsby, Daisy loses all interest in him. Myrtle Wilson represents the devastating influence that American dream has on the people from the working class. Together with her husband, she lives in the “valley of ashes,” which is contrasted with the luxury villas of the Buchanans and people of their class. Just like Tom and Daisy, Myrtle is a highly unsympathetic character as she “sells” herself to Tom in hope to become his wife and acquire more wealth.

Gatsby himself is also no more virtuous than other characters. His love for Daisy is fake; he treats her as a commodity that could prove everyone, including himself, that he finally belongs to the world of the privileged. Even when he first meets Daisy and lies to her about his social status, Gatsby does not seduce her because of love: he simply wants to defy the class norms of the American society (Callahan 374). Throughout the novel, even though it seems that Gatsby loves Daisy, he is treating her no better than Tom: just as a possession. Her actual feelings and personality do not matter for Gatsby.

To sum up, in his novel The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald criticizes the concept of the American Dream. He demonstrates that it does not actually fulfill the desires of the characters and does not bring happiness. In the novel, the characters who live the life so adored by the poor are empty and mean. Even the main character, Gatsby, is incapable of love, and only dreams to be with his beloved because of her social status and what she symbolizes to him.

Works Cited

Bewley, Marius. “Scott Fitzgerald’s Criticism of America.” The Sewanee Review, 62(2), 1954, 223-246.
Boyle, Thomas. “Unreliable Narration in “The Great Gatsby.””The Bulletin Of The Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association, 23(1), 21, 1969.
Callahan, John. “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Evolving American Dream: The “Pursuit of Happiness” in Gatsby, Tender Is the Night, and The Last Tycoon.” Twentieth Century Literature, 42(3), 1996, 374.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Penguin Books, 2000.
Fussell, Edwin. Fitzgerald’s Brave New World. ELH, 19(4), 1952, 291.
Tyson, Louis. Critical Theory Today (1st ed.). Routledge, 2006.
Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Dancing Unicorn Books, 2016.