Disillusionment in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

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About this sample


Words: 643 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 643|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Body Paragraph
  3. Conclusion


F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby is a profound exploration of the American Dream and its inherent disillusionment. Set in the Roaring Twenties, the narrative delves into the lives of the wealthy elite and their pursuit of happiness, love, and success. However, beneath the glittering surface of opulence and grandeur lies a stark reality of moral decay, unfulfilled desires, and existential despair. This essay examines how Fitzgerald uses characters, symbolism, and narrative structure to depict the theme of disillusionment in The Great Gatsby.

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Body Paragraph

One of the primary ways Fitzgerald illustrates disillusionment is through the character of Jay Gatsby himself. Gatsby's romanticized vision of the American Dream is epitomized by his love for Daisy Buchanan, a symbol of wealth and social status. Gatsby's infatuation with Daisy is not merely personal but emblematic of his larger quest for an idealized life. Despite his vast wealth and extravagant parties, Gatsby's dream remains elusive. His fixation on the past and his belief that he can recreate it ("Can't repeat the past? Why of course you can!") ultimately leads to his downfall. Gatsby's tragic end underscores the futility of chasing an illusion, highlighting the disillusionment that stems from unattainable ideals.

Another character that exemplifies disillusionment is Nick Carraway, the novel's narrator. Initially drawn to the glamour and excitement of Gatsby's world, Nick gradually becomes disenchanted by the superficiality and moral corruption he witnesses. His observations of Tom and Daisy Buchanan's carelessness, Jordan Baker's dishonesty, and Gatsby's ultimate demise force him to confront the emptiness behind the facade of wealth and privilege. Nick's journey from admiration to disillusionment is encapsulated in his final judgment: "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness." This statement reveals the profound sense of disappointment and moral bankruptcy that pervades the novel.

Symbolism also plays a crucial role in conveying the theme of disillusionment in The Great Gatsby. The green light at the end of Daisy's dock represents Gatsby's hopes and dreams for the future, particularly his desire to be reunited with Daisy. However, the light is shrouded in mist and ultimately out of reach, symbolizing the unattainable nature of his aspirations. Similarly, the Valley of Ashes, a desolate wasteland between West Egg and New York City, serves as a stark contrast to the opulence of the surrounding areas. It represents the moral and social decay hidden beneath the surface of the American Dream. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, depicted on a billboard overlooking the valley, further emphasize this theme. They serve as a metaphor for the loss of spiritual values in the pursuit of material wealth, watching over a world that has lost its moral compass.

Fitzgerald's narrative structure also enhances the theme of disillusionment. The novel is framed by Nick's retrospective narration, which adds a layer of inevitability and melancholy to the story. By recounting the events from a future perspective, Nick's reflections are tinged with a sense of regret and loss. This structure allows Fitzgerald to emphasize the disillusionment that comes with hindsight, as Nick comes to terms with the destructive impact of Gatsby's dream and the moral failings of those around him. The cyclical nature of the narrative, beginning and ending with Nick's contemplations, reinforces the idea that the pursuit of the American Dream is ultimately a futile and disillusioning endeavor.

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In conclusion, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is a poignant exploration of disillusionment in the context of the American Dream. Through the characters of Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway, the use of symbolism, and the narrative structure, Fitzgerald reveals the profound sense of disappointment and moral decay that underlies the pursuit of wealth and success. The novel serves as a timeless critique of the dangers of idealizing the past and the hollowness of materialism, reminding readers of the inherent disillusionment in chasing unattainable dreams.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Disillusionment in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. (2024, Jun 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 13, 2024, from
“Disillusionment in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.” GradesFixer, 11 Jun. 2024,
Disillusionment in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 Jul. 2024].
Disillusionment in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 11 [cited 2024 Jul 13]. Available from:
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