Juxtaposition in The Great Gatsby

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About this sample


Words: 865 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 865|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a literary masterpiece that explores the decadence and moral decay of the Jazz Age in America. One of the most striking literary devices used in the novel is juxtaposition, which is the placement of two contrasting ideas, characters, or themes side by side for the purpose of highlighting their differences. This essay will analyze the use of juxtaposition in The Great Gatsby and its impact on the themes of wealth and corruption, illusion versus reality, and the American Dream.

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Juxtaposition is prominently employed in The Great Gatsby to expose the stark contrast between the luxurious lifestyle of the wealthy elite and the moral bankruptcy that lies beneath their opulence. On one hand, we have characters like Jay Gatsby and the Buchanans, who live in extravagant mansions, throw lavish parties, and flaunt their wealth. Fitzgerald paints a vivid picture of their glamorous lives, describing Gatsby's mansion as a "factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy" (Fitzgerald 5) and Daisy Buchanan as "gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor" (Fitzgerald 20).

On the other hand, we are introduced to characters like George Wilson, who owns a shabby garage in the "valley of ashes," a desolate wasteland of poverty and despair. Fitzgerald describes Wilson's garage as a "dismal scene of ashes, refuse, and darkness" (Fitzgerald 23). This stark contrast between the wealthy and the poor serves to highlight the corrupting influence of wealth and the moral decay that accompanies it.

Furthermore, the juxtaposition of the extravagant parties hosted by Gatsby and the poverty-stricken lives of the residents of the valley of ashes underscores the theme of social inequality. While the wealthy revel in their excesses, the poor suffer in squalor and hopelessness, unable to escape their circumstances. This juxtaposition forces the reader to question the fairness and morality of a society that allows such extreme disparities to exist.

Juxtaposition is also used in The Great Gatsby to explore the theme of illusion versus reality. Throughout the novel, characters create facades to hide their true selves and project an image of success and happiness. The most prominent example of this is Jay Gatsby, who presents himself as a wealthy and successful man living a glamorous life. However, as the story unfolds, we discover that Gatsby's wealth is built on illegal activities and his parties are a desperate attempt to win back his lost love, Daisy Buchanan.

Gatsby's illusion of wealth and happiness is contrasted with the reality of his lonely and unfulfilled existence. Fitzgerald describes Gatsby's mansion as "drowned in the moonlight, my house... that huge place" (Fitzgerald 85). This juxtaposition of the grandeur of Gatsby's mansion with the emptiness of his life serves to emphasize the hollowness of the American Dream and the futility of pursuing material wealth at the expense of genuine human connections.

In addition to Gatsby, the character of Tom Buchanan also embodies the theme of illusion versus reality. Tom presents himself as a powerful and self-assured man, but his true nature is revealed through his abusive behavior towards Daisy and his affair with Myrtle Wilson. The juxtaposition of Tom's outward appearance and his inner flaws exposes the facade he has created to maintain his social standing.

Juxtaposition is used in The Great Gatsby to explore the theme of the American Dream and its corruption by materialism and greed. On one hand, we have the idealized version of the American Dream, represented by Gatsby's pursuit of wealth and success in order to win back Daisy. Gatsby's mansion, with its "marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden" (Fitzgerald 9), symbolizes the material trappings that are often associated with the American Dream.

On the other hand, we have the reality of the American Dream, as represented by characters like George Wilson and Myrtle Wilson. George, a hardworking and honest man, is trapped in the valley of ashes, unable to escape his circumstances despite his best efforts. Myrtle, on the other hand, uses her affair with Tom Buchanan as a means to climb the social ladder and escape her impoverished life.

The juxtaposition of Gatsby's idealized version of the American Dream with the harsh reality faced by characters like George and Myrtle highlights the corruption of the American Dream and the impossibility of attaining true happiness through material wealth alone. Fitzgerald suggests that the pursuit of the American Dream has become distorted, leading to moral decay and the loss of genuine human values.


In conclusion, The Great Gatsby effectively utilizes juxtaposition to explore various themes such as wealth and corruption, illusion versus reality, and the corruption of the American Dream. By placing contrasting ideas, characters, and settings side by side, Fitzgerald exposes the inherent contradictions and moral decay of the Jazz Age in America. The juxtaposition of the wealthy and the poor, illusion and reality, and the idealized and the real versions of the American Dream allows the reader to critically examine the values and ideals of the society portrayed in the novel. Through this literary technique, Fitzgerald forces us to confront the harsh realities that lie beneath the surface of the glamorous and decadent world of The Great Gatsby.


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Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Scribner, 2004.

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Juxtaposition in The Great Gatsby. (2024, Jun 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Juxtaposition in The Great Gatsby.” GradesFixer, 13 Jun. 2024,
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