Meanwhile, Tom is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson, the wife of mechanic George Wilson.
Through the Wilsons, we see the struggles of the working class in dismal Queens, NY.
As if they didn’t already have it hard enough, Myrtle is killed in a hit-and-run accident (caused by Daisy Buchanan), and George, who’s manipulated by Tom to believe that Jay Gatsby was both his wife’s lover and her murderer, ends up shooting Gatsby and then himself.
The whole story is told by Nick Carraway, a second cousin of Daisy’s and classmate of Tom’s who moves in next to Gatsby’s mansion and eventually befriends Jay -- and then comes to deeply admire him, despite or perhaps because of Jay’s fervent desire to repeat his past with Daisy.
This is why many teachers love theme essays: because they encourage you to connect small details to big ideas!
Furthermore, the AP English Literature test always has an essay question that has you analyze some aspect of a book and then “compare it to the theme of the work as a whole.” (If you want specific examples you can access the last 15 years of AP English Literature free response questions here, using your College Board account.) So this skill won’t just help you in your English classes, it will also help you pass the AP English Literature test if you’re taking it! Remember that the story is set in the 1920s, a period when America’s economy was booming, and takes place in New York: specifically the wealthy Long Island towns of West Egg and East Egg, as well as Manhattan and Queens.Get an in-depth guide to each of Gatsby’s major relationships.Death and Failure: Nick narrates Gatsby two years after the events in question, and since he’s obviously aware of the tragedy awaiting not only Gatsby but Myrtle and George as well, the novel has a sad, reflective, even mournful tone.Also, the rampant bad behavior (crime, cheating, and finally murder) and lack of real justice makes ethics and morality a key theme.Death also looms large over the novel’s plot, alongside the threat of failure.By the end of the novel, our main characters who are not old money (Gatsby, Myrtle, and George) are all dead, while the inherited-money club is still alive. The American Dream: The American Dream is the idea anyone can make it in America (e.g.gain fame, fortune, and success) through enough hard work and determination. Or does his involvement in crime suggest the Dream isn’t actually real?For example, you might be asked to write an essay about a prompt like this: “How does the life of Jay Gatsby exemplify (or deconstruct) the idea of the American Dream?” This prompt has you connect specific details in Jay Gatsby’s life to the larger theme of the American Dream.Let's now look at each of those themes one by one (and be sure to check out the links to our full theme breakdowns! Money and Materialism: Everyone in the novel is money-obsessed, whether they were born with money (Tom, Daisy, Jordan, and Nick to a lesser extent), whether they made a fortune (Gatsby), or whether they’re eager for more (Myrtle and George). Society and Class: Building on the money and materialism theme, the novel draws clear distinctions between the kind of money you have: old money (inherited) or new money (earned).And there is also a clear difference between the lifestyles of the wealthy, who live on Long Island and commute freely to Manhattan, and the working class people stuck in between, mired in Queens. Learn more about the various social classes in Gatsby and how they affect the novel’s outcome.