The Great Gatsby

World War One was over. The Great Depression was yet to come. When F Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby in 1925, America was enjoying more wealth and freedom than ever before. But the novel damns the materialism and individualism that comes with these new excesses. Its hero, the glamorous socialite Jay Gatsby, throws lavish parties funded by dodgy dealings, hoping to win back his former sweetheart Daisy Buchanan, who is beautiful but unavailable. By the novel’s end, Gatsby’s dreams – and his life – are in tatters. And the narrator, Nick Carraway, realises that they were hollow from the start.

Wealth

Nick makes his fortune on the rapidly rising stock markets of Wall Street; Gatsby through the organised crime of the prohibition era, and Daisy has married into the “old money” of the upper classes. The 1920s saw the beginning of unprecedented wealth and consumerism – a period which continues nearly a century later.

America

The story of the romance of Gatsby and Daisy is also the story of America, says Nick. The selfish pursuit of a naive dream leads to corruption and disappointment – all that is left is for Gatsby to die and for Nick to leave the excesses of New York forever.

The Past

Gatsby’s dream for his future with Daisy is built on a nostalgic view of their past romance. And Nick believes that America, too, is searching for a past that never really existed. How far do the stories we tell about our history shape the future ahead?

Love

Gatsby is in love with Daisy. Or is he in love with the idea of Daisy? Or in love with being in love? Decades later, have sex, marriage, and romance become divorced from authentic love?

Isolation

Despite all the promises of America and materialism, the characters in The Great Gatsby find themselves feeling empty and bereft. Relationships do not last; families are far away. In the 21st Century, many fear that the internet has made feelings of loneliness worse than ever.