What is Fitzgerald's main message in the novel The Great Gatsby.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Having coined the appellation of his era "the Jazz Age," F. Scott Fitzgerald exuberantly and successfully wrote about the young post-World War I generation, a generation that rebelled against traditional values, and, in its unorthodox behavior, sought materialism as its nirvana. Thus, he put before his readers a portrait of themselves. In the words of another Romantic, William Wordsworth, Fitzgerald's message was similar:

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers....
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!....
For this, for everything, we are out of tune....

The amorality, the dissipation, the selfishness and snobbishness of Easterners, and the materialism of the Roaring Twenties, were all qualities which Fitzgerald repudiated because they corrupted the American Dream.  It is chiefly this moral corruption that Nick Carraway finds repulsive; rejecting this decadence, he perceives Jay Gatsby as so much better than the others,

"They're a rotten crowd...You're worth the whole damn bunch put together."

Truly, Jay Gatsby is a tragic hero, for his heroism lies in his ability to dream and his efforts to improve himself so that he can fly "on a fairy's wing" of love, but it is a corrupted, tragic dream. With something of himself in Jay Gatsby, and with beautifully lyric prose and magical images, Fitzgerald is much like his narrator Nick Carraway in wishing to return to the traditional values of honesty, integrity, fair-play, and the work ethic that formed his beloved country, but he realizes that the American Dream in reality is no more than immoral materialism.

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The Great Gatsby

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