This short story has several themes running throughout. However, the reader soon learns that the central theme Fitgerald wished to display was that too much money and material goods causes a person to lose their sense of reality and morality. This is made evident through various events that take place is the story. For example, it is the diamond itself that has caused the Washingtons to isolate themselves in the hills of Montana. They wish to preserve the mine for themselves and live their lives in solitary in the hills. In addition, their sense of morality is entirely lost, as they either kill or cage everybody that enters the property, even if someone just accidentally stumbles upon the land. The Washintons will even go to the extent of inviting friends to the home, having fun for the summer, and then killing them at the end of their stay so that they can not report what they have seen. This moral decay continues until the very end, even when the Washington's have been discovered. Instead of praying to God, or even pleading, Braddock tries to bribe God with diamonds to save his wealth. Needless to say, his bribe is rejected, and the mountain is destroyed. Fitzgerald's lesson was clear: if you become too obsessed with material wealth, the decay of morality will soon follow.
Fitzgerald makes his story come alive with detailed descriptions of the environment and the characters. Although his style is very simplistic, and he doesn't use a lot of sophisticated vocabulary, his figurative language gives the story a sophisticated sound. For example, similies appear on almost every page: "The Montana sunset lay between two mountains like a gigantic bruise from which dark arteries spread themselves over a poisoned sky." His metaphors provide effective descriptions as well: "Percy's mouth was a half-moon of scorn." From the figurative language, the readers are able to grasp a feel of what it would be like to be in the shoes of John T. Unger.
Through the intricate use of symbols by Fitzgerald, the readers are also able to sense the theme in the story. For instance, there is a lot of symbolism in the names Fitzgerald assigns to his characters, cities, and places. From the beginning, we learn that John is from the town of Hades. Hades was the mythical god who guarded the gates of hell. With this in mind, the readers form an immediate connection of the story to hell. This name is also very symbolic of the decline of morality in the story. In addition, John attends St. Midas school. Midas, on the other hand, was the god who turned everything to gold by the touch of his hand. In the end of his story, his life is destroyed as a result of his obsession with gold. It is appropriate that St. Midas would be the place where John would first encounter Percy Washington because not only is it symbolic of the Washington's wealth, it also foreshadows the ultimate destruction of the Washington mansion. The name Washington is also symbolic of the attitudes of the author. Mr. Washington mentions that he is a direct decendant of President George Washington. This may indicate that Fitzgerald feels even our nation was build on corruption and also was conceived from the hands of wealth.