The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was first published in 1925. The United States was prospering as part of its post World War I recovery and this meant that the American people prospered as well. But as history will tell us the booming 20’s were a fleeting time and America was on a fast track of change. By the end of the 20’s a depression was on the horizon and the decadence of the early part of decade was over. The Great Gatsby, although not popular in its day, is representative of this old way giving over to a newer one.
In addition, to changing economics there was a shift in morals and American values. Gatsby’s character illustrates all of the greedy and excessive ways of the old traditions. The novel takes place during the summer of 1922 in which Nick Carraway, a Minnesota native becomes friends with his neighbor Jay Gatsby. Carraway had recently moved into the West Egg area, where other young and newly wealthy New York residents flock toward. One is that of the greed and excessivness of the “old” ways.
“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I have been turning over in my mind ever since, ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he said. ‘Just remember that all of the people of the world have not had the opportunities you have, (Fitzgerald, 1925, p. 8). ” Nick’s character represents the new way. He is reserved when casting judgment and his simple lifestyle reflects the idea that wealth need not flaunt itself. Gatsby threw regular parties in which he displayed excessive amounts of wealth.
However, it seems that Gatsby is a lonely character. And although Nick is the opposite of Gatsby he recognizes that it isn’t Gatsby himself that is bad. It is his wealth and all of the people who feed off of Gatsby for his money. “Gatsby turned out to be alright in the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men, (Fitzgerald, p. 13). ” Nick was obviously turned off by the partying and excessiveness of Gatsby’s lifestyle.
One of the major motifs in this novel includes geography and how the sense of place affects ones moral background. For example Nick is from the Midwest, where life has a slower pace. In addition, the Midwestern philosophy of life includes such quips as the one from the beginning of the novel where Nick is cautioned about making judgments about other people. However, those from New York, specifically from East Egg are not as virtuous. According to Nick’s assessment the easterners are judgmental and decadent.
“From East Egg, then, came the Chester Beckers and the Leeches, and a man named Bunsen, whom I knew at Yale, and Doctor Webster Civet, who was drowned last summer up in Maine. And the Hornbeams and the Willie Voltaires, and a whole clan named Blackbuck, who always gathered in a corner and flipped up their noses like goats at whosoever came near. And the Ismays and the Chrysties (or rather Hubert Auerbach and Mr. Chrystie’s wife), and Edgar Beaver, whose hair, they say, turned cotton-white one winter afternoon for no good reason at all, (Fitzgerald, 1925, p.
34). ” The sense of place being a factor is symbolized in the Valley of Ashes which seperates New York, land of moral decay, and the West, land of moral vigor. Other symbols in this novel include the green light which flashes on and off at the edge of the character Daisy’s dock. This light is the green light for Gatsby’s hopes and future. Which ultimatly cause his demise as well. Reference Fitzgerald, F. S. (1925). The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.