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

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Each reader’s perspective on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s message will be influenced by their overall perspective on life: optimists are likely to find hope in Gatsby ’s incurable romanticism, but pessimists will probably find support for a bleak view of American society. Fitzgerald offers a complex vision of the post-World...

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Each reader’s perspective on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s message will be influenced by their overall perspective on life: optimists are likely to find hope in Gatsby’s incurable romanticism, but pessimists will probably find support for a bleak view of American society. Fitzgerald offers a complex vision of the post-World War One era. In the prosperous 1920s, most people gained faith in progress and some made great fortunes. But for ordinary people like the Wilsons, luxury and security remained out of reach. Fitzgerald seems to have little faith that the golden days would last because they were founded on an illusion.

Gatsby believed that he could spread the splendor of his life and bind his princess to him forever. Nick says, “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.” The conversation between Nick Carraway and Gatsby about his hopes for rekindling his old romance with Daisy Buchanan offer an insight into Fitzgerald’s message. Gatsby rejects Nick’s sensible assessment,

“You can’t repeat the past.”

"Can't repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!"

In fact, Jay has no intention of repeating the whole past, only the elements he wants to recall—the idyllic few days when he and Daisy were in love. Fitzgerald suggests that, like Gatsby, America had selective amnesia about what the country had endured during the war, including the horrors that the soldiers had experienced. While Gatsby manages to stay positive, near the end, Nick notes, he was waiting for the call from Daisy that never came.

The fantasy of love, although shattered by the accident, was no more unreal than the collective fantasy that gripped America in the wave of prosperity. Another place that indicates Fitzgerald’s main point is at the very end, as Nick comments on the ancient Dutch explorers’ vision of the “new world,” which has become obsolete.

for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent,…face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

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The main message of this novel seems to have to do with Nick's disillusionment and his realization that the American Dream is a fiction. Fitzgerald, through Nick's narration, shows that no one can really achieve this Dream: that one can rise up from poverty through hard work and determination, achieving wealth and success. Gatsby believed in the Dream, but he was unable to raise himself up through honest work, and he had to turn to a life of crime in order to grow rich and become successful. George Wilson also believed in the Dream, but he was unable to raise himself up through honest work, and he just kept trying and trying until he eventually killed himself. Both of them end up dead for all their efforts. Nick says,

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . And one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

That Dream, the one Gatsby strove to reach continued to recede ahead of him, ahead of all of us. We may, as he did, think that one day, one day we will reach it, that we'll finally make it and it's just a matter of time, but it's not. We will constantly be pushed back and prevented from reaching the future we want by the past we try to escape.

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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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