Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby as a satire that comments on American ideals in the 1920s. He shows the carelessness of everyone during the time by portraying them in the community of East and West Egg. Fitzgerald conveys two different themes throughout the story. One is “the American Dream is corrupted by the desire for wealth” and the
other is “the Attainment of a dream may be less satisfying than the pursuit of it”. He uses those themes to show how The Great Gatsby is a satire of American Ideals.
The American dream is life should be better and richer and fuller for one. This dream is corrupted between the relationship of Gatsby and daisy. Daisy is the symbol of all that Gatsby strives for; her voice is full of money, as Gatsby describes it. Her voice was “full of money-that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song in it” (Fitzgerald 120). She can be interpreted as a twentieth-century flapper because she ensnares men with her husky, mysterious voice. Gatsby became so enamored by her voice that he based all of his actions on winning Daisy over. Her voice contains the promise of vast riches. However, Gatsby is too late to realize that money is the only thing her voice promises. There is no compassion in Daisy, just as there is none in cold, hard cash. Daisy’s dream is corrupted by wealth because she is caught up with Tom’s wealth and Gatsby’s wealth.
Daisy and Tom’s marriage is further proof of the collapse of the American dream. Although they belong to the West Egg social group and have extreme wealth, they are unhappy. Tom is first described as “one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterwards savours of anti-climax” (Fitzgerald 6). Tom and Daisy are both in unsatisfied with life and are searching for something better. They have traveled to France and drifted “here and there unrest fully wherever people were rich and played polo together” (Fitzgerald 6). They are unhappy and bored with life. Tom seems to be searching for the excitement that he found in playing football in college, and he finds an outlet for his dissatisfaction by cheating on his wife with Myrtle. Once again, Gatsby does not see that attaining wealth and power does not equal happiness.
The Buchanans’ marriage is full of lies and infidelities, yet they are united through their corruption. After Tom has discovered Daisy’s infidelity and Myrtle has been killed, their callous selfishness is revealed when they are reunited over “fried chicken and two bottles of ale” (Fitzgerald 145). They instinctively seek out each other because each recognizes the other’s strength in the corrupt spiritual element they inhabit. After Myrtle and Gatsby are both killed, neither one of the Buchanans sends their regards or seem remorseful. In fact, they go on a short vacation, which is an indication of the lack of compassion they have toward others. There was no love for anyone. All people cared about was wealth and parties. Nick perceives Tom and Daisy as they really are, heartless and careless. “They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (Fitzgerald 179). Tom and Daisy’s actions are an indication of the detrimental and emotionally numbing effects that wealth can have on someone. They focus too much on appearance and things of monetary value, while ignoring people’s feelings and lives.
Jordan Baker’s plans are also negatively impacted by the corruptive qualities of wealth. Although Nick is attracted to Jordan’s bored, jaunty, careless air at first, he finally understands that it conveys her profound disregard for other people’s feelings. Jordan supports Daisy having an affair, because “Daisy ought to have something in her life” (Fitzgerald 79). She sees Gatsby as something, not someone. Jordan also has a reputation for being dishonest and for being a gossip. She was involved in a golf tournament scandal in which she was accused of moving her golf ball to her advantage. Jordan belongs to the East Egg social group because of her careless, dishonest ways. She serves as a hint as to the true nature of the people from East Egg. Jordan may also be an indication of the types of people that Gatsby entertains, since she attends his parties. She is similar to many of his partygoers in that she exploits his hospitality yet never shows any genuine kindness toward him. It is very telling that Gatsby’s house is full of people throughout the entire summer, yet when Gatsby dies, no one attends his funeral except Nick and Gatsby’s father. The shallow acquaintances of Gatsby were never his true friends-the only used him for his lavish generosity. The countless people who attend his parties, ride on his hydroplane and in his car, and drink his alcohol are nowhere to be seen when the time comes to pay their respects for him.
The theme of the pursuit of a dream is more satisfying than attaining the dream itself repeats itself throughout the book. Gatsby’s dream was to get Daisy. We see this repetition of a “green light” though out the story. Every time Gatsby looked at Daisy’s house Fitzgerald mentioned the green light. Fitzgerald compares Gatsby’s green light to the “green breast of the new world” (Fitzgerald 180), comparing Gatsby’s dream of rediscovering Daisy to the explorer’s discovery of America and the promise of a new continent. However, Gatsby’s dream is tarnished by his material possessions, much like America is now with our obsession with wealth. Gatsby “wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to tom and say: I never loved you” (Fitzgerald 109). Gatsby tried and tried to get Daisy to think she never loved Tom but the truth was that she did love him. The pursuit of the dream was more satisfying for Gatsby than actually attaining it. He threw parties just to hope she would come and he would be able to see him. He became rich so he could impress her with nice things. If Gatsby truly got Daisy’s heart they would end up doing the same thing as Tom and she normally do. In the end they will have the same dinner “fried chickenâ€¦and two bottles of ale” (Fitzgerald 145) and it would get old and then they would end up having an affair with other people around town like nothing ever changed.
On the surface, Fitzgerald’s novel may appear to be just a shallow novel about the jazz, parties, and glitz that he experienced in the early twentieth century. After closer examination, however, it is apparent that The Great Gatsby is a profound social commentary on the corrupt and disillusioning effects that materialism can have on members of society. We also learn that in the end attaining your dream is not as fun as trying to get it. Fitzgerald did write a satire that showed the ideals of the 1820s.