The power of The Great Gatsby arises from the reader’s preconceptions of ‘The Roaring Twenties’, in that it deconstructs the typical image of the social elite and separates it into bits of shallowness, apathy, and crude excess. Though Fitzgerald could not have predicted the Depression waiting around the corner — which, in fact, adds even more drama to the reader’s interpretation of the story –, his words rip the aristocrats down from their (self-constructed) pedestals, exposing their flaws and shortcomings as a group. Unsurprisingly, the novel did not sell well, as few critiques of an era ever totally make sense while living in them! Indeed, distance in time is the X-factor that makes The Great Gatsby great.
Additionally, The Great Gatsby requires a mature reader capable of dissecting the intricate relationships between each of the characters and recognizing the frequent symbolism. Surprisingly, this made The Great Gatsby the perfect novel to assign to soldiers in World War Two: how mature a reader each soldier was did not matter; rather, since it contains so much content for discussion, it would occupy the time of any reader just as much as they desired — its short length allows for those who desire to simply take in the plot. Also, this lifestyle so opposite that of a soldier likely captured the interest of all those deployed who got their hands on it.