The Distortion of the American Dreams.
The First World War had just ended; hardened young soldiers returned to daily suburban life. The country was dry under the sanctions of Prohibition. How was it that this time period came to be called "The Roaring Twenties?" Nearly all credit must be given to the arts and entertainment of this volatile period in time. F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, is perhaps the most recognized of authors associated with the literary flowering of the 1920's in America. The concern of most authors during this time was of the materialism that had suddenly swept the country. Credit was easy, interest rates were low, and corruption abounded. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald portrays how the American dream of success had withered until at times it was nothing more than greedy desire. The sanguine American dream that had turned no one away and had given all an equal opportunity for happiness and success was no longer. Through use of his main character, Jay Gatsby, and through various symbols in the novel, Fitzgerald develops his sketch of the demise of American society.
Jay Gatsby is Fitzgerald's embodiment of the American dream of rags-to-riches. Gatsby began life as the son of poor farmers living on the shores of Lake Superior. The reader is informed early in the description of Gatsby's youth that, "his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all" (104). He "knew he had a big future in front of him" (181). In fact, Gatsby even changes his name from James Gatz to the more fashionable sounding Jay Gatsby. The narrator of The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway, is astounded by Gatsby's ambition. "There was something gorgeous about him it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is likely I shall never find again" (179). Evidence of Gatsby's early expectations of himself was discovered by Gatsby's father in a book that had once belonged young James Gatz.