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What are the themes of The Great Gatsby?

F. Scott Fitzgerald's beloved novel The Great Gatsby is required reading for most high schools. It shows New York City during the 1920s: a time of youth, wealth, and prohibition. What exactly are the themes of the novel, and how are the characters influenced by the values of the era?

The Great Gatsby is about wealth

The characters are only focused on being rich.

Old money vs. new money

Characters are defined by having old money or new money, even dividing what neighborhood they live in: East Egg or West Egg. Explore

The Great Gatsby is about the American dream

All of The Great Gatsby's characters are chasing their ideal version of the American Dream.


The American dream is about buying items that display wealth. Explore

The Roaring Twenties

The Roaring Twenties was a time of wealth, glamour, and having a high social status. Explore

The Great Gatsby is about love

At its core, the novel is a tragic love story.

Jay Gatsby's love for Daisy Buchanan

Jay Gatsby is only motivated by his love for Daisy Buchanan. Explore

Nick Carraway explores his sexuality throughout the course of the novel

Throughout the novel, Nick was involved in suggestive scenes with both men and women but did not have a lasting romantic relationship with anyone. This serves as a nod to his journey in exploring his sexuality. Explore

The Great Gatsby is about death

Death affects every character in the novel.

Myrtle Wilson's death

The death of Myrtle Wilson triggered other tragic events. Explore

Jay Gatsby’s death is symbolic of the demise of the great American dream.

The American dream expounds that through hard-work anyone can find success and happiness. However, when Gatsby died, he eliminated this possibility for all the characters. Nick lost his ties with the elite, Daisy lost her opportunity to find true love, and ultimately Gatsby’s death ushered the death of the American dream. Explore

The Great Gatsby is about social class

The characters are concerned about their position in society and how others perceive them.

Jay Gatsby's rise to wealth and popularity

Gatsby started as a "penniless young man" then grew in wealth and society. Explore

Jay Gatsby's parties symbolize the shallowness of the upper class

Gatsby's parties were the hub for upper-class society. He throws huge weekly parties with many upper-class attendees, but has next-to-no friends; no one knows anything about him or how he came by his money and he does not seem inclined to share this information with anyone. It shows the shallowness of the upper-class and the fact that they are obsessed with wealth. Explore
This page was last edited on Tuesday, 24 Mar 2020 at 19:49 UTC