Great Gatsby Values

Superior Essays
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald poses as one of the most classic American love stories of modern literature, exploring the tragic story of a forbidden love. Underneath this beautiful tale, the novel actually has a less romantic theme, the loss of social values and the destruction of the American dream. The ideal American dream dates back to the American settlement, when poor immigrants set ambitions of opportunity and wealth. The Declaration of Independence even documents this hope “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain, unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Later, the Jazz Age and the end of World War I threw out old customs and promoted individualism …show more content…
Instead of focusing on the noble dream of opportunity and discovery, Americans focused on materialistic goals, profit, and popularity. The specific character roles in the novel depict how the relaxed social values corrupted their ambition. After the end of WWI in 1918, soldiers returned to the social ladder and recognized the new shallow aspects of social morality. The immense wealth gained after the war caused the public to live by materialistic values, and the “old money” criticized the “new money” for the ease of acquiring their wealth. Nick and Gatsby had both fought in the war and are skeptical about the social ladder, and they know that people were motivated solely by self-interest. Nick even tells Gatsby that such people, like Daisy and Tom, “[are] a rotten crowd,” and that “they were careless people…[who] smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness” (Fitzgerald 154, 179). Soldiers recognized such “rotten” morals unlike their peers. Many of the characters, especially shown at Gatsby’s parties, show the social climbers desperate for wealth and popularity. The “old money” versus “new money” collisions are apparent not only in the competition between East Egg and West Egg, but also between Tom and Gatsby. Nick narrates that the East Egg is “sharply different from the West,” and that they made him “feel uncivilized” (Fitzgerald …show more content…
Throughout the novel, Nick compares the “fresh, green breast of the new world” to the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock (Fitzgerald 180). Nick ponders about Gatsby’s wonder as he first saw that green light, just as the settlers wondered about their promising new lives. Gatsby “stretched out his arms toward…a single green light,” as if desperately reaching for love with Daisy again, like their time in Louisville (Fitzgerald 20-21). Similar to how early settlers gave America meaning solely through their dreams for their future lives, Gatsby implants Daisy with a sense of perfection that holds his hopes for the future. Neither America nor Daisy gave any reason for such ambitious meaning, and so the dream is ruined by the unworthiness of the dream itself, much like the American dream is ruined by pleasure and money. The Roaring Twenties in general sought to recreate an era that held value to their dreams, as Gatsby seeks to rekindle his passionate love with Daisy. The Valley of Ashes also symbolizes the wasteland that America became from greed and loose social values after the war. This stretch of land between West Egg and New York is so desolate that “ashes take the forms of houses,” and “men… [crumble] through the powdery air” (Fitzgerald 23). Representing the larger scale of moral and social decay in America, the Valley of Ashes poses as a key symbol of the decline of the American

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