10 Life Lessons From The Great Gatsby



The Great Gatsby is one of the greatest stories from the Roaring Twenties. Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jay Gatsby’s story of societal acceptance and romance is a classic for a reason: the great writing combined with a group of characters that stay with the reader or viewer a long time after the story ends. This explains the effect it has on people even almost 100 years after the novel was released.

There have been four adaptations of this story, and two of them became incredibly well-known. The 1974 version of the story starring Robert Redford as Gatsby and Mia Farrow as Daisy. And a more modern version, directed by Baz Luhrmann, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan.

Regardless of which adaptation is playing, the story has some core life lessons that surpass the passage of time. Here are ten life lessons from The Great Gatsby.

10 Don’t Fall For Your Vices

The Great Gatsby
Paramount Pictures

Drinking and using drugs are a central part of the parties that the characters attend multiple times in the story. There’s an underlying message about falling for your vices, which can include feeling seen and belonging. Nick falls into a slumber when he begins to party non-stop until the character comes back to himself and stops. Most of the other characters are so engrossed in feeling like they belong that their appearance and status become a vice.

9 Search For True Connections

The Great Gatsby book from the banned book
Warner Bros. Pictures

Even though Gatsby’s parties were the most popular, and everyone wanted to be invited, he died alone, apart from his only friend, Nick. There’s no point in living a life fueled with people who, when it really matters don’t care about you.

A majority of his guests didn’t even know who the mysterious Gatsby was — and they didn’t care, as long as the champagne kept flowing and the dance floor kept open. There’s a clear message about seeking the company of those who truly care about you, and even if it didn’t last long, Gatsby was able to find one true friend.

8 Your Past Doesn’t Define You

The Great Gatsby
Paramount Pictures

Gatsby decided that he wouldn’t allow his past to get in the way of his future. While he did get lost on the journey, he is an example of a character that took his life into his own hands. He taught Nick Carraway a lot about this by sharing his story of how he became the man that he is. One of the big lessons on the story is that you have agency over where you want to go and who you want to become.

7 Passion Can Be a Dangerous Thing

Warner Bros. Pictures

While Daisy and Gatsby’s love story has moved generations, it was also the reason for the character’s demise. Gatbsy revolved his whole life around a moment in time and the feeling of being in love until it consumed him completely.

It’s a cautionary tale about passion and how easily it can turn into an unhealthy obsession. Jay is obsessed with the past, and even utters one of his most famous lines, “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!”

6 Live Life For Yourself

The Great Gatsby
Paramount Pictures

One of Gatsby’s biggest flaws is that he lived his whole life thinking about how others perceive him. He did have goals, but they were intrinsically correlated with how he was going to be accepted by others or loved by Daisy. If he had lived a life for himself, he would have been a much happier man and most likely wouldn’t have the lonely ending he did.

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This also applies to Daisy: if she had taken her life into her own hands and done what made her happy, regardless of others, she probably wouldn’t be in an unhappy marriage.

5 Don’t Take Assumptions As Facts

One of Gatsby's epic parties
Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s a huge portion of this story is about what people assume about others around them. This leads to many complications, stranded relationships, and even death. The characters keep making assumptions about each other, creating conflict and illusions about reality. There’s a deeper lesson in this: to not allow what you think could happen to cloud your judgment to be able to see what truly happened and who people really are.

4 Be Enough on Your Own

The Great Gatsby
Paramount Pictures

A great message for all the characters in this story is to be enough without anyone or anything around them. The constant need for others or material things is not healthy and continues to be a current message even after almost 100 years since the story was written. If Gatsby had felt like he was enough, he wouldn’t have searched his whole life for the approval of others.

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3 Don’t Judge The People Around You

The Great Gatsby
Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s a lot of judgment in this story: about family wealth and social status, relationships, etc. From the very opening line, Nick says what his father always told him, “’Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’”

Daisy appears to be shallow and unaware of her surroundings, only for her to utter the line about her child, “I hope she’ll be a fool. That’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” It’s a reminder that judging others by their appearance or social status only leads to deception and does not, in any way, reflect who they really are.

2 Money Can’t Buy Everything

The Great Gatsby
Paramount Pictures

Jay Gatsby spent years having expensive and luxurious parties to entertain his guests and, most importantly, get Daisy’s attention. However, even if he was the richest of all because he was what they considered “new money,” it wasn’t enough to gain their respect or friendship.

There’s a moral in Jay’s story specifically: money can’t buy true connections or happiness, which was almost a direct contradiction to the idea of the American dream.

1 The American Dream Is Not Real

Leonardo DiCaprio toasting a drink in the movie Great Gatsby
Warner Bros. Pictures

The biggest take from the novel is that the idea of the American dream is nothing but a façade and doesn’t apply to everyone. The story was written at a time when this was a great source of motivation for many, but while a few did succeed, many didn’t.

The American dream was incredibly popular at the time and continued for a few decades. Fitzgerald shows how frail this ideal is and how unfair the world really is, and that, unfortunately, sometimes, good people don’t get their happily ever after.

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