The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Themes

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Key Literary Elements
• Setting/Characters 
• Conflict 
• Plot
• Themes 
• Background Information
• Literary/Historical Information 

Chapter Summaries with Notes
• Chapter I 
• Chapter II 
• Chapter III
• Chapter IV
• Chapter V
• Chapter VI 
• Chapter VII
• Chapter VIII
• Chapter IX 

Overall Analyses
• Characters 
• Plot 
• Themes
• Symbolic Meaning Of The Novel 

• Study Questions

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Themes

Major Theme

Wealth usually corrupts; it leads to a life of materialism and purposeless drifting and ends in the ugliness of the Valley of Ashes, a symbol of wasted life. This theme is clearly developed in the characters of Tom and Daisy Buchanan. In contrast, the pursuit of a dream is a lofty and noble thing that gives meaning to life, as proven by Gatsby’s lifelong pursuit of Daisy. Gatsby is never corrupted by his wealth, for it is amassed for a sole purpose – to prove his worth to Daisy.

Minor Themes

The East is a symbol of shallowness, carelessness, and corruption, as evidenced by characters such as the Buchanans, Jordan Baker, Meyer Wolfsheim, and Dan Cody. In contrast, the Midwest is a symbol of morality, conservatism, and practicality, as evidenced by the narrator, Nick Carraway. He tries to flee from his Midwestern morals by going to New York, but within a matter of months, he is horrified at what he sees and judges the East as corrupt; as a result, he chooses to move back home to the stability of the Midwest.


The mood is largely dark, pessimistic, and vapid as set by the purposelessness and carelessness of the wealthy, the ongoing string of meaningless parties, the ugliness of the Valley of Ashes, and the tragic deaths of Gatsby and Myrtle. Only Nick Carraway’s honest and moral view of life breaks the sense of tragedy.