The Great Gatsby illusion vs. reality

Author's Life

How it relates to the novel:

Born in Minnesota - Before the Dawn of the 20th Century

His experiences in the 1920's would become the inspiration for The Great Gatsby.

He was engaged to a woman named Zelda Sayre. Zelda broke off their engagement because he was poor. This correlates to how Gatsby needed to amass great wealth in order to win Daisy's love.

Fitzgerald entered the army to fight in WW1: just as Gatsby and Carraway.

Throughout his life, he would spend money faster than he could make it. His illusion of wealth led to his eventual downfall and the mental problems of his wife Zelda. This is a possible inspiration for his inclusion of the theme of the illusion of wealth in the novel.

Historical Background


~Laissez-faire policy was embraced during the 20s(this meant to leave things alone)

~This meant government stayed out of business

~At the time most Americans agreed with this statement and the economy actually prospered

~Unemployment decreased and citizens adopted a "get rich quick" attitude

•which led to unwise investments and stock market speculation

~In 1929, the stock market crashed and led America into the Great Depression

Pop Culture

~Excess was normal in the 20s. People had extra money to spend and more time than before

~Advancements in technology gave them cats and household appliance

~Partying was the norm and women were testing social boundaries with "scandalous" hairstyles, clothes, and behavior

Significance of the Historical Background on our Thread

Illusion vs. Reality

This relates to The Great Gatsby because in the novel the people just want more money and they believe life is pointless without the money. They all live in a bubble of unfair treatment, lie, scandal, and never truly see the damage of their actions.

The idea of riches, luxury, and an upper class lifestyle tended to cloud the perception of reality of many contemporary Americans. This fostered a culture of corruption, greed, and scandal that was often never truly realized when overshadowed by the tempting illusion of wealth.



Long Island, 1922

Nick Carraway, narrator

Lives next door to the wealthy and mysterious Gatsby

Later discovers Gatsby's immense love for Daisy — Nick's cousin who is unhappily married to Tom Buchanan

Becomes involved with Gatsby's mission to win the girl he once had

Nick Carraway observes the following unfortunate events:

One hot summer day, an argument leads to Daisy choosing Tom over Gatsby

On the road, Daisy, driving Gatsby's car, hits Myrtle Wilson (the woman Tom has an affair with) and Myrtle dies.

Tom allows for George Wilson believe it was Gatsby

George Wilson kills Gatsby

Arranges funeral for Gatsby

Only Mr. Gatz, the owl-eyed man, and Nick attend

Theme (Illusion vs. Reality)

Gatsby with Himself


Believed in the illusion of wealth

Lots of "friends"


Elevated status

Removes past of inferiority


"Get the girl" — Daisy Buchanan

Inherited wealth from deceased family

“Yes.” His eyes went over it, every arched door and square tower. “It took me just three years to earn the money that bought it.”

“I thought you inherited your money.”

“I did, old sport,” he said automatically, “but I lost most of it in the big panic—the panic of the war.”

Visited by hundreds in lavish parties

Attended the prestigious Oxford

An "Oxford man"

Delicate manners

Fine clothing

"Who is this Gatsby anyhow?"

-Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby

Why does Gatsby create his own illusion?

Attempts to abandon past and create a new person through lies and deceit

People have a false idea of who he is, an illusion

Murderer, German spy, successful businessman, etc.

Gatsby begins to believe this illusion

A great deal of money, circulating rumors about him, and lavish parties have him believe that he is all important

Thinks Daisy will leave Tom for him

Tom exposes his illusion

Not an Oxford man

“I heard you, but I’d like to know when.”

“It was in nineteen-nineteen. I only stayed five months. That’s why I can’t really call myself an Oxford man.”

Did not inherit money, got it illegally

“He and this Wolfshiem bought up a lot of side-street drug stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him and I wasn’t far wrong."

Gatsby will not get the girl

“It passed, and he began to talk excitedly to Daisy, denying everything, defending his name against accusations that had not been made. But with every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room."

“She didn’t know you were alive. Why,—there’re things between Daisy and me [Tom] that you’ll never know, things that neither of us can ever forget.”

The words seemed to bite physically into Gatsby.

“I want to speak to Daisy alone,” he insisted. “She’s all excited now——”

“Even alone I can’t say I never loved Tom,” she admitted in a pitiful voice. “It wouldn’t be true.”

The Real Gatsby

James Gatz

Gained wealth illegally through bootlegging

Not an Oxford man

Doesn't get the girl

Dies at the hands of a lowly mechanic

Visited by few at his funeral

All those lies lead to no one truly knowing him

Gatsby with Daisy (Another Example of his Illusion)

Gatsby has an image of Daisy that he cannot seem to let go

~When he sees Daisy in the novel he tries to get her back and recapture her attention, for a time being it seems like Gatsby will get what he wants

~Gatsby's inability to separate reality and illusion is what causes him to fail

Gatsby's "back story" is just a fake past he has created in order to win Daisy over

There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams – not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.” (5.152)

The Green Light

A symbol of his illusion.

The green light represents his life with Daisy, the life he wants which is when we first realize the image of Daisy Gatsby has

•In Chapter 5, we get a glimpse of Gatsby realizing that he would never have that "perfect" future because the "light" is gone

•Gatsby's house and the lake separating him and Daisy represents the unattainable illusion Gatsby has of Daisy and his future with her

He [Gatsby] stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.


The Great Gatsby is driven by the nature of the illusions that Gatsby creates for himself and Daisy.

The illusion of wealth portrayed symbolically and accurately portrays the prevailing attitudes of America in the 1920s and reflects influences from the personal life of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

These fantasies are what have shaped Gatsby into the man he is throughout the novel, floating in a sea of illusion far from the grounded shores of reality.


Created with images by Madeleine_H - "The ballroom featured in the Great Gatsby" • istolethetv - "jazzy shoes"

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