F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby presents a satiric tableau of an period in American history that the author himself donned The Jazz Age. Exquisitely written by this country's best Romantic lyricist, The Great Gatsby is Fitzgerald's magnum opus. Having penned a character whose identity springs from his "Platonic conception of himself" in order to recapture his past, Fitzgerald's narrative immerses the reader into an era both exhilarating and intense in its complexity, wealth, amorality, and debauchery. Indeed, it is an era that reminds the reader of Wordsworth's lines,
“Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”
As narrator, Nick Carraway remains at first as an peripheral observer of the interactions of certain characters; however, after riding to New York with Tom Buchanan for a rendezvous with his lower-class mistress, Myrtle Wilson, he, too, is affected by the "rotten bunch" as he terms the Buchanans and the other wealthy socialites of East Egg when he finds himself awakening in the room of Mr. McKee the next day. For, he, like Jordan Baker who has cheated in golf tournaments, finds himself at the end of the parties and excursions with Gatsby and Jordan "a bad driver" (metaphor for dishonest), too.
In a non-sequential manner that maintains the mystique about Gatsby, the real Jay Gatz is revealed. When Nick advises him that he cannot retrieve the past, Gatsby refuses to believe him and remains faithful to his romantic quest, entertaining socialites at his lavish mansion, driving a mythological roadster whose mirrors reflect "a thousand suns" and whose fenders "spread like wings," conjuring the image of Icarus flying too close to the sun in his extraordinary hopes, too. Unfortunately, his "incomparable milk of wonder" is not sufficient to protect Gatsby from the reality of his myth of reuniting with the white-dressed Daisy. For, Daisy's voice, alluring and seductive as it is in its promise of "singing compulsion, a promise that ...there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour," reveals itself as merely "rich and wild,...sound[ing] of money" and the corruption of materialism. She is an empty vessel and not the "grail" that Gatsby has envisioned.
At the end with all his attempts to recapture the past, Gatsby is haunted by time and, in effect, is killed because time's corrupt reality does not match his tragic dream when he dies at the hands of George Wilson for his loyalty to the romanticized image of Daisy by taking the blame for Mrytle's death. Indeed, the value of Jay Gatsby's "incorruptible dream" is flawed, and his American Dream is transformed into an American tragedy. Truly, then, The Great Gatsby defines the modern novel with its imagery, symbolism, manipulation of time, and tragic characterization, and in its thematic exploration of social and spiritual corruption and the failure of the American Dream.