Is The Great Gatsby a love story embracing American ideals or a satire critiquing them?

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The American Dream is not attainable. The people who do the best come from a place of moral compromise and are, frankly, not that great. Those who rise the highest from the lowest places are crooks who live in a world of corruption and lies. A major theme in The Great Gatsby is money. In your opinion, what does money mean to Jay Gatsby? What does it mean to Daisy Buchanan? How does it relate to the different lifestyles of East Egg and West Egg? I think that money means something totally different to Gatsby than Daisy. For Gatsby, money symbolizes his love for Daisy (his "dream") and his desire to recreate her as he sees her.

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This novel is much more of a critique of American ideals than a work that embraces those ideals. It was written during an era in which belief in the American Dream— the idea that someone can come from nothing and achieve success and wealth and happiness with simple hard work and perseverance—was high. However, the novel shows that the American Dream is not realistic, that it is only a fantasy. George Wilson, for example, works very hard, honestly toiling away in order to improve life for himself and his wife, and yet he never makes any headway. Jay Gatsby, on the other hand, appears to have achieved the Dream, until we realize that all of his money has been made illegally, and the American Dream cannot be achieved through criminal endeavors. In the end, Nick Carraway, the narrator, 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—to-morrow 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 green light functions as a symbol for the American Dream itself, the promise of possibility that characters in the novel can never quite reach. They, and we, might continue to believe that if we just work harder, for one more day, we will get there, but we never do, and—for Fitzgerald, it seems —we never can. The current keeps pushing us further and further from our goal.

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Based on the two choices you have, it would be most accurate to say that F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is a satire critiquing American ideals. On the one hand, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby has many elements of a love story, as most of the plot focuses on the love affair between Gatsby and Daisy, but to say that the story embraces American ideals would be a mistake.

A large portion of Fitzgerald's message is aimed at critiquing the myth of the American Dream (the belief that American citizens can get whatever they want, improve themselves, and achieve happiness simply by working as hard as possible), and Gatsby's tragic downfall can be seen as symbolic of this critique. Consider, for instance, that Gatsby is a materialistic man who's spent his whole life working to acquire possessions. In that case, one could argue his death is a repudiation of these values and evidence that Fitzgerald is critiquing them. As such, I think it would be most accurate to say that the novel is a satire critiquing American ideals. 

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In The Great Gatsby, is Fitzgerald writing a love story embracing American ideals, or a satire that comments on (mocks) American ideals?

Fitzgerald mocks American ideals.  The people in the book who have the most power, who are most emulated and idealized, are the residents of East Egg, people like Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Fitzgerald shows us that, behind the beautiful facade, they are terrible people! Tom's infidelity is practically legendary, he is physically abusive of Myrtle, and he is a terrible racist. Daisy is shallow, also unfaithful, and, in the end, totally disloyal to Gatsby, the man she claims to love. When Tom reveals how Gatsby earned his money, we see how quickly Daisy is willing to give him up. The most important thing to her is her lifestyle, and she will do anything to maintain it. Her and Tom's disregard for Gatsby's life speaks volumes. As Nick says, they are "careless" people who can do horrible things and get away with them. So they do.

The Buchanans represent what all Americans supposedly want; we see the people at Gatsby's parties in West Egg dressing glamorously and behaving terribly as they try to pretend that they, too, are elite. The American Dream is unattainable (Wilson works hard but cannot achieve it, and Gatsby has the money, but he gets it illegally), and the only people who prosper are, frankly, awful. The dream of rising up the ladder, socially and economically, is a fantasy, unreachable. Those who come closest have relinquished their morality: Gatsby (a crook, even if a sympathetic one), Myrtle (Tom's mistress who cheats on her own husband), and the party-goers. Those who fall far short, like Wilson or even the man selling dogs in the city, live a relatively pitiful existence despite their honest efforts. American values have created a system wherein no one is really happy, where no one born poor can rise up through honest hard work, and Fitzgerald skewers them accordingly.

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In The Great Gatsby, is Fitzgerald writing a love story embracing American ideals, or a satire that comments on (mocks) American ideals?

The Great Gatsby mocks the American Dream.  We know that Fitzgerald himself was disillusioned with the times and his life, and in his frustration wrote of the failings of marriage without love and despair of those who had everything but nothing.

F. Scott Fitzgerald writes of a materialistic society, filled with greed and destruction, a society turning its back on all that is good but unable to escape guilt of sin as "God knows what you've been doing, everything you've been doing. You may fool me, but you can't fool God!"

--F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 8

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In The Great Gatsby, is Fitzgerald writing a love story embracing American ideals, or a satire that comments on (mocks) American ideals?

I think that you can find evidence that displays how Fitzgerald believes the manner in which American ideals are pursued is akin to building a monument upon a firmament of sand.  He writes about the social setting of the 1920s, the Jazz Age, with vivid detail.  His depiction of the "flapper" lifestyle, the trappings of wealth, and the preoccupation with surface based notions of reality are all examples of the lifestyles he presents in the novel.  I think his argument about this particular lifestyle is that it is not conducive to lasting values and something that can be sustained over time.  It is for this reason that we see Nick walk away from this life and the people who stay in it are either doomed to being unable to enjoy life or are the types of people who will experience extreme challenges when the end of the Jazz Age is brought about by the Great Depression and the hard times that ensues.

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In The Great Gatsby, is Fitzgerald writing a love story embracing American ideals, or a satire that comments on (mocks) American ideals?

To me, this question depends on what you consider to be American ideals.  If the American dream is to get rich, then he is mocking it.  If the American dream is to improve yourself and to be a good person, I think that he is embracing them.

I think you can see Fitzgerald mocking materialism throughout the book.  The fact that Gatsby ruins himself trying to get rich shows that Fitzgerald does not approve of the idea of getting material goods without having some sort of moral foundation.

But look at who Fitzgerald uses as the narrator.  Nick is the only truly decent person in the book.  He is from the Midwest (metaphor for common-sense, traditional values) and he does not get corrupted by the East.  By portraying him as the best person in the book, Fitzgerald is extolling his kind of values.

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With The Great Gatsby, is Fitzgerald writing a love story that embraces American ideals, or a satire that comments on American ideals?

I think that Fitzgerald's feelings about the American ideals in the 1920s were decidedly negative and I highly doubt that The Great Gatsby celebrates those ideals in any way. Reading the book for the first time is an overwhelming experience, and the dazzling images of grandeur that the book invokes at nearly every turn can be blinding and alluring. Initially, I, too, wondered if this story embraces the high and exciting lifestyle of the wealthy in those days, which is part of what makes this book so impressive. The Great Gatsby perfectly describes the romping and glimmering world of the rich in the 1920s and even lets the audience grow fond of it before declaring in no uncertain terms that all this money and brilliance masks a brutal and harsh reality.

Fitzgerald wrote a wonderful social commentary about the age he was living in, yet it doesn't entirely qualify as a satire. While the story clearly possesses some satirical elements, perhaps most clearly present in the character of Tom Buchanan, it lacks the immense and comical irony that is so often in other famous works of satire, such as The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. 

“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.” 

“I never change, except in my affections.” 

Both these quotes from the third act of The Importance of Being Earnest embody the dual function of a satire: to be humorous while simultaneously surprisingly accurate about the true nature of some aspect of society. To be totally fair, some of Tom Buchanan's lines are funny to a certain degree because of their utter stupidity. 

“'This idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are, and ——' After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod, and she winked at me again. '— And we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization — oh, science and art, and all that. Do you see?'”

This is a quote from chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby and it is of Tom explaining why, for some faux scientific reason, the "white race" is superior. In the very next paragraph Nick remarks to himself that there was something pathetic about it all. Indeed, Tom's various racist and sexist lines are moderately funny, mostly because of their extreme and idiotic absurdity. Even Daisy is shown to find his ridiculous remarks mildly entertaining. Yet, more than anything, these lines are understandably offensive and unsettling, especially when one considers that Nick is "friends" with this horrible man. 

Although some might disagree, this story is far too grim and hopeless to qualify as a true satire. The social commentary inherent in The Great Gatsby is powerful and immensely striking, yet for vastly different reasons than that of social commentaries like The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband. Both of these stories have happy endings and are comedies by nature. The Great Gatsby ends with two deaths and with Nick Carraway leaving West Egg. The story, despite some of its humorous dialogue, is ultimately nearer to a great tragedy than to a comedy. 

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