The Great Gatsby A Literary Analysis
Remember the time before the internet, before computers, and even before cars? Probably not; life was
drastically different back then. This difference was caused by America becoming modernized through the
development of new and incredible technologies. This shift in technology also had an unwanted side effect:
success in life is now directly based upon material possessions, instead of being connected to family life and a
career. The Great Gatsby, a magnificent novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a man's dream to be with his "golden
girl" against all odds, shows this very well. In this novel, a grandiloquent character named Jay Gatsby devotes
his life to reviving his original Dream of being with his “golden girl,” Daisy Buchanan. One of the most
important points made in the beginning of this novel is how extravagant Gatsby’s house is, immediately alerting
the reader to how Gatsby’s goal in life is to possess the most expensive items money can buy. Fitzgerald uses
modernization and these materialistic characters to exemplify the theme of the decline of the American dream.
Jay Gatsby was Fitzgerald’s main method used to critique the American Dream and how it has all but
diminished. Obviously, Gatsby found extreme importance in owning expensive possessions, such as his
excessively large house, his bright yellow car, his hydroplane, and even his juicer machine. Gatsby’s
extravagant house, which was more like a mansion or castle, easily dwarfed the puny shack next door. His car
was, as expected, similarly unnecessary, bright, and expensive. The narrator in The Great Gatsby, Nick
Carraway, said it himself: “He saw me looking with admiration at his car(64). If that isn’t enough, Gatsby
“had just bought a hydroplane(47), and made sure Nick knew all about it. He even offered to take Nick on a
ride in it, just to show it off as much as possible. Gatsby even had a juicer in his house, controlled by one of his
many butlers. This machine, incredible at the time, “could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an
hour(39). This was one of the first things Fitzgerald mentioned about Gatsby. These are just a few of the items
from Gatsby’s absurd collection of possessions.
Justin Mariner
5/6/15 3A
All of these items had more reason than just to keep Gatsby happy. His life goal, what he had decided to
dedicate everything he does to, was Daisy, his “golden girl.” Once he returned from the war and realized Daisy
had already married Tom, Gatsby decided that his poor self was not good enough for her. So, he began building
up the most insane amount of money ever, just to impress Daisy. By doing this, Gatsby accepted the new
American Dream of simply owning a lot of (illegal) money, expected these riches to impress Daisy, and
remained infinitely hopeful that he could revive his past life with Daisy.
Jay Gatsby very clearly represented the decline of the American Dream through his extravagant
lifestyle, his determination to bring back the past and be with his “golden girl”, and his constantly hopeful
outlook on life.
Automobiles and similar advancements in technology were consistent and relatable symbols for how the
modernization of America has led to its own downfall. This is, first and foremost, shown through physical
vehicles and other automobile-related incidents. Most noticeable is the difference between Gatsby’s bright
yellow car and Wilson’s “wreck of a Ford(25). Both Gatsby’s and Wilson’s cars are used to represent their
opposite social statuses, showing again how a possession like a car is extremely important. Then there are the
numerous car accidents that occur throughout the story, one of which occurs at the end of Gatsby’s huge party,
where Nick notices a coupe, “beside the road, right side up, but violently shorn of one wheel(53). This
accident and the many others show how most Americans at this time forced themselves to use automobiles
simply to flaunt their status in society, despite not being taught how to use them safely. And lastly, while riding
with Gatsby, Nick noticed that a limousine passed [them], driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three
modish Negros(69), which was mentioned in order to show how the New America has changed so drastically
that racism is all but gone. All in all, automobiles were a prominent vehicle used to express the rapid downfall
of the American Dream and how much things have changed.
Justin Mariner
5/6/15 3A
Money, though subtle, played an important role in The Great Gatsby in allowing the American Dream to
decline as it did. It all began with the rise of the use of credit instead of physical money. Due to this, being
wealthy no longer depended on being a successful businessman; it now was achieved simply by investing in the
right big name companies in the stock market. Take Nick Carraway for example he worked in the stock
market, where he just handled credit and “fake moneyinstead of actually getting his hands dirty by working in
a factory. Nick decided to work less for the easy money by conforming to this new moneymaking technique.
Some people went down the opposite route, like Meyer Wolfsheim, a criminal famous for rigging the World
Series. At the time in the story, Wolfsheim worked as a bootlegger, selling alcohol on the black market and
getting rich with ease by doing so. These methods of gaining the “new money” illegal money and money in
the form of credit became commonplace at the time, drastically aiding the collapse of the American Dream.
The modernization that Fitzgerald has shown in The Great Gatsby through Jay Gatsby, an excessive
amount of automobiles, and the drastic changes in money, are all used to shine light on the decline of the
American Dream. Gatsby’s out-of-this-world mansion, the coincidental amount of car accidents, and Gatsby’s
illegal access to money all show how important modernization has been in the development of the New
America. But with one step forward comes two steps back putting America back into its material-driven and
corrupt state.
Justin Mariner
5/6/15 3A
Works Cited
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.