The Wasteland as Represented in the Great Gatsby By F. Scott Fitzgerald

229 views 6 pages ~ 1496 words
Get a Custom Essay Writer Just For You!

Experts in this subject field are ready to write an original essay following your instructions to the dot!

Hire a Writer

To What Extent Does Fitzgerald Draw Links between the Archetype of the Wasteland and Gatsby to Present a Critique of Modern Society as a Moral Wasteland


            The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald defines disappointment of the modernist post-war period. The author negatively depicts the way the world was heading from the perception of the modern post-war. After the war, many individuals believed in the American dream that by hard work anyone could be successful despite his or her race, class, gender, or nationality. The book pinpoints what happened in the world, which was the opposite of the expectations, depicting the contemporary society as a moral wasteland, in which people strived to be rich.

Contemporary Society as a Moral Wasteland

The Great Gatsby

shows the emptiness of the society in the 1920s after the world war.  The book depicts the emotional and spiritual gap at the time as well as the creation of wealth that brought about moral deterioration (Pidgeon, 2007). The wasteland is the area that was at first fertile but has turned into a dark scene. Such symbolism is not only in the physical visualization of the fertile soil but also a presentation of individual lives that were good inside but lost their dignity in the pursuit of wealth. In his early years, Gatsby worked hard and honestly when serving Dan Cody but does not achieve success because the ex-wife of his employer goes with the whole inheritance. Therefore, he turns into criminal to fulfil his desired dream of wealth, which he thinks will help him to get Daisy back. Another character, Myrtle, loses her dignity and becomes morally corrupt in the bid of living a good life. She has an affair with Tom to get "fine things" and has to endure Tom’s abuse to get them (Pidgeon, 2007).

Moral deterioration is also evident from the representation of land of the poor (the valley of ashes). The area is an imagery of the wasteland. When Tom and Nick stop there, Tom gives out a negative description of the place where he terms it as a terrible (Pidgeon, 2007). The valley of ashes is near Tom’s residential area, which is full of wealthy people bringing out the moral deterioration of the rich at that time, living close to the poor and having no empathy towards them.

            Moreover, the wastage of money in the land of the rich, which is close to the poor, is evidently represented.  Through describing the parties that Gatsby used to hold, the author brings out the picture the extent of money wastage that was evident at such events. Gatsby holds a party every week for the rich and fashionable, which no one is invited to, showing up due to knowing that nobody would be rejected (Pidgeon, 2007).

Though the Easterners are wealthy, the spiritual emptiness is evident in that they are unable to relate with others well. For instance, when Nick observes the people in the bar, he says that the bar is in full swing, and the place is full of meetings of women and men who even do not know each other's name (Pidgeon,, 2007). Therefore, despite the richness, there is an emptiness that lies inside the visitors, who are unable to interact genuinely.

Depicting the society as a moral wasteland, the author reveals that most people in the community are attached to money, which makes Gatsby go to the extreme to be wealthy in an attempt to mask his emptiness, ultimately falling. Nick is a character who is not attached to wealth, which makes him successful. He already knows the life that most people in the area were leaving and claims that he cannot adapt to the preferences of the Easterners. The people in the society in the 1920s were striving to get money to achieve happiness, but the author uses these two cases to show that wealth and happiness are different things. Moreover, wealth is not a means to achieve happiness and only leads to moral deterioration.

Archetypal of Colours Depicting the Modern Society as a Moral Wasteland

Fitzgerald has also used various colours in his book to symbolize the state of the society as a moral wasteland after the world war. The Great Gatsby has the green light symbol recurring in the book. The story has a direct and an indirect way of commenting on the events in the U.S. In the first chapter, the green bulk of the U.S. rising from the ocean is compared to the green light at the end of Daisy's dock, which covers many meanings (Pidgeon, 2007). The green colour may symbolize materialism, greed for money, jealousy, and a bright future.

The green light drives Gatsby, symbolizing materialism and greed of money. The symbol shows that money is the new driving force in the current world. People strive so hard to work so that they can acquire as much money as they can but do not become content with the riches they achieve. The same reason is why Gatsby did all he could to become wealthy and use his fortunes to impress Daisy (Decker, 1994).

Another colour that has been used is yellow, which serves as an imitation of value. The two girls who had word yellow dresses seemed unnatural and were termed as fakes. In addition, yellow is the imitated colour of gold that Gatsby assumed he needed to make his dream come true. His car, which was coloured in a blend of white and yellow or gold, was not valuable due to being an imitation (Decker, 1994). Therefore, the author uses it as a depiction of the moral corrosion of the contemporary society, which is full of fake things and people.

Grey is another colour that has been used as a symbol of aging or the lack of life. It is dull and less critical. Grey has only been mentioned in connection to the valley of Ashes. The Wilsons, who live in the Valley of Ashes, are referred to as “grey” people, excluding Myrtle, who moves closer to Tom and enjoys his company (Decker, 1994). Her husband had white, grey dust that covered his dark suit, pale hair, and everything else in the environs. Fitzgerald ought to use grey in describing Wilson's garage to depict how dull his life is. Wilson's vibrant wife and experience in the valley drained him, and he is said to be as good as dead. The lack of life in the society that is symbolized by the colour is what is leading to moral corrosion.

Archetypal of Places

Fitzgerald also uses places to show the moral deterioration in the contemporary society.   One symbolic place he uses is West Egg, the place where Nick transfers to and meets Gatsby, who becomes his neighbour after he found a job in New York. West Egg can be seen as a wrong and rough place, but the explanation can be a small take. Gatsby throws parties to attract Daisy, which leads to assembling random people, including unfaithful husbands, artists, politicians, salespeople, gangsters with no noble persons, which in turn repelled Daisy (Callahan, 1996). The place is a representation of the society that is full of immoral but rich people.

Another symbolic place is the valley of ashes, which is one of the places Nick comes across as he travels from West Egg to New York. The image of a wasteland is depicted in the place where everything and everyone in the area is compared to ashes because of their poverty conditions. The place is located near the valley of ashes (Toms place) is a wasteland due to the excessive materialism wastage in the place.  For instance, five crates of oranges and lemons coming from New York every Friday and Monday, which are left to rot after the butler extracts juice., serve as a depiction of the current society, where the rich waste a lot of money and rarely care for the poor near them.


            The Great Gatsby in depicts the spiritual and physical destruction after World War I. Fitzgerald ends the story with the demise of Jay Gatsby, who is a princely figure. The cause of the fall of most people such as Gatsby, Wilson and Myrtle, who serve as a representation of the society, is materialism and human greed. Fitzgerald demonstrates through motifs and symbols that people become corrupt into the yearning for wealth since mistaking money will guarantee their happiness. The final paragraph of The Great Gatsby particularly the last line represents the views of both men. Fitzgerald has a distrust concerning the current condition of the society and a yearning for the past, which was more straightforward.


Callahan, J., 1996. F. Scott Fitzgerald's evolving American Dream: the" pursuit of happiness" in Gatsby, Tender is the Night, and The Last Tycoon. Twentieth Century Literature, 42(3), pp. 374-395.

Decker, J., 1994. Gatsby's pristine dream: The diminishment of the self-made man in the tribal twenties. In: Novel: A Forum on Fiction: Duke University Press.

Pidgeon, J., 2007. The Great Gatsby. Modern Age, 49(2), p. 78.

August 21, 2023




Subject area:

Literature Review

Number of pages


Number of words




Writer #



Expertise Literature Review
Verified writer

Tony is a caring and amazing writer who will help you with anything related to English literature. As a foreign exchange student, I received the best kind of help. Thank you so much for being there for me!

Hire Writer

This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Eliminate the stress of Research and Writing!

Hire one of our experts to create a completely original paper even in 3 hours!

Hire a Pro