F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel, The Great Gatsby, like a lot of novels that have withstood the test f time, means a lot of different things to different people.
To some, it’s a love story. Jay Gatsby is in love with Daisy, but if unable to pursue her because he doesn’t have enough money to be a reasonable suitor, so he works hard for years to achieve the money and status necessary to be on her level, loving her every minute. During this time, of course, Daisy marries Tom Buchanan and they have a child. Somewhat undeterred, Gatsby purchases a house close to Tom and Daisy’s, where he can see the “green light” on their dock from his own yard. In fact, the novel closes with what is arguably one of the most famous Great Gatsby quotes, ” Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further.”
Gatsby’s love story is ultimately a tragic one, of course, but then, so is Romeo and Juliet. The fact that Gatsby doesn’t end up with Daisy (as well as the fact that he ends up dead in his pool and virtually no one comes to his funeral) doesn’t negate the strength of his feelings for Daisy or the lengths he was willing to go to to be close to her.
To other people, The Great Gatsby is the ultimate tribute to the 1920s. It’s set in the wake of World War I (also known as the Great War), and while it was not a wonderful economic time for a large portion of the country, Fitzgerald focuses on the wealthy elite portion of the country; on their “beautiful shirts” and lavish parties. The Great Gatsby is so closely intertwined with the 1920s in some peoples’ minds that they’ll use “Gatsby” and the “the twenties” interchangeably, at least in regards to theme parties. People associate things like flappers, the Charleston, and fancy old cars with The Great Gatsby, though that may have to do more with the Robert Redford film based on the novel.
Finally, some people think of The Great Gatsby as very sharp economic commentary. So much of the novel revolves around money: having it, not having, getting it, losing it, etc. People who believe that this novel has more to do with economics than love often cite the green light on Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s dock as an example of why this novel is about money. Green is, of course, a color frequently associated with money, and F. Scott Fitzgerald says that Gatsby “believed” in the green light, something the economist theorists insist confirms their belief that F. Scott Fitzgerald meant his most famous work to be a biting social and economic commentary in the tradition of Jane Austen (another beloved author whose body of work has been subjected to multiple interpretations, by the way).