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Classical Biographical Critique of the Great Gatsby

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Classical Biographical Critique of The Great Gatsby

Many critics agree that The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, is the crowning achievement of Fitzgerald's literary career. Many people suggest that knowing the time period is the key to cracking the meaning of The Great Gatsby. How does the understanding of the 1920's contribute to the reader's grasp of the theme of the demise of the "American dream"?

The central theme of the 1920's is living the American dream which meant that an individual can achieve success in life regardless of family history or social status if they work hard enough. Jay Gatsby is the epitome of the 1920's man who comes from nothing and becomes wealthy and successful, but still has not yet passed the high class social barrier. In the novel, Jay Gatsby lives in an area of New York called West Egg (the new money part of New York). However, he is seen as an outsider to the characters who live in East Egg (the old-aristocratic-family money part of New York) because of the strict social hierarchy of the United States during the 1920's. Some critics refer to East Egg and West Egg to the modern day east coast and west coast of the United States. The east coast representing the more sophisticated classier wealthy in contrast to the west coast representing the flashy in your face "new money" wealthy like Jay Gatsby. The overall goal of living the American dream was to have a big house and as much money and friends as possible, but this led to the demise of many people.

Often people would compete with each other by means of consumerism. The houses depicted in The Great Gatsby are perhaps the most obvious indicator of the relentless competition to declare one's status, as all of the "new rich" attempted to outdo one another when it came to the size and amenities of their homes. Many people who came into "new money" would become caught up in the glamour of life in fast lane, and they would often die early or go into debt. This era is referred to as the roaring twenties because people were spending money left and right, so eventually people would not be able to pay off their debts which eventually lead to the "Great Depression" in the thirties. In the novel, Gatsby has achieved from the outside what looked like the "American Dream", although he had obtained the material status necessary to give that impression, it still wasn't enough for him and had to seek reassurance that he in fact was impressive. For example, in Chapter Five, Gatsby says to Nick, "My house looks well doesn't it? See how the whole front of it catches the light." (Fitzgerald) With this, Gatsby is trying to cover up his true ambition he has yet to achieve, which is getting his former lover, Daisy, back. Many people in the twenties were in an identity crisis covering up their problems with lavish parties

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