What does The Great Gatsby teach us about American society?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the novel The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald examines the early to mid-1920s, which was a time of economic prosperity in America following World War I. America was becoming more urbanized as thousands of citizens moved into cities hoping to benefit from the economic boom, much like Nick Carraway. Along with America's growing wealth and consumer culture, the 1920s were also a time of corruption. Organized gangs amassed wealth through illegal means, and wealthy business men made their money on the backs of hardworking lower-class citizens. The American Dream, the idea that social mobility and prosperity for any American citizen is possible, is also highlighted throughout the novel. Jay Gatsby epitomizes the American Dream as he makes his fortune through bootlegging. Despite the fact that Gatsby attains financial success, he dies a lonely, corrupted man. Fitzgerald also examines Gatsby's extravagant lifestyle and illustrates the superficial nature of the people who attend his parties. Characters such as Tom, Daisy, and Jordan represent the callous, shallow personalities of the entitled, wealthy American citizens alive during the 1920s. Despite their wealth and social status, each character lacks the emotional depth required to have a fulfilling life. Overall, Fitzgerald teaches his audience that chasing the American Dream is futile without supportive relationships, which give meaning to one's life. He warns the readers that exclusively pursuing material wealth is meaningless and ultimately unfulfilling. Fitzgerald's perception of American society is one of corruption, overindulgence, and superficiality.

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The Great Gatsby

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