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In The Great Gatsby, what  morals, values, or goals are expressed and described?

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lucysaysyeah | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 25, 2009 at 8:15 AM via web

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In The Great Gatsby, what  morals, values, or goals are expressed and described?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 26, 2009 at 4:49 AM (Answer #1)

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The novel develops strong themes concerning morality and personal values. Nick's character is developed to represent solid personal values and moral conduct, while the Buchanans come to represent immorality, amorality, and personal values that have been corrupted by enormous inherited wealth and the social status it has created for them.

Nick, who comes East after being shaped by Midwestern values while growing up, believes in honesty, friendship. and loyalty. He values decency in human behavior and is dumbfounded and appalled by Tom and Daisy's lack of decency in the novel's conclusion. Gatsby's death is meaningless to them, except as a personal inconvenience and complication. It is Nick who makes arrangements for Gatsby's funeral, becoming more and more angry when he realizes he is the only one of Gatsby's "friends" who cares about him:

. . . I began to have a feeling of defiance, of scornful solidarity between Gatsby and me against them all.

Nick is not self-centered and obsessed with his own well being, unlike Tom, Daisy, and Jordan, as well as Myrtle Wilson, and Meyer Wolfsheim. After his time in the East, Nick comes home to condemn all the major players, except Gatsby, as being "foul dust."

In terms of the characters' goals, Nick's is substantial and honorable: to establish a career and make his way in the world. Gatsby's goal is grand and romantic: to repeat the past with Daisy, whom he loves at all costs. Myrtle wants to escape poverty, which in itself is understandable, even though her methods to achieve it are contemptible. George Wilson's goal in life is to survive economically, which points to the drastic discrepancy between the social classes in American life. Tom and Daisy, having everything, have no goals at all; their lives are lived without purpose.

 

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