When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, he designed within the novel's elegant prose a suppressed meaning, one that has been overlooked in critical discourse since the book's publication in 1925. Initially, The Great Gatsby was believed to be a period piece set in a decadent “Roaring Twenties” that glorified adultery, alcohol, and wealth. From the 1940s on, its themes were defined as more universal and timeless, emphasizing the gap between romance and reality and the illusory nature of the American Dream. Although critics for the past twenty-five years or so have refocused on period concerns, with the exception of the work of James H. Meredith, Keith Gandal, and a handful of others, the military background of the plot has been taken for granted. This article argues that swimming beneath the surface story of Jay Gatsby's pursuit of the golden girl lies a complex pattern of language and imagery that suggests a different central message behind the novel, one that offers a new way of understanding the evasions of narrator Nick Carraway that have long been debated. As this article demonstrates, The Great Gatsby contains multiple layers of commentary, all related to a single world-altering event: The Great War and the suffering of the soldiers who fought it.

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