The Great Gatsby: Its Effects On The American Society Research Papers Example

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: America, United States, Literature, Society, American Dream, Novel, People, The Great Gatsby

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2021/01/21


“Las Vegas and the American Dream: two ideas intertwined like crossed fingers on a bloated corpse.” These words by Jonathan Heatt determine the main idea of this essay, i.e. the influence and effects of the prosperous people of the Roaring twenties depicted in the novel “The Great Gatsby” by Francis Scott Fitzgerald on the ideals of the American society. Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald is the greatest American writer, who entered the history of world literature with his novels about American life in the 1920s, among which is the most famous “The Great Gatsby” (1925). Fitzgerald went down in the history of the American literature as a singer of the “Jazz Age”, that short period in American history, which began after the end of World War I and ended with the onset of the Great Depression of the 30s. The novel “The Great Gatsby” is considered one of the cult books of the 20th century, and its impact on society has provoked controversy among both his multiple readers and the critics. The novel affected both the American society in the 20s of the 20th century and the contemporary society very deeply. The novel describes the essence of the expression “The American Dream”: while the rich prospered, the working class had to survive and “strain” after success and solvency.

The Research Question

The research question of this essay aims at investigation of the political, social and physiological influence of the novel “The Great Gatsby” on the American society, answering the questions “How did the novel “The Great Gatsby” affected the society of the Roaring twenties from the viewpoint of The American Dream concept?” This issue was examined throughout the 20th century; and it has not lost its significance in the modern 21st century.


The concept of “Jazz Age” has become a symbol that is characterized by the massive enthusiasm of the carnival lifestyle, which was stimulated by the unmistakable foreboding of the imminent end of the postwar era rebels against the bourgeois utilitarianism and enslavement of the individual petrified pragmatic norms of morality. Jazz is perceived as the art, in which Fitzgerald expressed the most remarkable feature of the era, i.e. dynamic, chaotic and yet hidden behind activity of the psychological brokenness of the American society (Callahan, 374). It was the only stable feature of the society was the charge for possible changes, and for continuous and increasingly heavy traffic. The feeling that life keeps on a solid foundation disappeared. People began to think that it was simply to adapt to the rhythm of the century, to live in harmony with the rhythm without worrying what would happen tomorrow. The American society of the mid-20s lived in the terrible poverty and incalculable wealth; this was the era of “New Americans” of Chicago gangsters and of the Dry Law, which ended with “Black Thursday” of 1929, when the slump rate securities in New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street buried the deceptive prosperity of the “cheerful twenties” (Hearne, 190).
Moreover, the American Dream is the “justice for all”; the American society was of equal opportunities and not constrained with class prejudices. Gertrude Stein wrote the first book about Fitzgerald, in which she mentioned a phrase that “he [Fitzgerald] had created a new generation” - the one that Stein called “The Lost Generation” (Hearne, 192). The maim features of this generation were inactivity, hyperhedonia, worship of success and of the rich. According to the legend, Fitzgerald had embodied all these qualities of the American society in his novel. His novel “The Great Gatsby” destroyed a brilliant, but deceptive illusion of the government and its offers for a better lifestyle. The American society did not want to accept his statements; he was criticized for reflecting the “picturesque” view on the lifestyle both of the reach and the working class. However, the critics claim that the impact upon the society was various and different for each of a member, because every American citizen had their own viewpoint upon the subject of the American dream. As a result, there are at least three different practical realizations of this concept. Firstly, it is common ideas about the ideal of well-being in the society, which should aim to achieve each. This kind of representation really existed as a social myth for each member of American society. Secondly, it is individual ideas, illusions, and aspirations, to which every American brings something of his own. This is a kind of “use” of the American dream to the circumstances of their lives. And thirdly, the literary interpretation of the American dream. The literary interpretation may be focused more on the individual understanding of the American dream or its public perception, depending on the tasks set by the author. But it is obvious that these ideas fall into the literature of the everyday life of the people. The author uses this particular understanding of the American dream in creating a certain literary image: “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly” (Fitzgerald, 68). The reader who takes up a book, which appeared from the pen of the author, inevitably relates to his or her own life goals and values. Thus, these representations return to public life from the literary works. Therefore, these three concepts do not exist in isolation from each other. On the contrary, they are in constant interaction and mutual influence. Nevertheless, they are not separated are not the same subjects.


However, in spite of existing research, the semantic depth of this novel leaves enough space for critical analysis and interpretation of its impact on the US society. Publication of the novel was preceded by a rather dramatic period in American life. Incomings from the novel allowed the Fitzgeralds to lead a life of luxury and rotate in the highest circles of society. For him, it was a true American dream. Therefore, the characters of the book turned out so natural. They thought, acted, and lived with the author and his generation. Subsequently, this generation would be called “The Lost Generation.” Representatives of the Lost Generation were young people who had lost faith in his fathers’ ideals. Novel influenced on the younger generation from the economic point of view. They sought to momentary pleasure without thinking about the future (Ruggieri, 109). They had no time to wait for their American dream come true. They just wanted to take everything from life, believing that their dream was already coming true. Jay Gatsby was of that kind of people. For Americans, Gatsby became a symbol of a lost generation for the young people; his image contained the characteristics of the young people of this era. However, it should be noted that the identity of Gatsby consisted of several plans. The novel influenced both on the working class and the rich, creating the concept of a consumer society, which constantly was not enough that they had. Daisy and Tom were the “owners”, and they evaluated the entire world as an object of possible acquisition. “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (Fitzgerald, 170). This influenced the political orientation of the whole state, because people were not aware of the whole burden of drug money power; and they appeared depending on it. The Great Depression of the 30s broke their spirit, and the “rehabilitation” took too many years.


For all future generations of young people, blindly reaching for the American dream, it becomes a warning, which has not lost its relevance to this day. The American Dream is an existing social force. It determines the functioning of American society, and citizen, like Gatsby, can believe in “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us” (Fitzgerald, 172). This power allows a person to perceive all the failures and disappointments as mere temporary obstacles to the final goal. It can cause a person to work selflessly for the sake of their children, which should have try to reach the level of their parents. In an effort to translate their American dream, a person can perceive all falling on their share of hardship and misery as a test on the way to a huge primeval human happiness: “It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther” (Fitzgerald, 172). However, one must not forget that the American dream is the power of ambivalence. The goal that can be justified as honest work and illegal act or action that runs counter to the moral foundations of society (Birkerts, 122). The novel warned the reader about the actions that could lead both to the American dream and to the American tragedy. Gatsby points to the need of relating their actions with moral and ethical guidelines of society in his personal tragedy. Without this, a person, who follows mindlessly their dreams, can pose a threat to life and well-being of others.


Here Fitzgerald raises another problem for the American society. Millions of people, who believe in the fulfillment of the American dream, check their benchmarks for those people who have already achieved success. A typical example of this kind of people in the novel is a couple of the Buchanans. Together they represent the ideal family, but each has its own game. Tom Buchanan, despite the fact that he had been repeatedly convicted of adultery, constantly fools around his wife. He is not interested in the fate of people, serving time for him only as a source of pleasure.
Perhaps none of the American writers could look into such depths of the psyche of his fellow citizens, and so fully explore them, as Francis Scott Fitzgerald did. The novel “The Great Gatsby” fulfilled the picture and opened the eyes of the American society on such problems as money need, the consumer society and its psychological impact on the future generation.


Considering the work as a whole, one can say that “The Great Gatsby” is a social novel. The writer realistically portrays the fate of people in the American bourgeois society, truthfully drawing characters and events, as well as the basic conflict that defines the action of the book. Despite the fact that the novel is limited to a description of the events taking place in six months, and concerns narrowly personal relationships of a small group of people, Fitzgerald was able to convey accurately the atmosphere of bourgeois society, “the American way of life” and its impact on human rights. The future generation did not listen to his advice to value family and not money.
In his novel, the author looked into the depths of the every citizen’s soul, showed them their reflection, and led to reasonable action to benefit. He introduced the true values ​​and drawbacks of the society of his era. In addition, at the same time, it was a characteristic of Modernism; the author did not mention the positive and negative characters, he gave us the opportunity to evaluate each character by their own. The author makes the reader see his logic in the actions and lifestyle of each character. Fitzgerald condemns unlimited materialism and lack of morality of America during the Roaring twenties.

Annotated bibliography

The critical article “A Gatsby For Today” by Sven Birkerts dwells on the novel from the viewpoint of its American orientation and the problems of the society. Moreover, this essay describes the ruins of the American dream of the Roaring twenties’ society and its impact. This essay helped to analyze the historical situation of the Great Depression period and its description in the novel.
The article “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Evolving American Dream: The `Pursuit Of Happiness' In “Gatsby” by John F. Callahan depicts Fitzgerald’s idea of the American Dream and its implication through the novel. This article was used to describe the characters and to draw a parallel between them and the American society.
“Fitzgerald's Rendering Of A Dream” is an article by Kimberly Hearne, that is dedicated to the wrong conception of the ideals of the American society in 20s. In addition, it describes this concept as one of the main character both of his works and the Roaring twenties era.
The article “The Great Gatsby and the Cacophony of the American Dream” by Colleen A. Ruggieri dwells on the psychological impact upon the reader, and its constant existence in the modern society. According to this article, it can be stated that the “cacophony” of the American dream had an effect on the readers of Fitzgerald’s and modern era.

Works cited

Birkerts, Sven. "A Gatsby For Today." Atlantic (02769077) 271.3 (1993): 122. 
Callahan, John F. "F. Scott Fitzgerald's Evolving American Dream: The `Pursuit Of Happiness' In
Gatsby, Tender Is.." Twentieth Century Literature 42.3 (1996): 374.
Fitzgerald, Francis S. The great Gatsby. New York, NY: Scribner, 1996.
Hearne, Kimberly. "Fitzgerald's Rendering Of A Dream." Explicator 68.3 (2010): 189-194. 
Ruggieri, Colleen A. "The Great Gatsby and the Cacophony of the American Dream." English

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