In The Great Gatsby what is Fitzgerald demonstrating to his readers through his development of a character like Jay Gatsby?
"They're a rotten crowd....You're worth the whole damn bunch put together.
In Chapter Eight, having become "a bad driver"himself and careless in his ways, Nick Carraway shouts these words to Jay Gatsby. For, despite his fabrications about himself, the "great Gatsby,"who, with the power to dream, has magically re-invented his image, and honestly pursued his ideal. Unlike Daisy and her crowd, Gatsby's materialism has not been an end in itself; rather, it has been the means to the "green light" of the opportunity to recapture an idealized past.
Yet, as William Wordsworth writes in his poem "The World Is Too Much With Us,"
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
Gatsby does succumb to the lure of materialism, feeling this is the only path to Daisy. and in so doing, "lays waste" his powers and becomes maudlin in his idealistic desire as he "gives away" his heart for a sordid dream. Thus, Fitzgerald exposes the hollowness of the word great.
The Great Gatsby is a satire of the American Dream that has degenerated into the mere acquisition of material objects as its pursuit of happiness. Furthermore, Jay Gatsby represents the American of the 1920s who has forsaken many of the values which characterized the country for this greedy pursuit of wealth. The Jazz Age, named by Fitzgerald himself, is portrayed as a time of frivolous and amoral behavior on the part of many who, despite their wealth and social class, have become frivolous in their ideals--"careless people," as Nick describes them, people who have lost sight of true values.
The American Dream was a very viable topic of the 1920's. Old money had dominated the previous era, and now new money was a very real - and threatening - entity to America's royalty. Jay Gatsby represented everything the elite class hated: the rise of the lower class to the money and status that they alone owned. Instead of "old money" and "no money" a new class was emerging: the middle class. Jay Gatsby represented the biggest fear of the rich - the fact that an individual could rise in social status - not just through pedigree - but through hard work.