Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
Wealth usually corrupts; it leads to a life of materialism and purposeless drifting and ends in the ugliness of the Valley of Ashes, a symbol of wasted life.
This theme is clearly developed in the characters of Tom and Daisy Buchanan. In contrast, the pursuit of a dream is a lofty and noble thing that gives meaning to life, as proven by Gatsby's lifelong pursuit of Daisy. Gatsby is never corrupted by his wealth, for it is amassed for a sole purpose - to prove his worth to Daisy.
The East is a symbol of shallowness, carelessness, and corruption, as evidenced by characters such as the Buchanans, Jordan Baker, Meyer Wolfsheim, and Dan Cody. In contrast, the Midwest is a symbol of morality, conservatism, and practicality, as evidenced by the narrator, Nick Carraway. He tries to flee from his Midwestern morals by going to New York, but within a matter of months, he is horrified at what he sees and judges the East as corrupt; as a result, he chooses to move back home to the stability of the Midwest.MOOD
The mood is largely dark, pessimistic, and vapid as set by the purposelessness and carelessness of the wealthy, the ongoing string of meaningless parties, the ugliness of the Valley of Ashes, and the tragic deaths of Gatsby and Myrtle. Only Nick Carraway's honest and moral view of life breaks the sense of tragedy.