Jay Gatsby, the protagonist of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, is used to contrast a real American dreamer against what had become of American society during the 1920's. By magnifying the tragic fate of dreamers, conveying that twenties America lacked the substance to fulfill dreams and exposing the shallowness of Jazz-Age Americans, Fitzgerald foreshadows the destruction of his own generation.
The beauty and splendor of Gatsby's parties masked the innate corruption within the heart of the Roaring Twenties. Jazz-Age society was a bankrupt world, devoid of morality, and plagued by a crisis of character. Jay Gatsby is a misfit in this world. He tries, ironically, to fit into the picture: he fills his garage with status, his closet with fashion, his lawns with gaiety, his mannerisms with affectation. However, he would never be one of "them". Ironically, his loss seems to Nick Caraway to be his greatest asset. Nick reflects that Gatsby's drive, lofty goals, and, most importantly, dreams set him apart from this empty society. Fitzgerald effectively contrasts the dreamer, Jay Gatsby, against a world referred to by Gertrude Stein as the "Lost Generation", and by T.S. Eliot as "The Wasteland".
Since America has always held its entrepreneurs in the highest regard, brandishing them with praise and mounting the most successful on the highest pedestals, it is almost automatic to predict that Fitzgerald would support this heroic vision of the American Dreamer within his novel. However, to enforce the societal corruption evident in the twenties, Fitzgerald contradicts the notion of the successful dreamer by indicating, instead, that dreamers during this era led the most ill-fated lives of all. Dan Cody exemplifies the destruction of the dreamer. Cody is a miner, "a product of the Nevada silver fields, of the Yukon, of every rush for metal since seventy-five." He becomes a millionaire through hard work, ambition and a little bit of luck. Yet, it is his fate to die alone, drunk, and betrayed. Through Dan Cody, Fitzgerald shows how twenties society treats their dreamers; it manipulates them, uses them for money, and then, forgets them.
This pattern plays through again through Gatsby. A child growing up in a nameless town in the middle of Minnesota, Gatsby dreams the impossible and achieves it. He sets out methodically, with a list of "General Resolves: Study electricity, baseball, practice elocution and how to attain it. . . " And after less than two decades, he is one of the richest men in New York. Yet, Gatsby, too, was just another tool used for the fun of society. He was never truly a member of this society. At his own parties, ". . . Girls were swooning backward playfully into men's arms, even into groups, knowing that someone would arrest their falls - - - but no one swooned backward on Gatsby, and no French bob touched Gatsby's shoulder, and no singing quartets were formed with Gatsby's head for a link." His home was full...