The Great Gatsby's Themes

The main themes in The Great Gatsby by F.S. Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe themes explored in The Great Gatsby by F.S. Fitzgerald are connected to the decline of the American dream in the 1920s and the hollowness of the upper class during that period.

The decline of the American dream

Although it deals with a romantic relationship, the main themes of the novel are much more serious. A close analysis shows that it explores the 1920s America, especially the dissipation of the American dream during a period when the country witnessed an unparalleled affluence. This was portrayed in the novel by the disintegration of social and moral values. Fitzgerald's society is characterized by widespread cynicism, greed, hedonism, and shallow pursuit of pleasure.

Social classes

The novel also deals with social stratification. There is a distinction between:

  • The old aristocracy, those who inherited wealth and who live in East Egg;
  • The new rich, who are self-made and who live in West Egg;
  • And the working class people stuck in between, mired in Queens.

The old aristocracy is depicted as having grace, taste, subtlety, and elegance, but what these aristocrats lack are emotions. They never care about others. The Buchanans represent this stereotype. This is clearly shown when, at the end of the novel, they merely move to a new house, getting far physically and psychologically from what had happened. They did not even attend Gatsby’s funeral.

The newly rich are described as being vulgar, gaudy, ostentatious, and lacking in social graces and taste. This is exemplified by Gatsby. Although his recent wealth derives from criminal activity, he shows sincerity and loyalty. Ironically, because of these positive characteristics, he dies at the end of the novel and takes the blame for killing Myrtle rather than letting Daisy be punished.

To explore more themes related to The Great Gatsby:

More literary resources

Products associated with The Great Gatsby: