“The Great Gatsby”, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a timeless classic. The text is crafted to lure the reader into the idea of the American Dream through the use of flamboyant materialistic items. Fitzgerald focuses on the corruption, fantasy, materialism and destruction of the American Dream; through his use of imagery, he emphasises these to the reader in a faint yet sophisticated manner. Fitzgerald’s purpose is to show the reader just how shallow and careless people can be when tempted by the luxuries of life, such as money and fame. Fitzgerald showcases “the American Dream” lifestyle through the character of Jay Gatsby which he uses to connect with the reader on a deeper, personal level.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby”, set in the 1920’s America, showcases the materialistic values held by society at the time. Specifically the novel follows the story of Jay Gatsby, a young self-sufficient millionaire and his chase of Daisy Buchanan, a beautiful, young, wealthy girl he met in his teenage years. Fitzgerald portrays Gatsby as a wealthy man yet mysterious as his past is very checkered and clouded with lies and deception. Although the novel was not successful upon its first release, it is now considered one of the greatest novels to surface from its time.
Paragraph 1 (Corruption - T.J. Eckleburg billboard)
In “The Great Gatsby’’, F. Scott Fitzgerald captivates the reader’s attention by introducing them to the idea of corruption through the use of T. J Eckleburg’s billboard. T. J Eckleburg was a failed oculist located in the Valley of Ashes in the novel. The only thing left of his failed business was a vast billboard showcasing a man with large spectacles on. T. J Eckleburg’s billboard is an example of the characters in the novel and the corruption that they carry in their everyday lives. T. J Eckleberg’s billboard stands tall over the Valley of Ashes by itself, witnessing all the bypassers and the corrupt lives that they live. T. J Eckleburg can be compared to a silent God-like character who witnesses all this corruption from above the Valley of Ashes. This use of imagery by F. Scott Fitzgerald resounds through the novel as T. J Eckleburg’s billboard is a common motif used throughout the storyline. T. J Eckleburg’s eyes on the billboard keep watch over the Valley of Ashes, seeing all of the corrupt and sinful lives that are being lived below him by humanity. This intrigues the reader into a thought process about their own lives and how they are living. Is the reader living their best, healthiest life? Or is 21st-century consumerism getting the best of them? F. Scott Fitzgerald makes this point vivid to the reader as people can become wrapped up in their own egocentric lives and forget the true meaning of life.
Paragraph 2 (Materialism - Gatsby’s Parties)
The lavish lifestyle is something that many people dream of in life. F. Scott Fitzgerald emphasises this through his excessive use of imagery in the novel during Gatsby’s prodigal parties, which he hosts. Gatsby often hosts major parties which encourage immoral and indecent habits from the partygoers. Fitzgerald uses the character of Gatsby and his parties as an example to illustrate the materialistic values that are held by society and demonstrates materialism at its worst. Being set in the 1920s, historically known as the jazz age, Gatsby and his parties were a common occurrence. The character, Gatsby, has no regard for expenses as he is blind and careless with his spending. The excessive occurrence of Gatsby’s extravagant parties is what Fitzgerald lets the reader thrive on through his descriptive use of imagery in the novel. This demonstrates that Fitzgerald wants the reader to be entrapped by the resounding occurrence of Gatsby’s parties. Yet to understand that the overly excessive happening’s of Gatsby’s parties demonstrates the materialistic needs and wants of the characters. It makes the reader excited to turn the page and discover what glorious abundance of wealth was held by these characters at the time yet the carelessness that they show at the same time they hold this wealth. Materialism is a crucial component in the novel that Fitzgerald proclaims through Gatsby’s uncurbed amounts of lavish parties.
Paragraph 3 (Fantasy - Library)
A noticeable setting in the novel that engages the reader is the library in Gatsby’s house. Gatsby’s library is an expansive room with books climbing up the walls. It is stocked to the brim with novels from all over the world on a range of topics. “It’s a bona fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me. This fella’s a regular Belasco. It’s a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism”. These words were stated by a man named Owl eyes, who Nick Carraway found in Gatsby’s library one night during a party held at Gatsby’s. They describe Owl eyes astonishment that all of Gatsby’s books in his library were real and not fake, such as other wealthy people at the time had in their libraries. Fitzgerald used this encounter to emphasise his use of imagery in the novel and how it affected the plotline. Through creating the image of hundreds of books sitting in Gatsby’s library and Owl eyes astonishment that they were, in fact, real. Then he continues about how other wealthy people during the time only housed fake books in their libraries; it opens the reader up to the idea of fantasy in the novel. Fantasy can often be a cruel reality check for people. You can easily be swallowed up in it and just as quickly spat out and let down by your fantasies about your achievements and how you want to live your life. Fantasies are something that people, despite their age or status, can all acquire. We all like to dream of what our lives could be like, and the exotic desires we have yet often are let down by what we actually hold. Fitzgerald reminds us that it is okay to house fantasies, but we do always need to be careful not to get wrapped up in them and stay true to our moral selves.
Paragraph 4 (American dream - Valley of Ashes)
Located between West and East Egg, the Valley of Ashes is shrouded in despair and hopelessness. The Valley of ashes is a perfect example of how disconnected the wealthy become from society when they are shrouded in money. Those people who live in the Valley of Ashes have been looked down on their entire lives by the wealthy. A constant wealth barrier stands between them, and those living in the Valley of Ashes, who moved there to chase their idea of the American Dream, are seen as failures by society now. Fitzgerald uses the Valley of Ashes as a platform to describe to the reader the destruction of the American Dream through his use of imagery in the novel. The American Dream holds high value in many of the characters’ lives and gives them something to aspire for; however, as seen in the Valley of Ashes, chasing your American and failing is something you will hold for the rest of your life. Fitzgerald’s description of the Valley of Ashes as a dark, lonely, despair-ridden place allows the reader to mentally engage their thoughts and consume the novel mentally. This novel gives the reader time to question their own existence and contemplate the world we live in today. Many of the characters in the novel are very significant and raw and can also be compared to those today in the world. Fitzgerald is trying to expose us to the truth about society and to always be open-minded about others and their situations.
In conclusion, I agree with the statement that great texts use imagery to make us examine ourselves. Fitzgerald proved that materialism is one of the most significant and everlasting things that will stay with humanity forever. Even though there is a 100 years difference between the setting of “The Great Gatsby” and now, materialism still plays a significant role in society and our present-day lives. This encourages the reader to take a look at themselves and the lives that they’re living. The novel is a stark reminder of the reality of life and is an abrupt wake-up call. “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” - Matthew 19:24.