What is the relationship between The Great Gatsby and the dystopia after World War I?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If "dystopia" could be seen as a world that is frightening or undesirable, Fitzgerald's work depicts a setting in which there is no moral structure.  The dystopia that he captures is one in which the weight of the World War I period is absent.  In its place is a world of "lightness," where shallow self- satisfaction and self- gratification is abundant.  The characters in the work are driven with the accomplishment of their base satisfactions.  There is little in terms of higher callings evident.  The dystopic world in which they live is one masked with parties, flappers, swanky cars and dress.  Materialism has come to substitute human connection.

It is in this element in which Fitzgerald draws a connection between dystopia and life in the 1920s.  Fitzgerald captures the essence of the time period in showing the moral, spiritual, and ethical hollowness that is intrinsic to the time period.  This is where the dystopia exists.  Characters in this world are incapable of envisioning dreams of construction.  Rather, everything in their lives is something of destruction.  Tom and Daisy, Jordan and Gatsby are all characters that destroy everything that they touch.  Reflective of life in the American 1920s that emerges after World War I, it is here in which dystopia exists.  It is for this reason that Nick leaves it, recognizing that he would rather go back to the Midwest and find something "real" than live in this world where nothing transcendent exists.  Dystopia exists here and is a part of the "Jazz Age" that takes place in contrast to the world of "weight" in World War I.

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The Great Gatsby

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