Scott. Fitzgerald Book The Great Gatsby is a story of the thwarted love between a man and a woman. The main theme of the novel, however, encompasses a much larger, less romantic scope. It reveals The Great Gatsby is a highly symbolic meditation on 1920s America as a whole, in particular the disintegration of the American dream in an era of unprecedented prosperity and material excess.
This theme is evident through the character of Jay Gatsby and in the event when he threw all those meaningless expensive splendid house parties
- "I told that boy about the ice." Myrtle raised her eyebrows in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders. "These people! You have to keep after them all the time."She looked at me and laughed pointlessly... (2.69-70)
- Tom Buchanan of Chicago, with more pomp and circumstance than Louisville ever knew before. He came down with a hundred people in four private cars, and hired a whole floor of the Seelbach Hotel, and the day before the wedding he gave her a string of pearls valued at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars. (4.135)
- We shook hands and I started away. Just before I reached the hedge I remembered something and turned around."They're a rotten crowd," I shouted across the lawn. "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together." (8.44-45)
- "It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor."
- In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
CHARATERIZATION: Meyer Wolfsheim
- "Meyer Wolfsheim? No, he's a gambler." Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: "He's the man who fixed the World's Series back in 1919.""Fixed the World's Series?" I repeated. "Why isn't he in jail?""They can't get him, old sport. He's a smart man." (112-118)
- "Beyond the fact that he's a business associate and a friend of Gatsby's, all we know is that he's an inhabitant of New York's seedy underworld and a dead ringer for real-life Arnold Rothstein"(114-118)
Symbol: The Broken Clock
At one point, in his nervousness, he knocks a broken clock off the mantel, catching it just before it hits the ground. The symbolic nature of this act cannot be overlooked. Although on one level it is just another awkward incident caused by Gatsby's nervousness, it goes beyond that. The fact the clock is stopped is significant. In a sense, the clock stopped at a specific point in time, trapped there forever, just as Gatsby's life, in many regards, stopped when he was hit with the realization that while he was poor, he could never have Daisy. Gatsby is, in essence, trapped by his dreams of ideal love with Daisy, just as the clock is trapped in that exact moment when it stopped working. Following this analysis through to its final conclusion, one must wonder if Fitzgerald isn't also trying to say that Gatsby's dream stopped his growth in some respects (specifically emotionally); he's been so busy chasing a dream rather than enjoying reality, that like the clock, he is frozen in time.
- "When Gatsby, Daisy and Nick are all awkwardly sitting in the living room of Nick's home, Gatsby knocks the clock off the mantle and then catches it. - This clock and Gatsby catching after almost dropping it in front of Daisy represents time lost with Daisy and his now finally making it up or "catching it".