The title of the novel first of all makes it clear that the book will focus on Gatsby as a character. The use of the adjective ‘great’ is interesting to consider and contains multiple layers of meaning in the context of the story, depending on how we interpret the character of Jay Gatsby.
At first, we may suspect that ‘great’ is meant in the traditional sense - Gatsby is a wealthy man who throws popular parties and seems to have made a name for himself. We also learn that he is a self-made man, which is often said to be the American ideal. At first he therefore seems like the perfect example of a great American.
However, it is later revealed that ‘great’ might instead be meant ironically, as it turns out Gatsby is not all he appears to be - for example, he is not part of an aristocratic family and even though he is self-made, most of his wealth turns out to have come from highly questionable, criminal sources.
Finally, we may note that Nick’s ultimate judgment of Gatsby may reveal that there is some greatness in him after all. Despite his criminal activities, he still comes across as a more honest and somehow innocent character than the ‘East Egg’-crowd of Tom, Daisy and Jordan, who seem to care about nothing at all and who feel no genuine affection for anyone. This seems to be the message Nick delivers through the final words he speaks to Gatsby: “‘They’re a rotten crowd, [...] ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.’” (p. 146).
Nick also foreshadows this positive judgment of Gatsby’s character in the introduction to the novel: “Gatsby turned out all right at the end.” (p. 8).
Fitzgerald opens the novel by introducing the reader to his narrator, Nick Carraway. By having Nick explain some of his life stories, Fitzgerald establishes a sense of trust in the narrator, and ...