The Great Gatsby – Essay

Throughout the novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ an idea that Fitzgerald critiques is The American Dream. James Turslow once said  “The American Dream is that dream of a land where life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” However in reality, the reality of the American Dream is quite the opposite. Fitzgerald portrays this through the use of setting. The settings he used throughout the novel portray different aspects of the American Dream these settings include: East Egg, The Valley of Ashes and New York.

The first setting in Great Gatsby that represents the idea of the American Dream is East Egg. Throughout the novel, it is shown to us that East Egg is an location that not only represents the idea of the American Dream but the false American Dream.  We first begin to see this idea shown when the appearance of East Egg is describes to us “Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water”. This imagery begins to shape how we portray East Egg and start to attach stereo types about places like East Egg. The “white palaces” allow us to link this place to the ideal of royalty and ultimate wealth. As well as how they “glittered along the water”, the way he words this creates a link to a mirage like image. A mirage is an illusion, just like the idea of the American Dream that East Egg represents. Daisy speaks of a “rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged”, this shows us that the idea of East Egg is like a secret society. It allows us to see that the idea of the American dream is not as it meets the eye, and there is much more to this ideal life beneath the surface. I believe that Fitzgerald uses setting effectively to show us how East Egg is an illusion,  and how the stereo type that society has formed around this wealthy life is false. 

Another setting that Fitzgerald uses to show the idea of the American Dream is the Valley of Ashes. Fitzgerald created The valley of ashes  to represent the fail of the American dream, as well as the reality of the American dream. Fitzgerald first describes the Valley of Ashes as “fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens.” The way that Fitzgerald describes this place, allows us to associate this area with something repulsive. This description begins to shape our image of what this piece of land may look like. The word “grotesque” means distorted or ugly, very much like the reality of the American Dream. When he says “where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke”, it shows that there are mounds of ashes that occupy this area. I believe these ashes also  represent the people living here’s failed dream, and how all their lost dreams are piled on top of each other like a pile of ashes.  This an important line as it enhances what the reality of the American dream really is and how prominent it is in their life’s, the failed dream is their homes, chimney and smoke. The line “with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air”, represents the people who live in the fail of their dream. The men that live here move dimly as they are tired and spend their life’s working towards a dream that is never going to become a reality. Their dreams “crumble” just like the facade that is the American Dream.

The final setting that Fitzgerald uses to critique the idea of the American Dream is New York itself. New York represents the illusion of the American Dream, and the ideal life that this city boasts. This idea is enhanced when Nick says “Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,” I thought; “anything at all. . . .” even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.” This quote is portrays the idea that anything is possible  when you’re in the city. This line allows Fitzgerald to shape this place that becomes the symbol of the American Dream and represents the life that everyone wishes to be apart of. The line “without any particular wonder” enhances this as it is normal for the impossible to be possible. When Nick says “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” This quote is showing us how the city represents promise, mystery and all the beauty in the world. However, Fitzgerald wants to show us that a place cannot be that perfect. Furthermore, making us question the reality of the American Dream and what the illusion is hiding. 

To conclude, throughout the novel the Great Gatsby critiques the idea of the American Dream through setting. The prominent settings are :East Egg which represents the false American dream, New York which represents the illusion American Dream and the Valley of Ashes that represents the failed American Dream. I believe that portraying these aspects of the American Dream through setting allows us to understand what Fitzgerald’s ideas about the American Dream really are. Furthermore, showing us how society itself sees different aspect of the social classes. The American dream is an idea where everyone is capable of anything and anyone has the same advantage and disadvantages in life. However, Fitzgerald allows us an insight into what the American Dream is truely like and how it is ultimately a dream, a dream that seems to lie just out of reach of all those who try to grasp it.

























Practise Paragraph – The Valley of Ashes and how it relates to the American Dream

Throughout the novel ‘The Great Gatsby’, the Valley of Ashes is a location that alludes to the idea of the failed American Dream. The Valley of Ashes is this place that everyone who’s dream has been let down seems to end up. The American Dream is an idea where everyone equal and have equal opportunities. However, the people living in the Valley of Ashes have never had the same quality of life as those in West or East Egg. We are first introduced to the Valley of Ashes when Tom and Nick are driving through it towards Manhattan. It is first described as a “fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens.” This description begins to shape our image of what this piece of land may look like. The word “grotesque” means distorted or ugly , very much like the reality of the American Dream. It is distorted into a perfect idea when in reality it is quite ugly. The fact that “ashes grow” enhances that the let down of the American Dream is constant. There are always more people who’s dreams are being letdown as time goes on. When he says “where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke”, it shows that there are mounds of ashes that occupy this area. These ashes also almost represent the people living here’s failed dream, and how all their lost dreams are piled on top of each other like a pile of ashes. The line “with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air”, shows how tired and hopeless the people living here are. How they work hard to try accomplish their dreams, however they will always be stuck in this poverty. Fitzgerald has described this area in a way that makes us feel repulsed by the place and the people that live there. However, these people’s dream has ultimately just been let down. They haven’t been able to accomplish their American Dream so therefore fade away in the Valley working for nothing.

Exploration of the Great Gatsby – Characters

Describe how 3 characters changed throughout the novel:

Nick- At the start of the novel, Nick describes himself as a non-judgemental character. He seems like almost the innocent character, the outsider. Throughout the novel, he becomes very involved in the exclusive world that is East Egg, getting involved in the wealth that both the Buchanan’s and Gatsby are both apart of. However, with such an involvement in this world, he still feels like an outsider. He says, “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” This enhances that he felt apart of this world but still an outsider, hated this world and loved it at the same time. At the end, he is utterly disgusted with the world. How the rich hide behind their money, and how no one turned up to Gatsby’s funeral. Also throughout the book, he begins to judge each character more and more. Which contradicts his statement “I’m inclined to reserve all judgments”.

Daisy- When we are first introduced to Daisy, it is made clear that she is absolutely made of money. She appears to live this perfect life in East Egg. She also appears to be a kind hearted, innocent person, she would’ve been described as “the golden girl”. However throughout the novel, we see she as many more flaws than we would’ve originally thought. For example, she has no relationship with her daughter etc. We begin to see her become sad as she is having to pick between Gatsby and Tom. At the end of the novel we see her true colours, when Gatsby dies. Daisy runs away with Tom, and ultimately hides behind her wealth.  

Gatsby- When we first meet Gatsby, he is on the end of his dock reaching out to the green light, or as we know it his hope. Before we officially meet Gatsby we hear many things about him such as: him being an Oxford man, how he killed a man, how he was German spy during the war and more. These rumours begin to shape our opinion on Gatsby. Throughout the novel it seems like he is just a man in love with a girl. However, as the book develops it becomes clear that he has this whole life planned around Daisy. Almost an obsession. His character almost becomes scary and controlling. Also it is obvious that he is involved in illegal trades and has a dark side to him. Ultimately, he meets his sour end. Throughout the whole book all he wanted was daisy, and when the phone rang before he died he believed it was Daisy.


Explration of the Great Gatsby – Ideas

Myth of the American dream 

The American dream is an idea alluded to constantly throughout the book. The American Dream is this idea of a dream of a land where life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. Unfortunately, this idea is a mere illusion.  New York city is almost a mirage, and the perfect life that West and East egg boast is just the rich hiding behind their money. Throughout the book, it is shown that Gatsby aspires to be apart of this world . Right from the age of 17, he wanted to be this rich gentleman, so he became Jay Gatsby. In the scene where Tom turns up at Gatsby’s house, it shows that no matter what amount of money Gatsby has he will never be apart of this exclusive society that is East Egg. When Tom says to Nick “We’ve got to go. Tell him we couldn’t wait, will you?” it shows that not only could they not wait a few extra minutes but cold not even have the decency to tell him theirselves that they had to go. Another person who’s American Dream ultimately fell flat was Myrtles. She lives in the Vally of Ashes, in an unhappy marriage and works hard but yet never gets anything in return. However, she lives of this fake American Dream life when she’s with Tom. She has this life where she has all the money in the world yet she still finds herself unhappy and wanting more. She begins to get so caught up in this world that she believes its real. When in reality, she will always live in poverty and her and Tom could never be real. I think Fitzgerald is trying to show us that this American Dream is an illusion and is far from the reality of America. Ultimately, the American Dream is simply a dream. A dream that seems to lie just out of the reach of every person that tries to grasp it.

The Inevitability of Time

The inevitability of time is an idea explored thoroughly throughout the novel The Great Gatsby. From the start of the book it is obvious that time is a huge factor in the way the book plays out. It all started when Gatsby went to war and did not see Daisy for 4 years. These 4 years were extremely significant in both Gatsby and Daisy’s lives. When Gatsby says, “Can’t repeat the past? …Why of course you can!”, it enhances that Gatsby believes that it is possible to go back in time and erase the last five years. However in reality, time is something you cannot reverse or erase, no matter what time will go on. A symbol of time alluded to throughout the book is water. Water represents the idea of time in many of the significant scenes. For example, the scene where Gatsby and Daisy spend their first day together again. The rain stops and they live out a perfect day together but at the end the rain starts again. In this moment the rain represents how it seems that time stops for Daisy and Gatsby when their together but in reality the rest of the world is still moving on. Gatsby’s dream is to go back in time and erase the past 4 years but the only way for that to happen, Daisy must tell Tom she never loved him. Daisy however, could never say this because she did love him once. I believe Fitzgerald is trying to enhance the fact that we all wish that we could stop time or go back in time, where in reality its not possible. Even if time seems to stop, it will start again. Time is something neither Gatsby or Daisy can escape, and no matter how hard they want to go back in time, it is simply not possible.

Exploration of the Great Gatsby – Symbols

Symbol 3 quotes from the book that support the symbol 3 moments when the symbol appears Major characters that the symbol is connected to What the symbol is representing Important things that the symbol reveals about characters and ideas
  • we were to see the grounds and the swimming−pool, and the hydroplane and the mid−summer flowers but outside Gatsby’s window it began to rain again 
  • There was a faint, barely perceptible movement of the water as the fresh flow from one end urged its way toward the drain at the other.
  • Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes.




















The colour White
Yellow and Gold
The green light

The American Dream

An ideal that all humans should have equal opportunity to pursue happiness and success.

“The American Dream is that dream of a land where life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” – James Truslow Adams ‘Epic of America'”

Locations that relate to the “American Dream”:

East Egg- These people were born into the “dream”. FALSE

West Egg- These people “bootleg” their way to their top but are never fully accepted into the elite social group. CORRUPT

Vally of Ashes- These people work hard and they never make it out of poverty. The dream constantly fails them.  FAILED

New York- These people are the illusion of the dream. That New York is the perfect place when it isn’t. ILLUSION


Quote breakdown – ” Her voice was full of money”

“Her voice was full of money… That was it. I’d never understood before. it was full of money that was the inexhaustible charm that rose girl fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals song of it… high in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl…”

  • Powerful, valuable, attractive 
  • Money is attractive
  • Sounds like: high society, posh, UK, confidence
  • She had so much money but just does what she wants
  • She embodies everything that comes with wealth
  • You never get tired of it 
  • It never runs out of charm
  • Bells & coins jingle
  • Advertisements have jingles
  • The jingle draws you in, like Daisy’s voice draws you in like Gatsby
  • You hit it and it’s not a bad but not a nice sound. Attention grabbing & not always pleasant
  • Daisys colour
  • A symbol of wealth
  • Money
  • “so good”, perfect, trophy

The Great Gatsby – Chapter 2 (The Valley of Ashes – Annotation)

ABOUT half way between West Egg and New York the motor road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash−gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight.

But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg.

  • In between West Egg and New York.. two wealthy areas
  • Shrink implies that the road wants to pull away from this area but cant go far. It’s “creeped” by it. 
  • Desolate means “bleak emptiness”. Not much happening. Unpleasant. The area doesn’t produce or grow.
  • Valley= Hole like
  • Ashes= Burnt out/dying
  • NY and other surrounding areas dump their ashes from their fires
  • “Farm” and “Grow” imply life, however what is really growing here are mounds of ashes. 
  • He also says the “gardens” are grotesque= Ugly, regarding, repulsive
  • Ashes are forming and overruling EVERYTHING.
  • They are the only things growing. Fitzgerald is trying to illustrate that the feeling of being “burnt out” is taking over this area.
  • Transcendent- Beyond or above the physical range of normal human experience. Something that humans can’t normally do. The people that live in the valley put so much time into the work they do every single day it could possibly be “unreal”
  • Poor, sad, worn out, tired, breaking down men.
  • These words emphasise the odd, and paranormal of the area. Also the creepiness. 
  • The whole idea behind the description this area shows that the “American dream” its just that.. a dream. And that the people who live here work extremely extremely hard just to fend for themselves basically.


The Great Gatsby – Chapter 1

  1. Give a recount of the events in the opening chapter
  • During the first chapter, we met the narrator Nick. He introduces himself supposedly as “non judgemental”. Ironically, next we meet Tom and Daisy and Nick shows a strong negative judgement towards them. Tom is a brute, rude and intimidating man, whereas Daisy is a light, spacey beautiful girl. You could say in a nutshell, they were polar opposite. We find out that Tom is cheating on Daisy with “some woman in New York”, furthermore establishing the relationship between Daisy and Tom. We also meet Jordan Baker who is described as an “intimidating” woman. Right at the end of the paragraph, we get a small glimpse of Gatsby at the end of the wharf reaching out to some “green light”.
  1. Make a list of 5 words used to describe Daisy, Tom and Jordan Baker. Explain what impression these words helped you form
Jordan Daisy Tom
Rapid Charming Supercilious
Slender Fluttering Hulking
Small-breasted Lovely Sturdy
Erect carriage Bright Gruff
Polite Passionate Hard
  1. Explain your first impression of Nick

–  My first impression of Nick is that (unlike he says), he is a judgemental person towards the people he likes and likewise the people he does not. He also thinks very highly of Gatsby as a person. I think his true colours will show sufficiently throughout the course of the book.

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