is a tragic love story on the surface, but it's most commonly understood as a pessimistic critique of the American Dream.
In the novel, Jay Gatsby overcomes his poor past to gain an incredible amount of money and a limited amount of social cache in 1920s NYC, only to be rejected by the "old money" crowd.
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The American Dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of race, class, gender, or nationality, can be successful in America (read: rich) if they just work hard enough.
Chapter 1 places us in a particular year—1922—and gives us some background about WWI.
This is relevant, since the 1920s is presented as a time of hollow decadence among the wealthy, as evidenced especially by the parties in Chapters 2 and 3.In any case, the novel, just by being set in the 1920s, is unlikely to present an optimistic view of the American Dream, or at least a version of the dream that's inclusive to all genders, ethnicities, and incomes.With that background in mind, let's jump into the plot!You can read a detailed analysis of these last lines in our summary of the novel's ending.But I didn't call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone--he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling.So in Chapter 5, when Daisy and Gatsby reunite and begin an affair, it seems like Gatsby could, in fact, achieve his goal.In Chapter 6, we learn about Gatsby's less-than-wealthy past, which not only makes him look like the star of a rags-to-riches story, it makes Gatsby himself seem like someone in pursuit of the American Dream, and for him the personification of that dream is Daisy.Involuntarily I glanced seaward--and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.(1.152) 's meditation on The American Dream—the idea that people are always reaching towards something greater than themselves that is just out of reach.And as we mentioned above, the 1920s were a particularly tense time in America.We also meet George and Myrtle Wilson in Chapter 2, both working class people who are working to improve their lot in life, George through his work, and Myrtle through her affair with Tom Buchanan.