Theme Of Nihilism In The Great Gatsby

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Nihilism: a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless (Merriam-Webster). The origin of the word is from the early 19th century, where the Latin root “nihil,” meaning nothing, was combined with the English suffix “ism.” (Merriam-Webster)

While the word “nihilism” was first heard in the 19th century, it is generally associated with the Lost Generation or the Roaring 20s in America. After coming home from the Great War, now know as World War I, many people fell into the belief that life was no longer inherently meaningful. Many had shell shock, what we know now was PTSD, and trauma.

Also during this time period, between World Wars, people produced incredible pieces of art and writing:
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The best examples of this come at the end of the book, after Gatsby has died. He is horrified that Wolfsheim won’t attend Gatsby’s funeral. “When the butler brought back Wolfsheim’s answer I began to have a feeling of defiance, of scornful solidarity between Gatsby and me against them all.” (pg. 173) He even goes as far as to barge into Wolfsheim’s work, hoping that by asking in person, Wolfsheim would agree to attend. He couldn’t believe that Gatsby didn’t have any meaning in all of these people’s lives. Gatsby’s life had to have meaning, and Nick was hopeful that people would realize this. Along with this, Nick sticks by Gatsby after Gatsby dies, a time when no one else does. “I found myself on Gatsby’s side, and alone…. At first I was surprised and confused, then as he lay in his house and didn’t move or breathe or speak hour upon hour it grew on me that I was responsible, because no one else was interested- interested, I mean, with that intense personal interest to which everyone has some vague right at the end.” (pg. 172) Again Nick believes that people should care more for Gatsby, but even when they don’t, he does. Nick does care. He cares enough to start calling around and inviting people to Gatsby’s funeral. He cares that almost none of them show

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