The novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby is set in 1922, the year of great prosperity, but at the same time corruption and decay of values. The generation of 1920s is the one that fought in World War I and became disillusioned. Young people living in that period are greedy, money-oriented and hypocritical. Their lives are nothing but the pursuit of pleasure and ways of earning more money. The characters of The Great Gatsby are no different than the rest of the society and this is what Fitzgerald portrays: the fall of the American Dream. All the values so much promoted by Benjamin Franklin seem no longer valid.
The Great Gatsby can be read as the novel about wasting in general. People are constantly wasting money and time, giving parties and thinking about bodily pleasures and self-satisfaction. Their moral and social values are being wasted and replaced by greed and self-centeredness. The characters of the novel seem to be thinking only about themselves and their personal gain.
On the first reading of the book, the thing that comes to the reader’s mind as being wasted most of all , though, is life. Most important among those who are guilty of wasting their life are the main characters of the novel: Jay Gatsby, Daisy and Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker or Myrtle Wilson.
It is not only pity that one may feel at Gatsby’s death, but also the bitter realization that that he had wasted his life on achieving one goal, mainly Daisy’s love, resorting to crime and dishonesty. One may think that love is a powerful feeling leading to many inexplicable actions, which sometimes may not be noble or honest, but can be forgiven. However, the love of Gatsby towards Daisy is not as pure as a reader may expect. Jay is more in love with Daisy’s social position, her upbringing, grace, aristocracy and wealth when he first sees her, rather than herself. Without her expensive surrounding, it is questionable whether he would be so much in love with her. As the novel progresses, the readers learn that Gatsby is a flawed man, a criminal that fell for a vain and superficial woman.
On the other hand, one may take pity on Daisy, as she has wasted her life choosing fortune instead of love. She is a wife of Tom Buchanan, whom she does not really love. Moreover, she has to put up with his infidelity and treating her badly. Nevertheless, she is not willing to do anything about it, because the thing she really loves seems to be money.
Myrtle in search of her own happiness and the way of improving her life, loses it. Jordan Baker, a dishonest modern woman, also has not achieved anything in her life, apart from the ability to live in a luxury.
The only person who thinks clearly and comes back to the ‘normal’ lifestyle instead of staying any longer in this materialist world of hypocrisy is Nick Carraway. He is the only person in the novel who has some hopes, values and would not have his life wasted for the sake of money.