How is Gatsby's fate a social commentary about American values in The Great Gatsby?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that this is an interesting question because it forces us to assess how Gatsby's condition is reflective of the American condition of the time period.  One of Fitzgerald's accomplishments in The Great Gatsby is to show the results of what happens when societies use people as means to an end, as opposed to an end in their own right.  The fact that Gatsby is used by the flapper social scene of the time period as a host of elaborate parties to fulfill the need to generate a good time and presents little, if any, regard for his own condition in life reflects the inherent destruction in that social order.  After seeing how the Jordan Bakers or the Tom and Daisy Buchanans use Gatsby, one is not surprised that the self-absorbed consumption that existed during the time ended up choking itself with the Stock Market crash and the Great Depression.  It makes sense that this becomes the result of this society.  At the same time, there is little in this social setting that represents a solid foundation for the future, another Fitzgerald commentary about the time period.  In the end, Nick leaves it, indicating that there is a sense of hopelessness for social transformation regarding the shallow and narcissistic values of this society.

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