Critical Essay on The Great Gatsby

Posted on June 5, 2014

The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous work and it is considered to be his best. He provides a powerful, disturbing insight into the American society in the 1920’s in particular those who became rich, achieving the American dream. It probes how greed leaves people unhappy and unfulfilled.

The Story Line

The book is narrated by Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate who is Gatsby’s neighbor in New York. Gatsby, a millionaire, holds a party in his mansion every weekend. Invited are people that are the cream of the young society world. They come only to enjoy themselves, and gossip.

Gatsby who seems to live the American dream is unhappy and dissatisfied. He is in love with Daisy, who married Tom Buchanan. Nick eventually invites Daisy to his house for tea where Gatsby re unites with her. Soon they become lovers, and Tom eventually gets suspicious and confronts them. He also brings up that Gatsby made his money from illegal alcohol sales and gambling. Daisy then drives to New York with Gatsby, and kills a woman accidentally. Gatsby takes the blame.

The dead woman’s husband, George Wilson finds out the car that killed his wife is Gatsby’s. He comes to Gatsby’s house and kills Gatsby with a gun. Nick ends up arranging Gatsby’s funeral and then leaves New York both saddened and disgusted by the whole lifestyle he witnessed.

False Values

Fitzgerald primarily shows the false values of the American dream. Gatsby is a wealthy man, and this is the primary identity Fitzgerald gives him as he explores this theme.

A man with a past becomes a millionaire, a playboy, who enjoys parties and the company of socialites. He is shown as shallow and frivolous, his life is empty, and he is unhappy with it all. The only sense of meaning he has is derived from his love for Daisy. He wants Daisy, not this life, but we see he was motivated to this pursuit to win Daisy back. This effort of Gatsby is the central point Fitzgerald wants to make. Gatsby seeks to find his happiness in the values of the American dream. Money and popularity are the reason for life. If you have it, you have the American dream. He shows through Gatsby that these values are false empty and meaningless. Gatsby in comes to realize this, and in the end is prepared to give everything for love.

Shallowness of Pleasure

Once Gatsby is dead Fitzgerald uses the character of Nick to explore the whole lifestyle in its wider context of the class of people Gatsby was involved with.

Fitzgerald uses Nick to highlight and attack the shallowness of this class that lived by social climbing, and their own enjoyment. They are shown in Gatsby to be decadent, cynical, and emotionally manipulative, not caring about the pain they cause. Their only interest is their own pleasure. Gatsby is in love, and therefore at variance with these values, frustrated by his social set, and in the end murdered, showing that such a lifestyle is flirting with disaster.

Fitzgerald with this book captured a lifestyle within a decade that while outwardly fascinating, it was corrupt and horrible. He himself was part of that very lifestyle and a victim of it. The book he wrote reveals how the American dream was corrupted by decadence.

Tips on writing a critical essay on The Great Gatsby:

  1. Research information from a wide variety of sources about The Great Gatsby. Collect more than you can use.
  2. Then take out relevant material and re-read it. When you are satisfied, you have what you need then you are ready to write.
  3. Highlight critical details from your material and write your thesis statement. Ensure you make it clear and concise.
  4. Write your essay introduction, and develop your outline. Limit your paper to three major sections where you use your important points. To these points add your details and arguments, and ensure you keep a logical flow.
  5. When finished write your conclusion. Use the body points of your essay to bring your critical paper to a clear conclusion.
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