Social commentary in The Great Gatsby

Throughout the novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald makes many comments on the problems of contemporary society (the US in the 1920s). Often Fitzgerald directly uses the story’s narrator, Nick Carraway, to present these reflections and criticisms, though occasionally it is also seen through the dialogue of other characters.

Below, we will take a look at some of the most significant pieces of social commentary that can be found in the novel.

The emptiness of upper class life

Fitzgerald often comments on the purposeless, empty lifestyle of the very rich. Even though these people have everything a person might dream of, they have no meaningful pursuits to fill their lives with.

Fitzgerald especially shows this issue through some of Daisy’s remarks:

“I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.” (p. 22)

Even though Daisy has travelled the world and enjoys all kinds of luxuries, this has not brought her fulfillment - instead, she simply feels completely disillusioned about life and does not consider anything to be worthwhile. Even her own child seems to hold little fascination for her.

“What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon? [...] and the day after that, and the next thirty years?”( p. 113)

Once again, Daily reflects on the pointless nature of her own existence, desperate to fill the time with activities, but not regarding anything as truly important and worthy of dedication.

The corruption of the American Dream

Fitzgerald often lets Nick make critical comments on the idea of the American Dream - that any American can reach his heart’s desire through hard work and dedication.

The most iconic quotation in reference to this theme is Nick’s parting comment, after he has just imagined the unspoiled wonder of America when it was first discovered and the way it stirred everyone’s imaginations:

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 - to-morrow 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. (pp. 171-172)

These concluding remarks are interesting because they somehow serve as both a tribute to and a criticism of the American Dream. There is something admirable and beautiful about striving towards our dreams, but in practice they often keep eluding us. Perhaps they are ultimately impossible to attain - like Gatsby’s vision of Daisy, which does not exist in real life - but we pursue them anyway, desperately fighting against the current.

The last passage, “...borne back ceaselessly into the past”, serves to emphasize how ridiculous the pursuit of these unrealistic dreams can be. In reality, the pursuit simply leads us to go backwards through time, hunting for an era when America was an unspoiled and magical land of opportunity, just as Gatsby is hunting for a time when Daisy was a pure, innocent girl who loved him and only him. Travelling back to the past like this is impossible (despite Gatsby’s stubborn insistence on the possibility, p. 106), and therefore both Gatsby’s dreams and the general Americ...

Der Text oben ist nur ein Auszug. Nur Abonnenten haben Zugang zu dem ganzen Textinhalt.

Erhalte Zugang zum vollständigen E-Book.

Als Abonnent von Lektü erhalten Sie Zugang zu allen E-Books.

Erhalte Zugang für nur 5,99 Euro pro Monat

Schon registriert als Abonnent? Bitte einloggen