Literature is not only concerned with telling stories, it also has the potential to question the society from which it emerges. Fitzgerald does exactly this in The Great Gatsby, by using a very sincere character, Nick, to be the narrator. Nick, who was brought up in the Mid-West, a very conservative area, had good values and morals, and could be trusted to tell the story as it was. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald focuses on privileged young people between the age of 20 and 30 years. He paints a vivid picture of the "American Dream", materialism, the careless lifestyles and the class and social discrimination of the people in that era.
The Great Gatsby questioned the American Dream and how real it was. Although the literal tragedy in The Great Gatsby was Gatsby's death, the real tragedy is that Gatsby's death represents the failure of the American Dream. The American political ideals of equality among people, was inconsistent with the existing societal situation. Gatsby was an extreme American idealist, and the fact that he who had lived his whole life trying to achieve something and failed to do so and that this reflected on society in that era, was the major tragedy in the novel. "There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams - not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion" (pg 92). Gatsby had created his own vision of a "perfect" life for him and Daisy, but Daisy could not live up to it, because it was a fantasy lifestyle. The water between East and West Egg symbolizes the barrier between Gatsby and Daisy's worlds. The people of that era had an ideal that they would improve their material and spiritual well-being. The material improvement became too easy to attain, and eventually, spiritual well-being was forgotten. Although the ideals of the American Dream were for the good, people became so focused on pursuing wealth, that many became corrupted.