The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby discussion


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Is Gatsby the American Dream?

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Stefano Cappelli I did an essay about this topic and I am wondering if anyone agrees with this theory.

I see him as a physical manifestation of the idea. I also noticed the realism of the book diminishing around Gatsby, as if his presence reveals the cracks. I have more evidence but I just want to hear others thoughts.


message 2: by Monty J (last edited Jan 22, 2017 12:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monty J Heying Stefano wrote: "I did an essay about this topic and I am wondering if anyone agrees with this theory."

It's about social decay and corruption of the American Dream, personified in Gatsby himself, whose riches came from unlawful sources, consorting with organized crime, betraying trust and stealing. Indeed, it was his corrupt criminal behavior that made him unworthy of the love he sought in Daisy, who rejected him because of it.


Geoffrey Aronson I have no idea at all what you are writing about Stefano. What idea? What cracks?


Geoffrey Aronson Monty J wrote: "Stefano wrote: "I did an essay about this topic and I am wondering if anyone agrees with this theory."

It's about social decay and corruption of the American Dream."


Exactly, Monty. I see it more as the latter than the former, or at least that was what was prescribed to me when studying it in school and I have not disabused myself of that idea since. Certainly, social decay caused by moral decay and the amorality of that decade.


message 5: by Gary (last edited Jan 22, 2017 01:46PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary Stefano wrote: "I see him as a physical manifestation of the idea. I also noticed the realism of the book diminishing around Gatsby, as if his presence reveals the cracks. I have more evidence but I just want to hear others thoughts."

I think Fitzgerald was definitely playing with that notion, and he incorporates aspects of it into his story, but I don't think he meant to say that Gatsby was the embodiment of it. Not in a positive sense, that is. At least, the American dream might be a big house and a fancy car, but the getting shot in the swimming pool part isn't part of the idea. The Horatio Alger aspect of the story is certainly there, but it's often warped. Gatsby doesn't get rich by building a better mousetrap, or by good old-fashioned hard work, but by engaging in a lot of shady dealing. Admittedly, he does that during a period of abject corruption, but it's not the merits of the Protestant work ethic (FSF was Catholic...) that he was getting at. Gatsby doesn't do it to be moral and contribute, but for love, and that love turns out to be mostly about aspiration rather than anything we might consider more legit. The American dream doesn't normally incorporate things like the social barriers to success, but that's a major aspect of what Gatsby runs into. Ultimately, the story is about how that dream goes wrong.


Stefano Cappelli Geoffrey wrote: "I have no idea at all what you are writing about Stefano. What idea? What cracks?"

The cracks that i noticed come in the form of anti-realism. Gatsby's physical appearance is never described in the book. This is because he has no singular appearance and represents everyone. The amount of rumours about Gatsby's past show that he is not one singular person as well.

When Nick does describe Gatsby he says "If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity of the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away". He describes Gatsby in a mechanical sense. It is more construct then human.

Gatsby's car, however is described more lively then himself. ''rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hatboxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns''

There is also the man with the owl eyed glasses who questioned Gatsby's realism. He had look at one of the books to see if they were real. He is also one of the only people that attend Gatsby's funeral because he understood something about Gatsby that others did not.

These are a few examples about the anti-realism that was used in the book but I ultimately see Gatsby as the American Dream. The truth being that the American Dream is fallacy and that his death shows that the american dream is also dead.


Geoffrey Aronson And yet American GIs were inspired by the book when the military provided it to them during WWII, so much so that those GIs who went to university under the GI Bill afterwards and became English teachers included TGG in their curriculum.

So the book was misunderstood back in the 40`s? There are a lot of contradictions in the novel, perhaps what you are referring to as cracks and there are contradictions and a whole range of reactions from its readers.

I am glad you answered my post. Your initial message was a bit confusing.


Stefano Cappelli Geoffrey wrote: "range of reactions from its readers"

I think there are so many ways to interpret a book like this. I got the idea that something was off about Gatsby from a letter that Maxwell Perkins (Scott Editor) sent to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Perkins Says "Gatsby is somewhat vague. The reader's eyes can never quite focus upon him, his outlines are dim. Now everything about Gatsby is more or less a mystery i.e. more or less vague, and this may be somewhat of an artistic intention, but I think it is mistaken. Couldn't he be physically described as distinctly as the others, and couldn't you add one or two characteristics like the use of that phrase "old sport",—not verbal, but physical ones, perhaps."

Herd it from a lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6Csj...


message 9: by Feliks (last edited Jan 24, 2017 06:23PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Feliks Monty J wrote: "It's about social commentary and corruption of the American Dream, personified in Gatsby himself, whose riches came from unlawful sources, (perfectly lawful sources), consorting with organized crime (legitimate businessmen in the American financial industry), betraying trust, (making his money the same way everyone else did) and stealing."

revisions in bold

"Indeed, it was his corrupt criminal behavior that made him unworthy of the love he sought in Daisy, who rejected him because of it."

The entire final sentence of this silly paragraph is completely ass-backward. Here's the re-write to eliminate the disinformation:

"Indeed he is the literary personification of a failed American dream for many reasons, but his specific failure [and the point of the novel] was ironically his lack of social status which in turn, shows up wealthy, dim-witted Daisy as unworthy in her act of rejecting him; for, he offered the purifying love she truly craved."

Why is this distinction fundamental? Because F Scott Fitzgerald was not a dull, dry, social-commentator-type of writer. He was not concerned with merely pointing out something already obvious and unremarkable to his countrymen of the 1920s: namely, that America has a crime problem. Du'oh! That would have been utterly paltry, trite, and picayune. 'Social commentary' was simply not the only (and hardly even the foremost) goal of his work.

After all, 'criminals' are found almost nowhere in Greek myth. The goal of the modern novel format as FSF knew it and practiced it, is 'irony'--as the Greeks themselves deployed irony. Heaping spoonfuls of irony. With irony, you attain the broadest possible and widest variety of artistic expression.

Now, question: what is the most obvious irony about the USA --the one which stands out prominently before the eyes of the rest of the world? Answer: the fact that we have never had any royalty or nobility. Humble businessmen, low-born merchants, and bourgeois shopkeepers created our land. And despite our outspoken democracy, we seem always to be insecure about this. Always craving noble graces and airs which England and other monarchies enjoy. We reek with that envy. This is our longest-standing reputation across the globe. It is why other, 'older cultures', have always laughed at us.

Thus: Jay Gatsby. Though god-like and noble, though a 'prince' among Americans; though he is pure-of-heart and heroic..and even though his story is a modern retelling of an ancient Greek myth...he fails in the end not because he amassed ill-gotten wealth (everyone does that) but because the Buchanans' social set (aka, 'old-money' Americans) are the only nobility we have.

Old-Money doesn't allow you 'in', if you are nouveau-riche Gatsby, as you are thus of a lower social class than they are. Social snobbery. This is the well-known 'royal disdain' as practiced by nobles abroad everywhere.

Tom & Daisy are not in the slightest way, 'from royal descent' yet they snub Gatsby as if they were. So: IRONY! Is there anyone here who does not grasp this? Is there anyone here who does not see that only a theme this biting--and a sly joke--this broad, makes this novel's reputation, what it is?

For Fitzgerald's book to possess the relevancy it does, means it could not possibly relate in any way to petty criminality for its impact. Per capita among our millions of citizens, those among us who turn to crime is relatively quite rare. But what every neighbor does incite among his fellow citizen is a cycle of vanity and envy. 'Keeping up with the Jones'...this is deeply part of our national character. Fodder for a poignant satire, just the way that Melville's book about overweening ambition was the droll punctuation to the age of the Yankee clipper ships in 'Moby Dick'.

Dissecting American vanity is precisely why the novel has the stature it has. It sums up the whole character of 'our people' vs 'other peoples'; our overall 'phoniness'; our constant social climbing; ceaselessly attempting to buy our way out of our ignominious roots.

Not the fact that we have a problem with white-collar crime. The scope of the story is so much more than social commentary. If that hum-drum aspect is all you see in it, then you're doing a disservice to Fitzgerald's technique, his training, his experience, his personality, and his sensitivity.

Think about it! If all that invoked Daisy's rejection of Jay was gossip about his nefarious background, she would not have had any curiosity or intrigue towards him; would not have accepted a date with him; would have simply turned away in the very beginning of the story. There would have been no story for FSF to write, if criminality bothered her. There would have been no flirtation, no temptation, no heart-torn-in-two. She would have turned her back on him, as soon as confirmation reached her. How else? If he smells so bad to her that she would reject him after being roused to marital infidelity; then why would she allow such arousal in the first place? At first suspicion--at first whiff, she would have raised her snub.


Geoffrey wrote: "Exactly, Monty..."

Must be a year later...the same two lunatics are still in the same two-man circle-jerk getting exactly nowhere with the same hare-brained 'Gatsby-malarkey' which not even an adjunct professor in a community college English class !@#$%^&* session, would ever take seriously. Hoot. Totally reminds me of John O'Hara constantly scraping & bowing to get respect from Yale.

'Hemingway once said, cruelly, "Someone should take up a collection to send John O'Hara to Yale".'


message 10: by Monty J (last edited Jan 26, 2017 12:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monty J Heying Feliks wrote: "Monty J wrote: "It's about social commentary and corruption of the American Dream, personified in Gatsby himself, whose riches came from unlawful sources, (perfectly lawful sources), consorting wit..."

Ah, the return of the jack-booted Feliks, self-appointed thought Gestapo of Goodreads, half troll and half satyr with a hard-on for independent ideas, and a quiver of poison-tipped arrows to impale and infect the innocent inquiring mind.

As for Gatsby's criminality, here's my re-post (titled "Gatsby's Bond Scam" posted earlier under "Gatsby's Criminality", which sufficiently covers that issue: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


Read the evidence and draw your own conclusions.


Geoffrey Aronson Yes, it certainly is more than a glorified romance novel. But for those of a conservative bent, more attuned to accepting business improprieties, the issue of moral decay is secondary.


Monty J Heying Geoffrey wrote: "Yes, it certainly is more than a glorified romance novel. But for those of a conservative bent, more attuned to accepting business improprieties, the issue of moral decay is secondary."

Not only secondary, but very often factored in as a cost of doing business. Monsanto and Dow Chemical manufactured and sold Agent Orange knowing full-well it would cause a certain amount of cancer. Etc, etc., etc.


Karen Feliks wrote: "Monty J wrote: "It's about social commentary and corruption of the American Dream, personified in Gatsby himself, whose riches came from unlawful sources, (perfectly lawful sources), consorting wit..."

Go Felix!


Geoffrey Aronson Karen, Feliks didn´t take up your challenge. He`s all intellectualized out.


message 15: by Geoffrey (last edited Mar 09, 2017 05:12AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Geoffrey Aronson And what is that supposed to mean, Mark? Is that directed at Felix?


Karen Geoffrey wrote: "And what is that supposed to mean, Mark? Is that directed at Felix?"

Felix isn't rich


Geoffrey Aronson The question was directed to Mark.


Karen Geoffrey wrote: "The question was directed to Mark."

Yes it was!


Rachel I don't believe that Gatsby is the American dream. He spends his life building this persona to be "good enough" for a girl that was never really his. Daisy was out for a good time. I do believe that in her own way she loved him but not enough to let go of the life she was living. Not enough to let go and possibly endure some scandal. Gatsby is a heartbroken man who works toward something he can never obtain in the end. The money, the parties, the booze, nothing ever filled the hole Daisy left and in the end she didn't even try to. He was always looking beyond for something more.


Geoffrey Aronson Right on Rachel.


Hannah I also agree that he's not the American Dream. He spent his whole life building himself up to what he believed the American Dream was - rich and popular. However, he was lonely and quite miserable, never getting what he truly wanted which was Daisy. I think if he ending up with Daisy, if this made him happy, them maybe that would of been his American Dream.


message 22: by Gary (last edited Mar 17, 2017 03:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary Hannah wrote: "I think if he ending up with Daisy, if this made him happy, them maybe that would of been his American Dream."

I wonder if he would have been happy, content in his self-delusion about Daisy, or if he'd eventually catch up that she really isn't anything particularly special? I suspect the former. Gatsby's ambition pre-dated meeting Daisy based on his father pointing out Young Jimmy's diary entries and his early efforts to associate with Dan Cody....

Still, I think that illustrates how Gatsby is NOT the American dream. In the American dream is all about self-reliance and the values of good, old-fashioned work paying off for people who want a better life for their children. (I believe these people are called "losers" in 21st century America....) Gatsby isn't that sort. He's more pathologically ambitious than that.


message 23: by Monty J (last edited Mar 24, 2017 11:02AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monty J Heying Gary wrote: " the American dream is all about self-reliance and the values of good, old-fashioned work paying off for people who want a better life for their children. "

Old-fashioned HONEST hard work.

Honesty was always stressed by the great aunt who raised me until I was 9 and the orphanage matron whose ward I became until college. These two women, along with my scoutmaster, shaped my world view, stressing education, honesty and hard work. These values are often reflected in American folk heroes such as Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone and Paul Bunyan. Ironically, these fundamentally American values are not reflected in Jay Gatsby, which may be why I feel so revolted by him and that his heroism has been overplayed in film and too often overstressed in literary criticism.

By having Daisy and his party-goers reject him and having him killed, Fitzgerald judged Gatsby as un-redeemable. Yet in the denoument, Fitzgerald expresses a glimmer of hope for the American Dream: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

At the end of John Steinbeck's East of Eden a similar, more optimistic moral theme is expressed in the word, "Timshel," Free will. Compared to this, The Great Gatsby seems negative and fatalistic.


message 24: by Monty J (last edited Mar 24, 2017 11:54AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monty J Heying Geoffrey wrote: "And yet American GIs were inspired by the book when the military provided it to them during WWII, so much so that those GIs who went to university under the GI Bill afterwards and became English teachers included TGG in their curriculum.

So the book was misunderstood back in the 40`s?"


The novel's war theme would logically resonate with GI's, many of whom had received "Dear John" letters from women who "didn't wait" for them as promised--as famously happened with J.D. Salinger when he read the news in 1943 that "his girl" Oona O'Neill (Eugne's daughter) was marrying Charlie Chaplin.

The novel also raises the question that every GI in combat faces: What are we fighting for? raising concerns about the corrosive effects on democracy of capitalistic greed and corruption.


Geoffrey Aronson Due to the moral conflict of SF´s own character, there is an ambivalence in his depiction of the JG character. This is what has made for the continuing debate as to the novel´s import. On the one hand, we have Nick as Jay´s biggest booster and his role as narrator carries both weight and resonance with the reader. And yes, the ideal of social mobility was particularly heartening to the thousands of GIs who went on to teach in the humanities post WWII.

Yet there is a dark underweight flowing through the novel and for those with a more analytical bent, discern it. Jay is a serial philanderer for starters, seducing young women and then cavalierly casting them aside, only annoyed with their persistence. He´s a chronic, perhaps pathological liar, unable and/or unwilling to reveal the truth about his upbringing. He is involved with a criminal organization that has led him to a role of fencing stolen goods.

So how are we to react to the novel? Each to his own, and there is much reason for a multitude of responses. Does he deserve to die? Absolutely not if you don´t think he was driving the car. And even if he were, death would be harsh and unusual punishment, unless you detest him so much. A good long stretch in the slammer? Certainly if he was driving the car for both reckless endangerment, hit and run, and depraved indifference.

Not to even mention his criminal activities of fencing stolen goods had he done so before the novel began. But that is beyond the scope of the narrative and is only speculative. The middleman needed Wolfsheim to mediate the transfer, so its likely Jay hadn´t received any stolen goods from that source prior to the novel´s inception, but that is not to say there were other transactions made from other parties. Or even that Jay had indeed bought from that source with Wolfie as the intermediary but his boss decided to withdraw himself from future transactions by introducing the two parties directly to each other.

There are so many unknowns in this novel. What was Nick doing in Buchanan`s bedroom at 2 a.m.? Why would Nick even write this revelatory scene in the novel if he is indeed homosexually inclined?

What does Nick mean upon breaking up with Jordan and says that it wouldn´t be honest for him to say it was a matter of honor?

Why orgiastic future? Or orgasmic future? He wrote it both ways then edited it.


Monty J Heying Geoffrey wrote: " ...Buchanan`s bedroom at 2 a.m.."

McKee's, not Buchanan's.


Geoffrey Aronson Thanks for the reminder. Reading too many books lately.


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