Like Nick in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald found this new lifestyle seductive and exciting, and, like Gatsby, he had always idolized the very rich. Now he found himself in an era in which unrestrained materialism set the tone of society, particularly in the large cities of the East. Even so, like Nick, Fitzgerald saw through the glitter of the Jazz Age to the moral emptiness and hypocrisy beneath, and part of him longed for this absent moral center. In many ways, The Great Gatsby represents Fitzgerald’s attempt to confront his conflicting feelings about the Jazz Age. Like Gatsby, Fitzgerald was driven by his love for a woman who symbolized everything he wanted, even as she led him toward everything he despised.
Scott Fitzgerald was , in his own words, “a moralist at heart.” He wanted to “preach at people,” and what he preached about most was the degeneracy of the wealthy. His concern, however, did not lie with the antisocial behaviors to which the rich are prone: acquiring their wealth through immoral means, say (Gatsby manipulates the American financial system and dies a martyr), or ignoring all plights from which they have the means to protect themselves. Like many American moralists, Fitzgerald was more offended by pleasure than by vice, and he had a tendency to confound them. In The Great Gatsby, polo and golf are more morally suspect than murder. Fitzgerald despised the rich not for their iniquity per se but for the glamour of it—for, in H. L. Mencken’s words, “their glittering swinishness.”