Some Notes on the Themes of F. Scott Fitzgerald

© 2002 Melvin C. Miles


Central Theme

The corruption and failure of the American Dream, and the false and distorted forms in which that dream exists in the modern world. 


Secondary Themes and Concerns

American History: The birth, growth, and withering of the American dream.  Fitzgerald focuses on the withering of the dream (i.e., on the progressive and inevitable destruction of romantic idealism by realistic materialism, and on the false and distorted forms in which the dreams now exists.

Illusion and Reality: the problem of determining the hidden boundary in the American vision of life, the point at which the reality ends and the illusion begins; the disparity between, as well as the confusion of the glamour, beauty, and value of things as they appear or seem to be; and the ugliness, corruption, and empty worthlessness of things as they are. 

The Doomed Idealist: the heir of the romantic idealism of early America who believes in and pursues the American dream.  The romantic idealist in modern America inevitably comes into conflict with—and is doomed to disillusionment or death by—the brutal realism and materialism that characterize modern America. 

Wealth: power, glamour, freedom, promise, the means by which the American dream is to be realized; corruption, betrayal, ruthlessness, the means by which the dream becomes false and distorted; the fulfillment and the destruction of the dream.

Youth: the expectation, vitality, glamour, and promise of romantic idealism; belief in the infinite possibilities of life.

Maturity: the inevitable disillusionment which accompanies the realization of the limits, frustrations, and broken dreams of life’s experiences lead to.

Beauty: perfection, splendor, the ideal, the realization of the desire; corruption, sterility waste, the illusion which leads to destruction and disillusionment (usually symbolized by a beautiful and wealthy girl).

Economic Classes: Fitzgerald’s realization of the ways in which money (the lack of it, a moderate amount of it, the amassing of a great amount of it, and the inheritance of great wealth) determines character, manners, and lifestyle in America.

A.  The Poor: the poor are without life or hope.

B.  The Middle Class: with a few exceptions (most notably Nick Carraway), the middle class is devoted to the dream of material success; to the worship of wealth, the wealthy, and the possessions and lifestyle of the wealthy; and to striving (as well as emulating) to rise to become one of the wealthy.

C.  The Newly Rich: they have risen from poverty or middle class status into the romantic glamour of wealth by pursuing and realizing the dream of success.

D.  The Established Wealth: the American aristocracy.

Young Wealthy: romantic, glamorous princes and princesses of America; self-centered, callous, careless, and beautiful.

Mature Wealthy: powerful, class-conscious, and ruthless.


Top of Page

Return to Materials