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Rated: 13+ · Essay · Romance/Love · #2043223
A research project from English on banned books. I chose The Great Gatsby.
“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had,’” (Fitzgerald 5). These words are the first thing readers encounter in The Great Gatsby, and this quote flawlessly begins the novel. However, this American classic and major literature influence has been challenged on the grounds of sexual content and language. Perhaps some readers have overthought these aspects of the story, but the book is still considered banned, despite being written into many high school English curriculums. The Great Gatsby should not be banned because the novel has too many significant historical elements and literary merit.
In relation to The Great Gatsby’s challenge, many different types of people challenge books for a multitude of reasons. Readers can challenge a book, which is an attempt to remove or restrict a material while a ban is the removal of such materials (About Banned And). Some challengers are parents who do not want their children reading difficult life matters while others disagree with the content that may be used. Challengers tend to state their opinion as fact as if to strengthen their argument against a material. According to the American Library Association, over six thousand challenges have been reported between 1990 and 2000, and seventy one percent of those challenges were materials in schools and their libraries (Schools and Censorship). It would be reasonable to think those challenges were reported by parents.
The Great Gatsby was first challenged at the Baptist College in Charleston, South Carolina in 1987 even though the novel was being used at the college level. The ‘inappropriate’ language used within the book was much milder than today’s language, and it was incorporated for characterization purposes. Also, the sexual references made were not explicit (Banned Books Awareness). The Great Gatsby commonly receives challenges from religious schools, and it is possible teachers don’t want to use a book with immoral behavior and slightly risqué language (Challenged Book: The).
However, The Great Gatsby carries so much overall importance as an American classic and an impact on literature that it cannot be banned. Despite receiving hardly any attention and horrible reviews at first, The Great Gatsby did not become a successful novel until after the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, died in 1940. Ruth Snyder wrote in 1925 for New York Evening World, “In ‘The Great Gatsby’ Mr. Fitzgerald has made a valiant effort to be ironical. His style is painfully forced. We are quite convinced after reading ‘The Great Gatsby’ that Mr. Fitzgerald is not one of the great American writers of today,” (Newspaper Alum). The novel did receive some good reviews at first, but the majority were rather vicious.
The Great Gatsby is an American classic because it is considered the most American of stories, and it remains relevant even after one hundred years after its publication (Donahue). It also has themes that were unique to literature at the time, and Fitzgerald added more meaning of pursuing the American Dream (Donahue). Literature in the twentieth century was not nearly as bold in terms of themes as The Great Gatsby was. The book did not fail to show readers how America was in the Twenties’.
Relating to the Twenties’, Prohibition and the American Dream were taking over America, and they were the foundation of The Great Gatsby. A ban on the novel could take that part of history, used in a real life situation, away from future readers. In 1830, American males aged fifteen and older, drank, on average, eighty eight bottles of whiskey a year which is about three times what people drink nowadays. Prohibition banned alcohol manufacturing, selling, and consuming, making millionaires out of those brave enough to produce and sell it illegally. The book heavily implies that Jay Gatsby made his millions with gangster, Meyer Wolfsheim, by selling over-the-counter alcohol beverages in drug stores (Avey). Prohibition was the cause of the Roaring Twenties’ and the demise of the American Dream. The American Dream was the idea that one could be a success by working hard enough, despite family social status. Although Gatsby is just a fictional character, he was the idea of a self-made success even though his parents were dirt poor farmers in the mid-west (The Demise Of). Gatsby was essentially the corrupted and uncorrupted American Dream. He was a success only because he made his money illegally. Gatsby thought of money as the solution to all of his problems (The LitCharts Study). Readers may not catch these historical elements at first, but looking back on the book, readers will have a better understanding of how times were in the Twenties’. If The Great Gatsby were to be banned, these applications of critical American history would be robbed from future readers.
Similarly to the American Dream, Gatsby portrays the self-made success while most of the other characters in the book were born into family wealth. Fitzgerald wrote historical themes like Prohibition and the American Dream into The Great Gatsby, but the book had other underlying themes. For example, Gatsby is haunted by the past while Nick is troubled by what the future will bring, so there is a past and future element to be accounted for. (The LitCharts Study). This theme is present when Nick informs Gatsby that he cannot repeat the past, “’I wouldn’t ask too much of her,’ I ventured. ‘You can’t repeat the past. ‘Can’t repeat the past?’ He cried. ‘Why of course you can!’” (Fitzgerald 116). Gatsby dreamt of reliving his past and winning the girl of his dreams with his bank account, but Nick saw the reality side of Gatsby’s dream. On the contrary, Nick, on his thirtieth birthday, says, “Thirty—the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair,” (Fitzgerald 143). Time, past or future, effects the characters and how they perceive their life. Gatsby cannot look forward in his life while Nick does not want to know what his future will bring.
Gatsby, the cliché self-made success, is still worthless to others in the high-ranking social class. Within the high class is two categories: the old wealth and the new wealth (The LitCharts Study). The idea of separate high wealth classes causes a roar in the book’s main plot. Newly wealthy people were essentially frowned upon by the family wealth heirs. Tom Buchanan, an old wealth heir, discriminates against Jay Gatsby because he made his fortune himself and did not have to rely on family wealth to get where he is (The LitCharts Study). Tom also makes a point in proving that Gatsby illegally made his money, using Prohibition to his advantage (Avey). Perhaps, Tom was threatened by Gatsby’s success, but that’s for the reader to ponder. The many themes within The Great Gatsby play a big role, and readers should not be denied the opportunity to discover the literary value of the novel.
Fitzgerald used critical themes, but he expertly added symbolism to The Great Gatsby. To represent the separation of high class, he used East and West Egg. East Egg represents old money while West represents new. Fitzgerald wrote the Buchanan’s on the East and Gatsby on the left (Sparknotes). The East does not just represent old money, but also moral and social decay as East Egg is connected to the Valley of Ashes where many poor people live. Like the East, the West represents many things as well (The LitCharts Study). The West is the symbol of new money such as the West Coast and how people were moving to the West from the East. Between New York City and East Egg, the Valley of Ashes represents decay and a wasteland, dumping ground (The LitCharts Study). The symbolic geography element of The Great Gatsby helps readers understand the different social classes and how Fitzgerald wanted to portray them.
Along with geographic symbolism, Fitzgerald incorporated physical items as symbols. Gatsby wanted to relive the past and make the present day perfect for his love, Daisy. He became rich just for her and bought mansion on West Egg. The Gatsby Mansion is the epitome of symbols in the novel. His mansion is the physical symbol of his infatuous love for Daisy. His house also could be seen as a symbol for the emptiness of the Twenties’ because he lives alone, but he states that he keeps it full of ‘celebrated’ people (Examples Of The). However, in the end, Gatsby died alone with no one who cared enough to attend his funeral. Another physical symbol Fitzgerald incorporated was the Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Eyes that hang over the Valley of Ashes. The ‘eyes’ are an advertisement on an old, wooden billboard, but the residents of the Valley of Ashes see it as God watching down on them and judging them for their sins (Sparknotes). The residents probably realize the sign is simply an advertisement for an oculist, but it means much more to them. The Great Gatsby’s symbolism more clearly demonstrates to the reader all of the important elements in the story.
Fitzgerald also had a magical way of making colors symbolic to the novel and to the reader’s overall experience with it. Colors like green and gold represent the monetary side of the story. Daisy Buchanan’s green light at the end of her dock represents hope and something forbidden to Gatsby. Green represents new money, and gold represents old money (Examples Of The). These colors are logical in relation to the book’s theme because money is usually thought of as green, and gold is also considered as an expensive color. White, a typically cooling color, is worn by most of the rich characters in The Great Gatsby while the opposite, an ash gray tone and other dark colors are tied to the poorer characters (Examples Of The). The use of colors by Fitzgerald gives the reader a categorical effect in context of social class, and colors also symbolize many different things within the story.
The Great Gatsby is appropriate to use in high school and greater education levels. The use of language and slight sexual references are used merely for characterization and are not more explicit than everyday language. This novel is a master piece with its many themes, historical references, and perfect symbolism. The Great Gatsby should not be taken away from students merely because it features slightly risqué language. The past ban should not be repeated again because Gatsby lived in the past and did not move forward. Nick concludes the novel by stating: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” (Fitzgerald 198).

Works Cited
"About Banned & Challenged Books." About Banned & Challenged Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Avey, Tori. "The Great Gatsby, Prohibition, and Fitzgerald." PBS. PBS, 14 May 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
"Banned Books Awareness:" Banned Books Awareness. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
"Challenged Book: The Great Gatsby." This Aint Livin. N.p., 15 June 2011. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
"The Demise of the 1920s American Dream in The Great Gatsby." The Demise of the 1920s American Dream in The Great Gatsby. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
Donahue, Deirdre. "Five Reasons 'Gatsby' Is the Great American Novel." USA Today. Gannett, 07 May 2013. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.
"Examples of the Symbolism of Colors in "The Great Gatsby" | The Classroom | Synonym." The Classroom. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York, NY: Scribner, 1996. Print.
"The LitCharts Study Guide to The Great Gatsby." LitCharts. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.
"NewspaperAlum." 'NewspaperAlum' N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
Quora. "What Influence Did The Great Gatsby Have on American Literature?" The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
"Schools and Censorship: Banned Books." Schools and Censorship: Banned Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.
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