There are several themes in The Great Gatsby including:
By juxtaposing characters from the West and East in America in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald was making some moral observations about the people who live there. Those in the Midwest--the newly arrived Nick Carraway--were fair, relatively innocent, unsophisticated, while those who hved in the East for some time--Tom and Daisy Buchanan--were unfair, corrupt, and materialistic. The Westerners who moved East, furthennore, brought the violence of the Old West days to their new lives. Fitzgerald romanticizes the Midwest, since it is where the idealistic Jay Gatz was born and to where the morally enlightened Nick returns. It serves metaphorically as a condition of the heart, of going home to a moral existence rooted in basic, conservative values. Further, the houses of East Egg and West Egg represent similar moral differences. The East is where Daisy and Tom live, and the West is where Gatsby and Nick live. Fitzgerald refers to the West as the green breast of a new world, a reflection of a man's dream, an America subsumed in this image. The materialism of the East creates the tragedy of destruction, dishonesty, and fear. No values exist in such an environment.
Gatsby represents the American dream of self-made wealth and happiness, the spirit of youth and resourcefulness, and the ability to make something of one's self despite one's origins. He achieved more than his parents had and felt he was pursuing a perfect dream, Daisy, who for him embodied the elements of success. Gatsby's mentor, Dan Cody, was the ultimate self-made man who influenced Gatsby in his tender, impressionable youth. When Gatsby found he could not win Daisy's love, he pursued the American Dream in the guise of Cody. Inherent in this dream, however, was the possibility of giving in to temptation and to corrupt get-rich-quick schemes like bootlegging and gambling. Fitzgerald's book mirrors the headiness, ambition, despair, and disillusionment of America in the 1920s: its ideals lost behind the trappings of class and material success.
Examples of the American Dream gone awry are plentiful in The Great Gatsby: Meyer Wolfsheim's enterprising ways to make money are criminal; Jordan Baker's attempts at sporting fame lead her to cheating; and the Buchanans' thirst for the good life victimizes others to the point of murder. Only Gatsby, who was relatively unselfish in his life, and whose primary flaw was a naive idealism, could be construed as fulfilling the author's vision of the American Dream. Throughout the novel are many references to his tendency to dream, but in fact, his world rests insecurely on a fairy's wing.
On the flip side of the American Dream, then, is a naiveté and a susceptibility to evil and poor-intentioned people.
Appearances and Reality
Since there is no real love between Gatsby and Daisy, in The Great Gatsby, there is no real truth to Gatsby's vision. Hand in hand with this Idea is the appearances and reality theme. Fitzgerald displays what critics have termed an ability to see the face behind the mask. Thus, behind the expensive parties, Gatsby is a lonely man. Though hundreds had come to his mansion, hardly anyone came to his funeral. Owl Eyes, Mr. Klipspringer, and the long list of partygoers simply use Gatsby for their pleasures. Gatsby himself is a put-on, with his "Oxford" accent, fine clothes, and "old boy" routine; behind this facade is a man who is involved in rack
steering. Gatsby's greatness lies in his capacity for illusion. Had he seen Daisy for what she was, he could not have loved her with such single-minded devotion. He tries to recapture Daisy, and for a time it looks as though he will succeed. But he must fail, because of Ins inability to separate the ideal from the real. The famous verbal exchange between Nick and Gatsby typifies this. concerning his behavior with Daisy, Nick tells him he can't repeat the past. "Can't repeat the past," Gatsby replies, "Why of course you can"
The wealthy class is morally corrupt in The Great Gatsby, and the objective correlative (a term coined by poet and critic T. S. Eliot that refers to an object that takes on greater significance and comes to symbolize the mood and world of a literary work) in this case is the eyes of Dr. Eckleburg, which preside over the valley of ash-heaps near Wilson's garage. There are no spiritual values in a place where money reigns: the traditional ideas of God and Religion are dead here, and the American dream is direly corrupted. This is no place for Nick, who is honest. He is the kind of person who says he is one of the few honest people he's ever met, and one who is let down by the world of excess and indulgence. His mark of sanity is to leave the wasteland environment to return home in the West. In a similar manner, T. S. Eliot's renowned poem "The Wasteland" describes the decline of Western civilization and its lack of spirituality through the objective correlative (defining image) of the wasteland.