I AM ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED that The Great Gatsby (1925) is one of the finest pieces of American literature. It is such because F. Scott Fitzgerald has displayed not only insight into the American psyche but also a magnificent grasp of "The American Dream" which Jay Gatsby represents. Much of America was settled by people who brought with them the doctrines of John Calvin. The Calvinist belief with which we are most concerned today is the "Doctrine of the Elect" that essentially proposes that mankind is doomed to eternal damnation, for it is burdened with original sin. Calvin held out no hope that man could be saved; as a matter of fact, he thought it impossible except for those few whom God had predetermined would be spared. This group, whose identity was known only to God, was called "The Elect." Calvin suggested that a member of The Elect could be "dropped" by God if he failed to live a proper life of hard work and atonement, hoping that, if he should be one of the Elect, he would not lose this station. When the Puritans settled in America, they brought with them these
beliefs, and as time passed became more and more obsessed with learning
who the Elect really were, despite the fact that they had been taught
that this was impossible. In looking for a sign, they came to believe
that the possession of material things might be an indication, since it
was likely that one who had such objects must have worked and prayed
hard and long. Of course, it is often true that those who do work hard
frequently amass a considerable number of material things. Since hard
work was associated with God, and since hard work often resulted in
wealth, it was not long before these two things became associated.
Wealth came to be a sign of goodness, since it indicated membership in
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Nice summary of basic ideas and major themes in The Great Gatsby. Nothing new or especially insightful; still, the author expresses with clarity and understanding why the novel is truly one of the great masterpieces of American literature.