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Failure and the Degeneration of America in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

Good Essays
The Great Gatsby is a bold and damning social commentary of America

which critiques its degeneration from a nation of infinite hope and

opportunity to a place of moral destitution. The novel is set during the

Roaring Twenties, an era of outrageous excesses, wild lavish parties and

sadly, an era of regret and lost potential. As the audience, they take us

on a journey guided and influenced by the moral voice of Nick Carraway, a

character who is "simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the

inexhaustible variety of life." Nevertheless, when Carraway rejects the

East, returning to the comparatively secure morality of his ancestral West,

we realize that gaiety was merely a thin facade, and that behind it
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All Gatsby wants is to seize the green light in his fingers

but light is intangible, and like Gatsby's dream, it will always remain

beyond his grasp. Gatsby is trapped in a state of timelessness where his

future is an illusory reflection of this past. His unbridled imagination

has created a world in which reality is undefined to itself and thus

through this wilderness of illusions, Gatsby attempts to realize the

possibilities of life. Such was the "colossal vitality" of Gatsby's

illusion that he believed that his social status could recreate the past.

"Why of course you can," was his automatic response. Yet once the "party

was over," reality begins to dominate and tragically, Gatsby falls to his

demise. Gatsby finds himself in a world "material without real" and as he

"looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves... he found what

a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely

created grass." Confronted by reality, Gatsby realizes how disgusting it

really is compared to his world of illusions. Yet while the "whole

caravansary had fallen in like a card house," Fitzgerald questions the

essence of reality and asks us if it is really worth sanctifying. He

demonstrates that given the ugliness of Gatsby's surroundings, his dream

served a purpose, though it led to utter destruction.

Fitzgerald parallels Gatsby's demise with the degeneration
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