The Great Gatsby: Themes ( OCR A Level English Literature )

Revision note.

Nadia Ambreen

English Content Creator

The Great Gatsby: Themes

Exam responses that are led by key themes and ideas are more likely to reach the highest levels of the mark scheme. Exploring the ideas of the text, specifically in relation to the question being asked, will help to increase your fluency and assurance in writing about the novel.

Below are some of the key themes that could be explored in The Great Gatsby. This list is not exhaustive and you are encouraged to also explore any other ideas or themes you identify within the novel.

The American Dream

Wealth and class, money and materialism.

It is really important that you develop the skills to find your own ideas and arrive at your own meanings and interpretations of the text. Try to take a more exploratory and discursive approach to your reading of the collection, as the examiner will reward you well for this approach. For instance, you could begin to develop your own interpretations by using sentence starters such as: “Fitzgerald may have used the character of the Myrtle to highlight ideas about…”

The concept of the American Dream is the idea that hard work can bring about success and a  prosperous  life. People would move from Europe to America in pursuit of this ideal. The American Dream is central to The Great Gatsby, and Fitzgerald explores the theme through characters and events in the novel. He highlights how it has gone from an ideal pursuit to one that is filled with corruption. Many of the characters strive for the American Dream, which ultimately leads to  disillusionment , corruption and unhappiness. The novel suggests that the pursuit of the American Dream, when driven by materialism and an idealised past, may lead to tragic consequences.

Knowledge and evidence

Through the character of Gatsby, the novel portrays the American Dream as distorted and unattainable:

His relentless pursuit of wealth and success is motivated by the belief that achieving these goals will lead to happiness and the fulfilment he craves with Daisy

It can be argued that Gatsby tried to fast-track his American Dream by dealing in illegal and immoral business, which resulted in his downfall

He was therefore unable to win Daisy over as his success was not achieved through moral and honest means

Gatsby’s mansion and parties represent the illusion of happiness and success which masks the emptiness and moral decay that lie beneath the surface

The idea that wealth alone can bring happiness is challenged by the characters’ unfulfilled lives

The characters in the novel  equate  wealth with success and social status, an idea that reflects the interpretation of the American Dream during the 1920s

In the novel, the American Dream is often associated with materialism and superficiality:

Characters like Tom and Daisy Buchanan are an example of the shallow pursuit of pleasure and luxury without deeper moral fulfilment 

The novel explores the social class differences that impact the pursuit of the American Dream:

The contrast between old money and new money reflects the challenges individuals face in breaking into social circles that are well established

Gatsby’s inability to see through Tom and his friend’s insincerity highlights the differences between those who are from established aristocracy and those who are “self-made”

The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock is symbolic:

It represents Gatsby’s aspirations and the unattainable nature of his dreams

The green light could also symbolise the mysterious nature of the American Dream and the constant pursuit of it

What are Fitzgerald’s intentions?

The novel serves as a  critique  of the excesses and moral decay of the Jazz Age:

It challenges the idea that individualism and materialism leads to a better life

Fitzgerald suggests that the pursuit of the American Dream during this era is often misguided and destructive

Through characters such as Gatsby, the writer highlights the failure of the American Dream and the flaws in the idea:

Gatsby’s life is  encapsulated  by the pursuit of the  unattainable  ideal, and his death symbolises the disillusionment and the downfall that can accompany these pursuits

The author attempts to highlight the  disintegration  of the American Dream and how it can lead to self-destruction and loneliness:

It drives people to strive for superficial and materialistic things

Please remember that while incorporating contextual factors is important, this should not be the main focus in your response. Do not rely too heavily on Fitzgerald’s possible intentions, but consider them to back up your points when considering the themes of the novel. For example, the narrator in The Great Gatsby may offer an insight into the 1920s version of the American Dream, but this does not mean that a significant part of your essay will be about the ideals in 1920s America. Remember, you are not writing a history essay.

The theme of wealth and class is central to the novel and is explored through the characters, settings and events. In The Great Gatsby, wealth and class are intertwined with the characters’ identities, which shape their motivations, relationships and morals. 

The novel makes clear distinctions between social classes through locations:

East Egg represents old money, such as the Buchanans, while West Egg represents new money, such as Gatsby

The Valley of Ashes is a  desolate  area that symbolises the lower classes and the consequences of economic inequality

The Valley of Ashes represents the consequences of uncontrolled  capitalism  and economic inequality

George and Myrtle Wilson, who are characters in the Valley of Ashes, represent the exploited working class who are unhappy and leading unfulfilled lives

There is a contrast between characters in the novel:

The Buchanans represent a wealth that is established and inherited, whereas Gatsby’s wealth is new money, which is acquired quickly through business

Many of the characters in the novel, especially Gatsby, are driven by the relentless pursuit of wealth as a means of achieving the social status and happiness that they associate with it:

Gatsby’s rise to wealth is motivated by a desire to win back his love, Daisy, and gain acceptance into upper-class society

In the novel, wealth is defined by material possessions, such as Gatsby’s mansions and Daisy’s luxurious lifestyle:

Gatsby’s extravagant parties in his mansion serve as symbols of the excesses and superficiality associated with wealth during the 1920s

The fixation and obsession with wealth and social status leads to superficial relationships and a lack of genuine connections:

Characters form relationships based on convenience, appearance and social status rather than any emotional connection or mutual interests

Fitzgerald suggests that, despite the efforts to climb the social ladder, individuals may remain confined within their social class:

Gatsby’s new-money status is not fully accepted by the old-money elite, which highlights the nature of social class distinctions that are ingrained in society

The writer suggests that the American Dream, when tied to the pursuit of wealth and social rise, is often hollow and may lead to disillusionment rather than fulfilment and contentment

Gatsby’s tragic  demise  serves as a commentary on the flaws and pitfalls of the American Dream, particularly during the 1920s

Fitzgerald highlights the emptiness and moral bankruptcy that can accompany the never-ending pursuit of wealth and social status

In the novel, the theme of money and materialism plays a central role. The novel is set in the 1920s during the Jazz Age, which was a time of economic prosperity and social change in America. The characters in the story are often driven by a relentless pursuit of wealth, luxury and social status.

Gatsby is the   embodiment  of the American Dream, as he uses his newly found wealth to seek out success and social status

Characters such as Gatsby pursue material success as a means of achieving happiness and fulfilment

Despite their wealth, characters like Gatsby and Tom experience a sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction:

The pursuit of material success is portrayed as ultimately unfulfilling 

Characters engage in morally questionable actions in their pursuit of material goals:

It is hinted that Gatsby has used   illicit   means to make his fortune

Material possessions create an illusion of happiness and success that often contradicts the characters’ internal struggles:

Gatsby’s extravagant parties are a  facade ,  making his insecurities and unhappiness over being without Daisy deeper

Daisy represents the allure of wealth and the choices individuals make in pursuit of financial security:

Her decision to marry Tom for his wealth reflects the societal values of the time

She ultimately chooses wealth over her love for Gatsby

Fitzgerald explores the destructive nature of the pursuit of wealth and the emptiness that can accompany material success:

Gatsby is the perfect example of a character who pursues the American Dream in the hopes of finding fulfilment, when it ultimately leads to his destruction

The novel critiques the superficiality of the American Dream and highlights the moral decay and disillusionment that can result from an obsession with materialism:

An example of this is when Tom Buchanan tells George Wilson that the car belonged to Gatsby, which leads to Gatsby’s death and Wilson’s suicide 

The novel serves as a commentary on the hollowness of a society where the pursuit of wealth becomes a driving force, overshadowing genuine human connections and values:

Gatsby hosted many extravagant parties that were well attended by the rich and the famous

However, none of these people attended his funeral, which highlights how they used Gatsby for material gain rather than to form any real connection

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Author: Nadia Ambreen

Nadia is a graduate of The University of Warwick and Birmingham City University. She holds a PGCE in secondary English and Drama and has been a teacher for over 10 years. She has taught English Literature, Language and Drama across key stages 3 to 5. She has also been an examiner for a leading exam board and has experience designing and delivering schemes of work for AQA, Edexcel and Eduqas.

157 The Great Gatsby : Best Topics and Examples

Looking for some creative titles for The Great Gatsby essay? There are many themes to explore about this novel. We offer you The Great Gatsby essay examples about symbolism, character analysis, the style of the novel, and many other topics.

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The Great Gatsby, the masterpiece written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, will help you dive into the Roaring Twenties’ wealth atmosphere. This is a story of a millionaire Jay Gatsby and his passion for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan

Your professor may ask you to analyze topics such as decadence, money, American Dream, or symbolism in your The Great Gatsby Essay. But what if you have no idea what to write? Well, below, you can find some tips and essay samples that you may use to compose your papers

Tip #1. Analyze symbolism in The Great Gatsby

First, let’s define what symbolism is. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, symbolism is “practice of using symbols, especially by investing things with a symbolic meaning or by expressing the invisible or intangible using visible or sensuous representations.” The Great Gatsby story is full of symbols. And here are just two examples of them:

  • The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg painted on a billboard in the Valley of Ashes. You can find a lot of The Great Gatsby essay samples that draw the conclusion that Eckleburg represents God. However, let’s ask a few more questions. Why do these eyes have no mouth or arms, or legs? Does this mean that Eckleburg can only watch people transgressions without any ability to punish them as a God-like entity? Does this billboard mean anything?
  • Use of color in Fitzgerald’s story. If you carefully read the novel, you might notice the use of a few colors throughout the book. They are green, gray, gold, and yellow. Think, what do these colors can symbolize and represent these ideas in your paper.

Tip #2. Think about point of view in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is written in the first-person point of view. Nick Carraway, one of the main characters, tells us about the life and thoughts of Gatsby. In your writing, you can imagine how different the novel would be if it were told in the third-person point of view.

You also can provide some examples if the story was told from Gatsby’s perspective.

Tip #3. Assess how the book relates to the American Dream

If you look through the vast majority The Great Gatsby essay titles, you can find out plenty of samples that address the validity of high society or the social class divide. Gatsby had achieved the American Dream by building his wealth. However, he’s still not satisfied with the shallowness of the upper class and wants something more.

In your paper, you can argue why does one can never attain the American Dream, and why dreamers always want more.

Tip #4. Analyze the characters and their relations

Fitzgerald put each character into the novel for a particular reason. And your job is to analyze what they represent and why they are in the story. For example, Tom represents evil, while Daisy represents innocence. Another aspect you should examine is relationships between Daisy and Gatsby, Tom and Daisy, Nick and Gatsby.

Tip #5. Examine the tone of the novel

When we talk about the tone of the story, we mean how the author describes the events and characters. In your paper, decide what the tone of the novel is and analyze how it affects the readers’ attitude to characters and events.

Now, check The Great Gatsby essay examples below and use the acquired ideas to write your own paper!

  • Daisy Buchanan: “I Did Love Him Once, but I Loved You, Too” Another scene shows Daisy’s immoral behavior when she is in the room with Gatsby, Jordan, and Nick. This view shows Daisy’s lustful side in that she pushes Jordan to do the same and is out […]
  • Analysis of the Shirt Scene in “The Great Gatsby” Film Although the shirts mean nothing to Gatsby without Daisy, the audience watches Gatsby’s facial expression display a great deal of empathy and love whenever Daisy seems distressed, especially in this scene when she begins to […]
  • The Great Gatsby Reflection Paper Throughout the novel the major character Nick who was the narrator managed to bring out the main themes of the novel as well as developing other characters.
  • The Clock as a Symbol in “The Great Gatsby” By incorporating metaphorical elements that allude to the fleeting nature of time, “the Great Gatsby” emphasizes the idea of the futility of life and the inescapability of the past and its mistakes.
  • Tom and Gatsby: Compare and Contrast Essay In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald pays attention to the relationships between both Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan and Daisy Buchanan. Scott Fitzgerald’s book is mainly focused on the relationship of Daisy with Gatsby and Tom, […]
  • Silver & Gold: Color Symbolism in The Great Gatsby Although the color palette presented in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is rich, the problem of differing social status is most vividly described in the novel through the use of golden and silver colors that stand […]
  • Nick as the Narrator in The Great Gatsby Therefore, his connection with the Gatsby’s story is that he is depended upon to serve as the mouthpiece of the older generation as he metaphorically transcends through time to retell the Great Gatsby tale accurately […]
  • American Culture in the Novel “The Great Gatsby” In The Great Gatsby, Scott Fitzgerald documents these changes through an in-depth exploration of cultural changes such as the rise in consumerism, materialism, greed for wealth, and the culture of loosening morals in the 1920s […]
  • Autobiographical Elements in “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The story is set during the roaring twenties, a period of significant social and cultural change, and it incorporates many of the author’s personal experiences, feelings, and perceptions of the time.
  • The Great Gatsby: Analysis and Feminist Critique The feminist critique is an aspect that seeks to explore the topic of men domination in the social, economic, and political sectors.
  • The American Dream in The Great Gatsby After spending some time in this neighborhood, Nick finally attends Gatsby’s exuberant parties only to realize that Gatsby organizes these parties to impress Daisy, Nick’s cousin, and wife to Tom.
  • Daisy’s Character Study in “The Great Gatsby” The argument is that the author attempts to describe her as a pure and innocent female to ensure that the reader understands the perspective of Jay, but particular aspects of her true identity are revealed […]
  • The Great Gatsby and Winter Dreams by Scott Fitzgerald In this analysis, the researcher will try to confirm the argument that the Great Gatsby was a continuation of the Winter Dreams.
  • The Great Gatsby All these characteristics of America during 1920 are evident and inherent in the main character, Jay Gatsby, in the novel The Great Gatsby. This is one of the themes in the novel The Great Gatsby.
  • Time as a Theme in The Great Gatsby The embodiment of these negative aspects comes in the form of Gatsby and his life, which in the end is seen as hollow and empty, just as the morals and values of the characters seen […]
  • ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ Literature Comparison Stella is a devoted wife struggling to make her marriage work, even though her husband Stanley, subjects her to a lot of pain and suffering.
  • Gatsby & Nick in The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby is a novel of vibrant characters, and paradox is one of the main themes of the book. Even though Daisy and Tom are married, Nick agrees to help Gatsby be with the […]
  • Fairy Tale Traits in The Great Gatsby Basing on the several evident parameters, for instance, the character traits, the behavior of prince and princess, and gender distinctions amongst others, Fitzgerald’s masterwork stands out as a variation and sophisticated version of the fairy […]
  • “The Great Gatsby” Film by Baz Luhrmann The Great Gatsby is a film that stars Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, Tom Buchanan, and the Southern Belle Daisy. The influence of the past comes out throughout the course of the film.
  • Why is Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby a Satire? Another aspect of satire in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is the wealth associated with Gatsby, as the reader observes in chapter two.
  • Female Characters in A Streetcar Named Desire & The Great Gatsby: Comparative It can be seen in the case of Stella and Daisy wherein in their pursuit of what they think is their “ideal” love, they are, in fact, pursuing nothing more than a false ideal that […]
  • The Corrupted American Dream and Its Significance in “The Great Gatsby” The development of the American dream and its impact on the society of the United States is a pertinent topic of discussion for various authors.
  • Women’s Role in “The Great Gatsby” by Fitzgerald Though the women in the novel are depicted as careless, treacherous, and selfish, the author uses them to underscore the power of the will to rebel against societal norms in pursuit of happiness.
  • Tom and George in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby At the same time, the motives of Tom and George’s behavior differ due to their backgrounds, origins, and belonging to different social classes.
  • Jay Gatsby: The Great Fool or the Unfortunate Genius The main idea of the work is to show the unfairness of the fate of a poor young man who cannot marry the girl he loves.
  • “The Great Gatsby” by Scott Fitzgerald Who will take care of the dead creatures seems not to be in Tom’s order of what to bother him and together with the wife is comfortable enjoying their wealth while the creatures are rotting […]
  • Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ and the American Dream “The America Dream’ is a longstanding common belief of the American population that in the United States, people are free to realize the full potential of their labor and their talents and every person in […]
  • Babylon Revisited & The Great Gatsby: Motifs & Themes When he pleads his case to the guardians of Honoria, his sister-in-law Marion, and her husband, he continually evades his escapades of the past and recounts his hard work and sincerity of the present.
  • Jay Gatsby and Valjean in ‘Les Miserables’: Comparative Valjean’s life contains a series of misfortunes in the sense that he has to hide his true identity. Most of the people in his life were there just for convenience and for the fact that […]
  • Fitzgerald’s American Dream in The Great Gatsby & Winter Dreams To my mind, Winter Dream is a perfect example of the American Dream, since the main hero, Dexter, implemented each point of it, he was persistent and very hard-working, he was a very sensible and […]
  • Characters in Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” The author presents challenges faced in the society as a result of the mixture racial and gender discrimination that a young black girl goes through in search of her dream and personal identity.
  • The Idea of Love in The Great Gatsby and the Parallels or Contrasts That Can Be Drawn With the Presentation of Love in The Catcher in the Rye Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Jerome Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, it is possible to state that the notion of love is presented there similarly even though the texts are absolutely different and […]
  • The Dilemmas of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby is a story of a young man in the early twentieth century who seems to know what he wants in the way of that dream and what to do to achieve it.
  • Architecture in “The Great Gatsby” by Fitzgerald From this perspective, the case of Gatsby’s mansion is a symbolic call for leaving behind the anachronistic ideas of aristocracy and embracing American ideals.
  • The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald Review Gatsby’s dream to become wealthy to gain Daisy’s attention “is simply believable and is still a common dream of the current time”. However, Gatsby is the story’s main character and is a “personification” of the […]
  • Fertile Questions: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald The two fertile questions arising from the novel are: what are political and economic impacts of the World War I? and what are the challenges faced by American students born from poor families post-World War […]
  • “The Great Gatsby”: The American Dream in the Jazz Age The Jazz Age is a period in the history of the United States of America from the end of World War I to the beginning of the Great Depression due to the remarkable popularity of […]
  • “The Great Gatsby Directed” by Baz Luhrmann This is due to the fact that the film is an indirect adaptation of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald’s book “The Great Gatsby”.
  • Novel Analysis: The Great Gatsby and Siddhartha Hesse’s Siddhartha seems complementary to The Great Gatsby as Brahman, the main role in Siddhartha, finds contentment in self-realization and not in money, sensuality, and love.
  • Greene’s “Our Man in Havana” and “The Great Gatsby” by Fitzgerald It is imperative to realize that the purpose of the paper is not to carry out a critical analysis of the plays but to carry out a comparison of the attributes in which they relate […]
  • What Money Cannot Buy: ‘The Great Gatsby’ Book by F. S. Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby is a book that unveils the instrumental role of the social aspect of life among people; which not only concentrates on the economic part of it.
  • “The Great Gatsby” by Baz Luhrmann The filmmakers never stop depicting Gatsby’s wealth and his otherness. He throws money around and he is a topic of heated debates in the society.
  • First-Person Narrative in Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” Joyce’s “The Boarding House,” Bowen’s “The Demon Lover” In Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Joyce’s short story “The Boarding House,” and the Scottish poem The Demon Lover, the first-person narrative is used differently to achieve the authors’ objectives and create a comprehensive picture of […]
  • First-Person Narrative in Bowen’s ”The Demon Lover,” Updike’s ”A&P,” Fitzgerald’s ”The Great Gatsby” In this work, the unworked, repressed experience of the First World War is personified and embodied in the image of the ghost of a person who died in this war.
  • “The Great Gatsby” by Fitzgerald: Betrayal, Romance, Social Politics and Feminism This work seeks to outline the role of women in the development of the plot of the book and in relation to the social issues affecting women in contemporary society.
  • Jay Gatsby, Jean Valjean and Henry Fleming: The Compare and Contrast Analyses of the Characters The way the characters of the main protagonists are revealed in the novel is one of the most important things in every piece of literature.
  • Alvarez’ “In the Time of the Butterflies” & Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” The shallowness, the injustice, the strive for wealth and power, brutality, and greed are the common themes, developed and explored in the books by Julia Alvarez “In the Time of The Butterflies” and by F.
  • “The Great Gatsby” Novel by Francis Scott Fitzgerald However, what the reader should acknowledge is that the author manages to present a wholesome and clear image of the issues and occurrences that defined the United States throughout the 1920s.
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  • Political Satire in American Literature Scott Fitzgerald was one of the more famous satirists of the time, particularly in his production of the work The Great Gatsby.
  • The Great Gatsby – Love, Wealth, and Illusion In the novel, the fictional village of West Egg is perhaps one of the key items that symbolize the life of the new millionaires in the city.
  • ‘The Great Gatsby’: Tom and Blanche Like Tom, Blanche in the book of Street Car Named Desire, is loyal to her sister who is the only member of her family that we come across.
  • Gatsby & Jean Valjean He is a mysterious person, and no one exactly knows his origins and the ways he used to acquire his fortune.
  • The Ethicality of an Action Jay Gatsby As well, an action is “wrong” if it results in the opposite of happiness to the people. Mill’s utilitarian theory can be used to assess the ethically of Jay Gatsby’s action, as presented in the […]
  • Francis Scott Fitzgerald & His American Dream In the novel “Tender is the Night,” Fitzgerald describes the society in Riviera where he and his family had moved to live after his misfortune of late inheritance.
  • Jay Gatsby & Eponine From Les Miserables: Compare & Contrast Gatsby is the main character in the book “The Great Gatsby,” while Eponine is one of the characters in the book “Les Miserables”.
  • Jay Gatsby & Gean Valjean: Characters Comparison This essay compares and contrasts the characters of Gatsby and Jean Valjean in the Les Miserable novels and films. Gatsby strikes the readers as a na ve and lovesick individual though his character is negative.
  • What Are the Literary Devices Used to Create the Image of Jay Gatsby?
  • Analyze How Fitzgerald Uses Imagery in the Great Gatsby
  • What Do Colors Symbolize in the Great Gatsby?
  • How Does Fitzgerald Use Geographical Setting to Show the Contrast Between Social Classes in the Novel?
  • How Does Fitzgerald Convey a Notion of the American Dream Through Metaphors and Symbols?
  • What Does the Green Light in Daisy’s Window Represent in the Great Gatsby?
  • What Does the Valley of Ashes Symbolize in the Great Gatsby?
  • What Role Does Nick Carraway’s Narration Play in the Story? If We Got It Through an Omniscient Third-Person Narrator, What Would We Gain or Lose?
  • Could the Story Have Been Set in Other Places, Like Chicago or Los Angeles, or Were New York City and Long Island Absolutely Necessary?
  • Look at the Novel’s Opening Lines. If We Accept Nick’s Advice When We Read the Story, Will Our Views of It Change? Or, in Other Words, Does Refraining From Criticism Promote Compassion?
  • Is There a Hidden Meaning of the Title of the Great Gatsby? What Is It?
  • How Is the Color White Used Within the Novel? When Does It Make a False Representation of Innocence? When Does It Truly Represent Innocence?
  • What Is the Role of a New York Setting in the Novel’s Storyline?
  • What Is the Real Meaning of ‘Great’ in the Title of the Great Gatsby?
  • What Significance Do Colors Have in the Party’s Descriptions in Chapter 3?
  • Elaborate on the Green Light as the Symbol of the American Dream
  • What Is the Meaning of the Phrase “Can’t Repeat the Past?.. Why of Course You Can!” What Does Gatsby Really Want From Daisy?
  • What Role Do the Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Play in the Great Gatsby?
  • How Is the Great Gatsby a Satirical Representation of the Society?
  • Are the Rich in the Novel Really So Careless as Everyone Believes Them to Be?
  • Create an Alternative Ending for the Great Gatsby. Justify Your Choice
  • What Is the Relationship Between Those Born Rich and Those Who Became Rich in the Novel?
  • Discuss Female Characters and Their Significance in the Great Gatsby
  • Compare Gatsby and Wilson. In What Ways Are They Similar?
  • Who Is the Most Responsible for Gatsby’s Death? Why Is It So?
  • Why Do Tom and Daisy Stay Together at the End of the Novel?
  • Does Gatsby’s Money Bring Him Real Happiness?
  • Can Jay’s Feelings for Daisy in the Great Gatsby Be Considered Love?
  • How Do Secondary Characters Affect the Story?
  • Who Is the Real Hero in the Great Gatsby?
  • Can We Call Jay Gatsby a Romantic Hero or a Villain?
  • What Does Jay Gatsby Really Live For in the Novel: the Present or the Past?
  • Compare Myrtle and Daisy
  • What Does Tom’s Quarrel With Myrtle in Chapter 2 Tell Us About His Personality?
  • Elaborate on How Both Tom and Gatsby Want to Change Not Only the Future, but the Past in Chapter 7.
  • What Was Gatsby’s Power of Dreaming Like? Was Daisy a Worth Object?
  • Is Anyone to Blame for Gatsby’s Death?
  • Are There Any Moral Characters in the Novel?
  • Can Jordan and Daisy Be Considered Perfect Role Models for the Upper Class in America? Why or Why Not?
  • Is Gatsby Really Great? In What Way? How Does His Greatness Evolve as the Plot Unfolds?
  • How Does Nick’s Character Change over the Course of the Great Gatsby?
  • Does Gatsby Deserve the Definition of a Self-Made Man? Why or Why Not?
  • What Role Does Daisy Play in the Conflict Between Gatsby & Tom?
  • Describe How F.S. Fitzgerald’s Life Experiences Influenced the Great Gatsby
  • What Are the Central Themes in the Great Gatsby?
  • What Roles Do Fidelity and Infidelity Play in Fitzgerald’s the Great Gatsby?
  • What Importance Does Sex Have in the Story?
  • What Role Does Alcohol Play in the Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald?
  • Did Fitzgerald Really Criticize the Idea of the American Dream in the Great Gatsby?
  • Does Love Play Have Any Importance in the Great Gatsby?
  • What Role Does the Relationship Between Geography and Social Values Play in the Novel?
  • What Is the Meaning of Time in the Great Gatsby?
  • How Do the Aristocratic East Eggers, Tom and the Sloanes, Regard Gatsby in Chapter 6? How Is Their Contempt Connected to the Theme of Social Class in the Novel?
  • Analyze the Great Gatsby Through the Prism of Feminist Theory
  • How Are the Themes of Kindness and Compassion Presented in the Great Gatsby?
  • Describe How the Theme of Ambition Is Presented in the Novel
  • Elaborate on How Fitzgerald Contrasts Education and Experience in the Great Gatsby
  • Make a Critical Comparison of the Novel With the 2013 Movie
  • Make a Comparison of the Novel With the 1949 Movie
  • Compare the Great Gatsby Movies of 1949 and 2013
  • Compare and Contrast Two Classic American Novels: The Great Gatsbyand the Grapes of Wrath
  • How Are Donald Trump and the Great Gatsby’s Tom Buchanan Alike?
  • Compare Miller’s Death of a Salesman and the Great Gatsby
  • What Other Fictional or Non-fictional Character From a Book or Movie Can Nick Carraway Be Compared To?
  • Make a Critical Comparison of the Sun Also Rises and the Great Gatsby
  • Compare the Great Gatsby With a Farewell to Arms
  • Make a Comparison of Daisy From the Great Gatsby With Henrietta Bingham From Irresistible
  • What Pop Stars of Nowadays Daisy Can Be Compared To?
  • Macbeth vs. Jay Gatsby: Make a Character Comparison
  • What Destroyed Gatsby’s Dreams in “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald?
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  • How Does “The Great Gatsby” Compare to the Life of Fitzgerald?
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  • How and Why Does F. Scott Fitzgerald Use Nick Carraway as His Narrator of “The Great Gatsby”?
  • How New Money and Women Are Marginalized in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • What Part Does Social Class Play in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • How Are Racial Anxieties of the Time Shown in the Novel?
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  • How Does Fitzgerald Provide a Critical Social History of Prohibition-Era America in His Novel?
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IvyPanda. (2024, June 7). 157 The Great Gatsby : Best Topics and Examples.

"157 The Great Gatsby : Best Topics and Examples." IvyPanda , 7 June 2024,

IvyPanda . (2024) '157 The Great Gatsby : Best Topics and Examples'. 7 June.

IvyPanda . 2024. "157 The Great Gatsby : Best Topics and Examples." June 7, 2024.

1. IvyPanda . "157 The Great Gatsby : Best Topics and Examples." June 7, 2024.


IvyPanda . "157 The Great Gatsby : Best Topics and Examples." June 7, 2024.

The Great Gatsby Movie and Book Comparison

This essay aims to compare and contrast F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” with its various film adaptations. The focus will be on how different directors have interpreted the novel’s themes, characters, and settings, and how these interpretations align or diverge from the original text. Key aspects like the portrayal of the Roaring Twenties, the representation of the American Dream, and the character development of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan will be critically examined. The overview will also discuss the effectiveness of each medium in conveying the novel’s underlying messages and the impact of visual and narrative styles on the story’s reception. At PapersOwl too, you can discover numerous free essay illustrations related to The Great Gatsby.

How it works

  • 1 The Death Scene: A Diverging Interpretation
  • 2 A Comparison of Gatsby’s Funeral in Book and Film
  • 3.1 Works Cited

The Death Scene: A Diverging Interpretation

At the end of the book, as Gatsby is on the float in his pool waiting for Daisy’s call and the phone rings immediately, Gatsby thinks that it could be Daisy. The moment happens in the blink of an eye when Mr. Wilson shoots Gatsby, and his blood becomes part of the color of the pool. Fast Forward to Gatsby’s funeral, we know that Daisy did not attend it, and readers can ask why she loved him so much, but that is not the point.

The only ones who attended were Nick and Gatsby’s father. Now if we compare the movie, we know that a major difference is the scene of Gatsby’s murder. In the movie, he is coming out of the pool on his way to answer the phone when Wilson shoots him from behind. Also, we can see how only Nick and a few reporters attend his funeral.

A Comparison of Gatsby’s Funeral in Book and Film

Based on this, I can compare the difference in both versions. First, the author of the book most probably added Gatsby’s father at the funeral to show how he was always there for him. The father quickly attended the funeral when he found out that his son was murdered by the newspaper in Chicago. Then in the movie, the director of the movie did not add him to show that Gatsby really had no one, not even his own family nor the people who said they loved him. And that all his fortune for more expensive than they were, they were significant in the end.

Daisy’s Consistent Absence: A Commentary on Her Character

Another similarity between both the book and the two adaptations of the novel is that Daisy does not attend Gatsby’s funeral. Daisy knew she was Gatsby’s biggest love and that he would have done anything for her, yet she did not show up. I can see why the director wanted to keep it this way. It was to have a clear example of Daisy’s ignorance, how she was no different from when she was young and had first fallen in love with Gatsby. All Daisy looked into in a man was money. As she saw that Gatsby now had more fortune than she could have believed, she planned on staying with him. Now Gatsby was dead, and there was nothing she could have kept.

To conclude, although there were many differences in both adaptations of the novel, the movies were more effective and interesting. This is most likely because both movies helped the reader better picture Fitzgerald’s envisionment. For this reason, we all preferred the movie adaptations over the novel itself.

Works Cited

  • Fitzgerald, F. S. (1925). “The Great Gatsby”. Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  • Luhrmann, B. (Director). (2013). “The Great Gatsby” [Film]. Warner Bros. Pictures.
  • Tredell, N. (2007). “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: A Literary Reference”. Carroll & Graf Publishers.
  • Gillespie, M. A. (2006). “Critical Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Literary Reference to His Life And Work”. Facts on File.


Cite this page

The Great Gatsby Movie and Book Comparison. (2023, Jun 15). Retrieved from

"The Great Gatsby Movie and Book Comparison." , 15 Jun 2023, (2023). The Great Gatsby Movie and Book Comparison . [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 8 Jul. 2024]

"The Great Gatsby Movie and Book Comparison.", Jun 15, 2023. Accessed July 8, 2024.

"The Great Gatsby Movie and Book Comparison," , 15-Jun-2023. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 8-Jul-2024] (2023). The Great Gatsby Movie and Book Comparison . [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 8-Jul-2024]

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Leaving Cert Notes and Sample Answers

Comparative | Cutural Context | The Great Gatsby, All My Sons, The King’s Speech

“the cultural context can have a significant influence on the behaviour of the central character/characters in a text.”.

Compare the way in which the behaviour of the central characters in at least two of your texts is influenced by the cultural context of those texts.

Another aspect of cultural context that greatly influences the characters in each of these texts is that of social class. It is closely linked to the role of family as it is by and large inherited. In KS, we see the pressures that are put on each of the different characters due to their position in society. David’s relationship with Wallace is restricted and looked down on because she had been previously married. This is only an issue due to his royal status.. This is something that greatly influences his life, ultimately leading him  to abdicate in order to continue his relationship. We also see a character stray away from the social class of his family in GG. Jay Gatsby changed his name from “James Gatz,” in an attempt to disguise his lower-class background. We once again witness the pressures from society in relation to class, with Gatsby’s desperation to fulfil his self-created image of an upper-class man. In contrast to both of these texts, the characters in AMS are not as wealthy and upper-class as those in GG and KS. Social class does not seem as valued in the society the Kellers live in. Intelligence is more important than education. A prime example of this is Joe Keller himself, an uneducated man who is well-respected for his business’ success and his street-smarts.

The Great Gatsby, All My Sons, The King’s Speech Leaving Cert

Social class is something that Bertie in KS values dearly. His position in society often causes him to disrespect Lionel, due to the fact that he is of a lower class. He demands to be addressed as “Your Majesty,” and “Sir,” whereas Lionel ignores the obvious difference in class between the two, and asks to treat one another as equals. In GG we also see how social class influences the characters so that they treat each other in a certain way. Tom knows that Gatsby does not come from a high-class background, and refers to him as “Mr. Nobody from Nowhere.” This shows us that men from ‘old-money’ families often looked down on ‘new-money’ men in GG. This is once again contrasted in AMS, where it is apparent that social-class and family name is less valued. In GG and KS, surnames are very important to the characters, whereas in AMS, Joe does not seem to care that he is disgracing his own name, and his business by selling faulty airplane parts that result in soldiers’ deaths. Other characters know the truth behind Joe Keller’s business, yet do not view him or his family as any worse because of it.

  • Post author: Martina
  • Post published: April 29, 2016
  • Post category: All My Sons / Comparative / Cultural Context / The Great Gatsby / The King's Speech

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Comparative Essay Sample: Dream in The Great Gatsby and A Raisin in the Sun

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Accomplishing a dream may seem in reach, but in reality, it may become challenging once you feel like you are getting closer to executing it. Yet, it can be even harder to obtain this goal, depending on the dreamer's attitude and who they surround themselves with. In "The Great Gatsby," Gatsby is a wealthy man that has risen from nothing. Gatsby has come to all this wealth in the hopes of fulfilling the dream of getting Daisy. Meanwhile, in "A Raisin in the Sun," the Younger family is living in a cramped apartment with little money, all dreaming about having a place where they can live comfortably with their loved ones. Hansberry and Fitzgerald portray the common lesson that by obtaining an optimistic attitude and the want to achieve a goal, a dream can become a reality. 

Hansberry expresses that negative views can destroy dreams and push goals further away. Beneatha is getting upset and angry about Walter's decisions, which affected the whole family. All of these emotions cause Beneatha to only take into account the negatives, as she sees her dream, as well as everyone else's goals falling through. Beneatha is talking to Mama about Walter when Mama responds with, “There is always something left to love. And if you ain't learned that, you ain't learned nothing. [looking at her] Have you cried for that boy today? I don't mean for yourself and for the family ‘cause we lost the money. l mean for him; what he been through and what it done to him. Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most; when they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain't through learning because that ain't the time at all. lt's when he's at his lowest and can‘t believe in hisself 'cause the world done whipped him so. When you start measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is” (Hansberry 56). Beneatha upsets Mama when she talks about Walter in negative ways. In this case, Walter had just given up on a dream and Beneatha was angry because she saw a dream walk out the door. In addition, Walter is at his lowest point in this specific scene, and Beneatha is just adding to the disappointment that is falling on him. Mama is using this scene as a teaching moment for Beneatha, she wants Bennie to think about Walter's high moments, where he has helped his family and himself. Mama in the same scene, states that a negative attitude just pushes the dream further away. 

Fitzgerald reinforces the lesson of having a hopeful mindset and the passion for completing a goal. The view on positivity is evident through one person's perspective on Gatsby's life. Gatsby was killed, bringing about Gatsby's father, who has come to Long Island for the funeral. Gatsby's father had only seen Gatsby a few times since becoming so wealthy. Mr. Gatz states, "‘Jimmy was bound to get ahead. He always had some re-solves like this or something. Do you notice what he’s got about improving his mind? He was always great for that. He told me I et like a hog once and I beat him for it’ (Fitzgerald 185). Gatsby's father saw him before his wealth, and he saw a man that wanted to push himself by enhancing his mind. Gatsby had a goal to reach Daisy's attention, and he worked with an optimistic attitude, mainly to achieve this dream. Nick also spoke about Gatsby's mindset of looking to be a better self than the day before. Nick states, "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—tomorrow 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"' (Fitzgerald 193). Nick brings across the valuable idea of Gatsby pushing himself. Revealing a man who wants to be a better person than the day before. Gatsby experienced negatives, but just put them in the past and moved on. 

"The Great Gatsby" and "A Raisin in the Sun" help bring through the common idea of an American Dream. Although, this picture of the American Dream varies from story to story. On one side there is Gatsby, who illustrated his dreams on wealth. On the other hand, the Younger's show the dream of raising a family, hoping to keep everyone happy at home. Both authors shared the common idea of obtaining an optimistic attitude to reach a dream.

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Best Analysis: The American Dream in The Great Gatsby

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Book Guides


The Great Gatsby is a tragic love story on the surface, but it's most commonly understood as a pessimistic critique of the American Dream. In the novel, Jay Gatsby overcomes his poor past to gain an incredible amount of money and a limited amount of social cache in 1920s NYC, only to be rejected by the "old money" crowd. He then gets killed after being tangled up with them.

Through Gatsby's life, as well as that of the Wilsons', Fitzgerald critiques the idea that America is a meritocracy where anyone can rise to the top with enough hard work. We will explore how this theme plays out in the plot, briefly analyze some key quotes about it, as well as do some character analysis and broader analysis of topics surrounding the American Dream in The Great Gatsby .

What is the American Dream? The American Dream in the Great Gatsby plot Key American Dream quotes Analyzing characters via the American Dream Common discussion and essay topics

Quick Note on Our Citations

Our citation format in this guide is (chapter.paragraph). We're using this system since there are many editions of Gatsby, so using page numbers would only work for students with our copy of the book.

To find a quotation we cite via chapter and paragraph in your book, you can either eyeball it (Paragraph 1-50: beginning of chapter; 50-100: middle of chapter; 100-on: end of chapter), or use the search function if you're using an online or eReader version of the text.

What Exactly Is "The American Dream"?

The American Dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of race, class, gender, or nationality, can be successful in America (read: rich) if they just work hard enough. The American Dream thus presents a pretty rosy view of American society that ignores problems like systemic racism and misogyny, xenophobia, tax evasion or state tax avoidance, and income inequality. It also presumes a myth of class equality, when the reality is America has a pretty well-developed class hierarchy.

The 1920s in particular was a pretty tumultuous time due to increased immigration (and the accompanying xenophobia), changing women's roles (spurred by the right to vote, which was won in 1919), and extraordinary income inequality.

The country was also in the midst of an economic boom, which fueled the belief that anyone could "strike it rich" on Wall Street. However, this rapid economic growth was built on a bubble which popped in 1929. The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, well before the crash, but through its wry descriptions of the ultra-wealthy, it seems to somehow predict that the fantastic wealth on display in 1920s New York was just as ephemeral as one of Gatsby's parties.

In any case, the novel, just by being set in the 1920s, is unlikely to present an optimistic view of the American Dream, or at least a version of the dream that's inclusive to all genders, ethnicities, and incomes. With that background in mind, let's jump into the plot!

The American Dream in The Great Gatsby

Chapter 1 places us in a particular year—1922—and gives us some background about WWI.  This is relevant, since the 1920s is presented as a time of hollow decadence among the wealthy, as evidenced especially by the parties in Chapters 2 and 3. And as we mentioned above, the 1920s were a particularly tense time in America.

We also meet George and Myrtle Wilson in Chapter 2 , both working class people who are working to improve their lot in life, George through his work, and Myrtle through her affair with Tom Buchanan.

We learn about Gatsby's goal in Chapter 4 : to win Daisy back. Despite everything he owns, including fantastic amounts of money and an over-the-top mansion, for Gatsby, Daisy is the ultimate status symbol. So in Chapter 5 , when Daisy and Gatsby reunite and begin an affair, it seems like Gatsby could, in fact, achieve his goal.

In Chapter 6 , we learn about Gatsby's less-than-wealthy past, which not only makes him look like the star of a rags-to-riches story, it makes Gatsby himself seem like someone in pursuit of the American Dream, and for him the personification of that dream is Daisy.

However, in Chapters 7 and 8 , everything comes crashing down: Daisy refuses to leave Tom, Myrtle is killed, and George breaks down and kills Gatsby and then himself, leaving all of the "strivers" dead and the old money crowd safe. Furthermore, we learn in those last chapters that Gatsby didn't even achieve all his wealth through hard work, like the American Dream would stipulate—instead, he earned his money through crime. (He did work hard and honestly under Dan Cody, but lost Dan Cody's inheritance to his ex-wife.)

In short, things do not turn out well for our dreamers in the novel! Thus, the novel ends with Nick's sad meditation on the lost promise of the American Dream. You can read a detailed analysis of these last lines in our summary of the novel's ending .


Key American Dream Quotes

In this section we analyze some of the most important quotes that relate to the American Dream in the book.

But I didn't call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone--he 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. (1.152)

In our first glimpse of Jay Gatsby, we see him reaching towards something far off, something in sight but definitely out of reach. This famous image of the green light is often understood as part of The Great Gatsby 's meditation on The American Dream—the idea that people are always reaching towards something greater than themselves that is just out of reach . You can read more about this in our post all about the green light .

The fact that this yearning image is our introduction to Gatsby foreshadows his unhappy end and also marks him as a dreamer, rather than people like Tom or Daisy who were born with money and don't need to strive for anything so far off.

Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.

A dead man passed us in a hearse heaped with blooms, followed by two carriages with drawn blinds and by more cheerful carriages for friends. The friends looked out at us with the tragic eyes and short upper lips of south-eastern Europe, and I was glad that the sight of Gatsby's splendid car was included in their somber holiday. As we crossed Blackwell's Island a limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish Negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry.

"Anything can happen now that we've slid over this bridge," I thought; "anything at all. . . ."

Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder. (4.55-8)

Early in the novel, we get this mostly optimistic illustration of the American Dream—we see people of different races and nationalities racing towards NYC, a city of unfathomable possibility. This moment has all the classic elements of the American Dream—economic possibility, racial and religious diversity, a carefree attitude. At this moment, it does feel like "anything can happen," even a happy ending.

However, this rosy view eventually gets undermined by the tragic events later in the novel. And even at this point, Nick's condescension towards the people in the other cars reinforces America's racial hierarchy that disrupts the idea of the American Dream. There is even a little competition at play, a "haughty rivalry" at play between Gatsby's car and the one bearing the "modish Negroes."

Nick "laughs aloud" at this moment, suggesting he thinks it's amusing that the passengers in this other car see them as equals, or even rivals to be bested. In other words, he seems to firmly believe in the racial hierarchy Tom defends in Chapter 1, even if it doesn't admit it honestly.

His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy's white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete. (6.134)

This moment explicitly ties Daisy to all of Gatsby's larger dreams for a better life —to his American Dream. This sets the stage for the novel's tragic ending, since Daisy cannot hold up under the weight of the dream Gatsby projects onto her. Instead, she stays with Tom Buchanan, despite her feelings for Gatsby. Thus when Gatsby fails to win over Daisy, he also fails to achieve his version of the American Dream. This is why so many people read the novel as a somber or pessimistic take on the American Dream, rather than an optimistic one. the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes--a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night." (9.151-152)

The closing pages of the novel reflect at length on the American Dream, in an attitude that seems simultaneously mournful, appreciative, and pessimistic. It also ties back to our first glimpse of Gatsby, reaching out over the water towards the Buchanan's green light. Nick notes that Gatsby's dream was "already behind him" then (or in other words, it was impossible to attain). But still, he finds something to admire in how Gatsby still hoped for a better life, and constantly reached out toward that brighter future.

For a full consideration of these last lines and what they could mean, see our analysis of the novel's ending .

Analyzing Characters Through the American Dream

An analysis of the characters in terms of the American Dream usually leads to a pretty cynical take on the American Dream.

Most character analysis centered on the American Dream will necessarily focus on Gatsby, George, or Myrtle (the true strivers in the novel), though as we'll discuss below, the Buchanans can also provide some interesting layers of discussion. For character analysis that incorporates the American Dream, carefully consider your chosen character's motivations and desires, and how the novel does (or doesn't!) provide glimpses of the dream's fulfillment for them.

Gatsby himself is obviously the best candidate for writing about the American Dream—he comes from humble roots (he's the son of poor farmers from North Dakota) and rises to be notoriously wealthy, only for everything to slip away from him in the end. Many people also incorporate Daisy into their analyses as the physical representation of Gatsby's dream.

However, definitely consider the fact that in the traditional American Dream, people achieve their goals through honest hard work, but in Gatsby's case, he very quickly acquires a large amount of money through crime . Gatsby does attempt the hard work approach, through his years of service to Dan Cody, but that doesn't work out since Cody's ex-wife ends up with the entire inheritance. So instead he turns to crime, and only then does he manage to achieve his desired wealth.

So while Gatsby's story arc resembles a traditional rags-to-riches tale, the fact that he gained his money immorally complicates the idea that he is a perfect avatar for the American Dream . Furthermore, his success obviously doesn't last—he still pines for Daisy and loses everything in his attempt to get her back. In other words, Gatsby's huge dreams, all precariously wedded to Daisy  ("He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God" (6.134)) are as flimsy and flight as Daisy herself.

George and Myrtle Wilson

This couple also represents people aiming at the dream— George owns his own shop and is doing his best to get business, though is increasingly worn down by the harsh demands of his life, while Myrtle chases after wealth and status through an affair with Tom.

Both are disempowered due to the lack of money at their own disposal —Myrtle certainly has access to some of the "finer things" through Tom but has to deal with his abuse, while George is unable to leave his current life and move West since he doesn't have the funds available. He even has to make himself servile to Tom in an attempt to get Tom to sell his car, a fact that could even cause him to overlook the evidence of his wife's affair. So neither character is on the upward trajectory that the American Dream promises, at least during the novel.

In the end, everything goes horribly wrong for both George and Myrtle, suggesting that in this world, it's dangerous to strive for more than you're given.

George and Myrtle's deadly fates, along with Gatsby's, help illustrate the novel's pessimistic attitude toward the American Dream. After all, how unfair is it that the couple working to improve their position in society (George and Myrtle) both end up dead, while Tom, who dragged Myrtle into an increasingly dangerous situation, and Daisy, who killed her, don't face any consequences? And on top of that they are fabulously wealthy? The American Dream certainly is not alive and well for the poor Wilsons.

Tom and Daisy as Antagonists to the American Dream

We've talked quite a bit already about Gatsby, George, and Myrtle—the three characters who come from humble roots and try to climb the ranks in 1920s New York. But what about the other major characters, especially the ones born with money? What is their relationship to the American Dream?

Specifically, Tom and Daisy have old money, and thus they don't need the American Dream, since they were born with America already at their feet.

Perhaps because of this, they seem to directly antagonize the dream—Daisy by refusing Gatsby, and Tom by helping to drag the Wilsons into tragedy .

This is especially interesting because unlike Gatsby, Myrtle, and George, who actively hope and dream of a better life, Daisy and Tom are described as bored and "careless," and end up instigating a large amount of tragedy through their own recklessness.

In other words, income inequality and the vastly different starts in life the characters have strongly affected their outcomes. The way they choose to live their lives, their morality (or lack thereof), and how much they dream doesn't seem to matter. This, of course, is tragic and antithetical to the idea of the American Dream, which claims that class should be irrelevant and anyone can rise to the top.

Daisy as a Personification of the American Dream

As we discuss in our post on money and materialism in The Great Gatsby , Daisy's voice is explicitly tied to money by Gatsby:

"Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.

That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money--that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it. . . . High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl. . . . (7.105-6)

If Daisy's voice promises money, and the American Dream is explicitly linked to wealth, it's not hard to argue that Daisy herself—along with the green light at the end of her dock —stands in for the American Dream. In fact, as Nick goes on to describe Daisy as "High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl," he also seems to literally describe Daisy as a prize, much like the princess at the end of a fairy tale (or even Princess Peach at the end of a Mario game!).

But Daisy, of course, is only human—flawed, flighty, and ultimately unable to embody the huge fantasy Gatsby projects onto her. So this, in turn, means that the American Dream itself is just a fantasy, a concept too flimsy to actually hold weight, especially in the fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world of 1920s America.

Furthermore, you should definitely consider the tension between the fact that Daisy represents Gatsby's ultimate goal, but at the same time (as we discussed above), her actual life is the opposite of the American Dream : she is born with money and privilege, likely dies with it all intact, and there are no consequences to how she chooses to live her life in between.

Can Female Characters Achieve the American Dream?

Finally, it's interesting to compare and contrast some of the female characters using the lens of the American Dream.

Let's start with Daisy, who is unhappy in her marriage and, despite a brief attempt to leave it, remains with Tom, unwilling to give up the status and security their marriage provides. At first, it may seem like Daisy doesn't dream at all, so of course she ends up unhappy. But consider the fact that Daisy was already born into the highest level of American society. The expectation placed on her, as a wealthy woman, was never to pursue something greater, but simply to maintain her status. She did that by marrying Tom, and it's understandable why she wouldn't risk the uncertainty and loss of status that would come through divorce and marriage to a bootlegger. Again, Daisy seems to typify the "anti-American" dream, in that she was born into a kind of aristocracy and simply has to maintain her position, not fight for something better.

In contrast, Myrtle, aside from Gatsby, seems to be the most ambitiously in pursuit of getting more than she was given in life. She parlays her affair with Tom into an apartment, nice clothes, and parties, and seems to revel in her newfound status. But of course, she is knocked down the hardest, killed for her involvement with the Buchanans, and specifically for wrongfully assuming she had value to them. Considering that Gatsby did have a chance to leave New York and distance himself from the unfolding tragedy, but Myrtle was the first to be killed, you could argue the novel presents an even bleaker view of the American Dream where women are concerned.

Even Jordan Baker , who seems to be living out a kind of dream by playing golf and being relatively independent, is tied to her family's money and insulated from consequences by it , making her a pretty poor representation of the dream. And of course, since her end game also seems to be marriage, she doesn't push the boundaries of women's roles as far as she might wish.

So while the women all push the boundaries of society's expectations of them in certain ways, they either fall in line or are killed, which definitely undermines the rosy of idea that anyone, regardless of gender, can make it in America. The American Dream as shown in Gatsby becomes even more pessimistic through the lens of the female characters.  


Common Essay Questions/Discussion Topics

Now let's work through some of the more frequently brought up subjects for discussion.

#1: Was Gatsby's dream worth it? Was all the work, time, and patience worth it for him?

Like me, you might immediately think "of course it wasn't worth it! Gatsby lost everything, not to mention the Wilsons got caught up in the tragedy and ended up dead!" So if you want to make the more obvious "the dream wasn't worth it" argument, you could point to the unraveling that happens at the end of the novel (including the deaths of Myrtle, Gatsby and George) and how all Gatsby's achievements are for nothing, as evidenced by the sparse attendance of his funeral.

However, you could definitely take the less obvious route and argue that Gatsby's dream was worth it, despite the tragic end . First of all, consider Jay's unique characterization in the story: "He was a son of God--a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that--and he must be about His Father's Business, the service of a vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty" (6.7). In other words, Gatsby has a larger-than-life persona and he never would have been content to remain in North Dakota to be poor farmers like his parents.

Even if he ends up living a shorter life, he certainly lived a full one full of adventure. His dreams of wealth and status took him all over the world on Dan Cody's yacht, to Louisville where he met and fell in love with Daisy, to the battlefields of WWI, to the halls of Oxford University, and then to the fast-paced world of Manhattan in the early 1920s, when he earned a fortune as a bootlegger. In fact, it seems Jay lived several lives in the space of just half a normal lifespan. In short, to argue that Gatsby's dream was worth it, you should point to his larger-than-life conception of himself and the fact that he could have only sought happiness through striving for something greater than himself, even if that ended up being deadly in the end.

#2: In the Langston Hughes poem "A Dream Deferred," Hughes asks questions about what happens to postponed dreams. How does Fitzgerald examine this issue of deferred dreams? What do you think are the effects of postponing our dreams? How can you apply this lesson to your own life?

If you're thinking about "deferred dreams" in The Great Gatsby , the big one is obviously Gatsby's deferred dream for Daisy—nearly five years pass between his initial infatuation and his attempt in the novel to win her back, an attempt that obviously backfires. You can examine various aspects of Gatsby's dream—the flashbacks to his first memories of Daisy in Chapter 8 , the moment when they reunite in Chapter 5 , or the disastrous consequences of the confrontation of Chapter 7 —to illustrate Gatsby's deferred dream.

You could also look at George Wilson's postponed dream of going West, or Myrtle's dream of marrying a wealthy man of "breeding"—George never gets the funds to go West, and is instead mired in the Valley of Ashes, while Myrtle's attempt to achieve her dream after 12 years of marriage through an affair ends in tragedy. Apparently, dreams deferred are dreams doomed to fail.

As Nick Carraway says, "you can't repeat the past"—the novel seems to imply there is a small window for certain dreams, and when the window closes, they can no longer be attained. This is pretty pessimistic, and for the prompt's personal reflection aspect, I wouldn't say you should necessarily "apply this lesson to your own life" straightforwardly. But it is worth noting that certain opportunities are fleeting, and perhaps it's wiser to seek out newer and/or more attainable ones, rather than pining over a lost chance.

Any prompt like this one which has a section of more personal reflection gives you freedom to tie in your own experiences and point of view, so be thoughtful and think of good examples from your own life!

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#3: Explain how the novel does or does not demonstrate the death of the American Dream. Is the main theme of Gatsby indeed "the withering American Dream"? What does the novel offer about American identity?

In this prompt, another one that zeroes in on the dead or dying American Dream, you could discuss how the destruction of three lives (Gatsby, George, Myrtle) and the cynical portrayal of the old money crowd illustrates a dead, or dying American Dream . After all, if the characters who dream end up dead, and the ones who were born into life with money and privilege get to keep it without consequence, is there any room at all for the idea that less-privileged people can work their way up?

In terms of what the novel says about American identity, there are a few threads you could pick up—one is Nick's comment in Chapter 9 about the novel really being a story about (mid)westerners trying (and failing) to go East : "I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all--Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life" (9.125). This observation suggests an American identity that is determined by birthplace, and that within the American identity there are smaller, inescapable points of identification.

Furthermore, for those in the novel not born into money, the American identity seems to be about striving to end up with more wealth and status. But in terms of the portrayal of the old money set, particularly Daisy, Tom, and Jordan, the novel presents a segment of American society that is essentially aristocratic—you have to be born into it. In that regard, too, the novel presents a fractured American identity, with different lives possible based on how much money you are born with.

In short, I think the novel disrupts the idea of a unified American identity or American dream, by instead presenting a tragic, fractured, and rigid American society, one that is divided based on both geographic location and social class.

#4: Most would consider dreams to be positive motivators to achieve success, but the characters in the novel often take their dreams of ideal lives too far. Explain how characters' American Dreams cause them to have pain when they could have been content with more modest ambitions.

Gatsby is an obvious choice here—his pursuit of money and status, particularly through Daisy, leads him to ruin. There were many points when perhaps Gatsby ;could have been happy with what he achieved (especially after his apparently successful endeavors in the war, if he had remained at Oxford, or even after amassing a great amount of wealth as a bootlegger) but instead he kept striving upward, which ultimately lead to his downfall. You can flesh this argument out with the quotations in Chapters 6 and 8 about Gatsby's past, along with his tragic death.

Myrtle would be another good choice for this type of prompt. In a sense, she seems to be living her ideal life in her affair with Tom—she has a fancy NYC apartment, hosts parties, and gets to act sophisticated—but these pleasures end up gravely hurting George, and of course her association with Tom Buchanan gets her killed.

Nick, too, if he had been happy with his family's respectable fortune and his girlfriend out west, might have avoided the pain of knowing Gatsby and the general sense of despair he was left with.

You might be wondering about George—after all, isn't he someone also dreaming of a better life? However, there aren't many instances of George taking his dreams of an ideal life "too far." In fact, he struggles just to make one car sale so that he can finally move out West with Myrtle. Also, given that his current situation in the Valley of Ashes is quite bleak, it's hard to say that striving upward gave him pain.

#5: The Great Gatsby is, among other things, a sobering and even ominous commentary on the dark side of the American dream. Discuss this theme, incorporating the conflicts of East Egg vs. West Egg and old money vs. new money. What does the American dream mean to Gatsby? What did the American Dream mean to Fitzgerald? How does morality fit into achieving the American dream?

This prompt allows you to consider pretty broadly the novel's attitude toward the American Dream, with emphasis on "sobering and even ominous" commentary. Note that Fitzgerald seems to be specifically mocking the stereotypical rags to riches story here—;especially since he draws the Dan Cody narrative almost note for note from the work of someone like Horatio Alger, whose books were almost universally about rich men schooling young, entrepreneurial boys in the ways of the world. In other words, you should discuss how the Great Gatsby seems to turn the idea of the American Dream as described in the quote on its head: Gatsby does achieve a rags-to-riches rise, but it doesn't last.

All of Gatsby's hard work for Dan Cody, after all, didn't pay off since he lost the inheritance. So instead, Gatsby turned to crime after the war to quickly gain a ton of money. Especially since Gatsby finally achieves his great wealth through dubious means, the novel further undermines the classic image of someone working hard and honestly to go from rags to riches.

If you're addressing this prompt or a similar one, make sure to focus on the darker aspects of the American Dream, including the dark conclusion to the novel and Daisy and Tom's protection from any real consequences . (This would also allow you to considering morality, and how morally bankrupt the characters are.)

#6: What is the current state of the American Dream?

This is a more outward-looking prompt, that allows you to consider current events today to either be generally optimistic (the American dream is alive and well) or pessimistic (it's as dead as it is in The Great Gatsby).

You have dozens of potential current events to use as evidence for either argument, but consider especially immigration and immigration reform, mass incarceration, income inequality, education, and health care in America as good potential examples to use as you argue about the current state of the American Dream. Your writing will be especially powerful if you can point to some specific current events to support your argument.

What's Next?

In this post, we discussed how important money is to the novel's version of the American Dream. You can read even more about money and materialism in The Great Gatsby right here .

Want to indulge in a little materialism of your own? Take a look through these 15 must-have items for any Great Gatsby fan .

Get complete guides to Jay Gatsby , George Wilson and Myrtle Wilson to get even more background on the "dreamers" in the novel.

Like we discussed above, the green light is often seen as a stand-in for the idea of the American Dream. Read more about this crucial symbol here .

Need help getting to grips with other literary works? Take a spin through our analyses of The Crucible , The Cask of Amontillado , and " Do not go gentle into this good night " to see analysis in action. You might also find our explanations of point of view , rhetorical devices , imagery , and literary elements and devices helpful.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

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Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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Home — Essay Samples — Literature — The Great Gatsby — “The Great Gatsby”: Comparison of The Movie and The Book


"The Great Gatsby": Comparison of The Movie and The Book

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Published: Dec 16, 2021

Words: 745 | Pages: 2 | 4 min read

Works Cited:

  • Furuhata, Y. (2011). Beyond Boundaries: Genre, Narrative, and the Liminal Experience in Miyazaki's Spirited Away. Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema , 3(1), 23-39.
  • Lissauer, G. (2015). The Name Game: Spirited Away and the Power of Identity. In A. McMurray & R. Barton Palmer (Eds.), Dreams Rewired: Romanticism , Modernism, and the Cinema of Dreams (pp. 157-173). Amsterdam University Press.
  • Matsunaga, K. (2010). Miyazaki's Spirited Away: Film of the Fantastic and Evolving Japanese Folk Symbols. Journal of Religion and Film, 14(2), 1-20.
  • Penney, M. (2009). Spirited Away and the Conventions of Japanese Coming-of-Age Narratives. Japanese Studies, 29(2), 239-249.
  • Rosenberg, A. (2014). Spirited Away and the Art of Surrender. The Washington Post.
  • Shingler, A. (2018). Spirited Away: An Interpretation of Its Symbolism. Mythlore, 36(2), 153-168.
  • Stroud, S. R. (2013). Good and Evil in Miyazaki's Spirited Away. In M. J. Valdivia (Ed.), The International Handbook of Children, Media, and Culture (pp. 281-298). John Wiley & Sons.

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