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American Lifestyles in the Great Gatsby

In the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jay Gatsby is a mysterious man living in the West Egg district of Long Island. Gatsby is extremely wealthy and owns a mansion with a large swimming pool, a fancy car, and dozens of servants. Every Saturday night, he throws extravagant parties which many people, most of whom haven’t even been invited, attend. No one really knows anything about Gatsby, except that he is rich and generous. However, many rumours are created about him. Some say that he was a German spy during the war and some say that he killed a man. As the summer progresses, Nick Carraway the narrator who is also Gatsby’s neighbour learns more about who Gatsby really is, or rather who he isn’t and the reasons why he lives his life as he does.

Nick doesn’t approve of Gatsby’s lifestyle and the way he earns his money, but nevertheless, he sees Gatsby as superior to those who surround him. Nick admires the romantic hope that motivates Gatsby to pursue his dreams. Jay Gatsby’s greatness is a result of his naive belief that he can make his dreams a reality. At the beginning of the novel, Nick sums up Gatsby’s character and the reasons why he respects him. “…Gatsby represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him…This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the ‘creative temperament – it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which is not likely I shall ever find again.”(6)

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Nick makes it very clear that he doesn’t agree with the way Gatsby makes and uses his money. Although Nick comes from a very wealthy family himself, he was taught to work hard for his money. Nevertheless, he does find himself admiring Gatsby. He values Gatsby’s hope, no matter how false it is, that one day he will have a life with the woman whom he loves. Wealthy people often use their money to get everything they have always wanted for themselves, but Gatsby uses his money to get everything that he thinks Daisy has always wanted in hopes of winning her back. Gatsby believes in the possibility of romance, and even though the possibility is based on shallow material realities, it is motivated by his love of Daisy.

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It is selfish in a way, but Nick is able to appreciate the romantic aspect of it and therefore, able to see Gatsby’s true greatness. Nick Carraway meets Gatsby for the first time at one of his Saturday night parties. They become friends and Gatsby begins to confide in Nick about his life. Nick learns that Gatsby’s real name is Jim Gatz. He changed it to Jay Gatsby when he was seventeen because he wasn’t happy with who he was and where he came from. However, it is from his friend Jordan Baker that Nick learns Gatsby’s biggest secret, the reason for his beautiful parties and lavish lifestyle. Five years earlier, when Gatsby was an officer in the army and about to go to war, he met and fell in love with Nick’s cousin, Daisy Fay.

Gatsby went to fight in the war and although he never stopped loving her, Daisy eventually married pompous and arrogant Tom Buchanan. When Gatsby found out that Daisy and Tom had a house on East Egg, he bought his house on West Egg so that he would be direct across the bay from her. The parties and luxuries were all used to try to impress Daisy and they were also part of his dream that he would finally win her back. Gatsby and Daisy meet when Nick invites them both over for tea at Gatsby’s request. During this time, Gatsby is just as captivated by her as he was all those years earlier.

He invites Daisy to his next party and it is there that Nick and Gatsby have a conversation about Daisy that reveals just how much he believes in his dreams. “‘I wouldn’t ask too much of her,’ I ventured. ‘You can’t repeat the past.’ ‘Can’t repeat the past?’ He cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can!’ He looked around wildly as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand. ‘I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before,’ he said nodding determinedly. ‘She’ll see.'”(116) Gatsby is convinced that he can make everything exactly as it was before Daisy married Tom and therefore, make her want to leave Tom to be with him. Unfortunately, he is sadly mistaken. At one point in the novel, Gatsby, Nick, Daisy, Tom, and Jordan Baker go to New York City together for the day, where Gatsby finally reveals his love for Daisy in front of Tom.

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He wants Daisy to admit that she never loved Tom, be she cannot do it because it would be a lie. Daisy did and maybe still does love Tom and Gatsby can see that nothing he says can change that. His dream of reliving the past is slowly deteriorating before his very eyes. Gatsby and Daisy do, however, leave New York City to go home together with Daisy driving his car. As they are speeding away, she accidentally hits a young woman who runs out into the road.

Ironically, the woman is Myrtle Wilson, with whom Tom has been having a love affair. She is killed and Gatsby decided that he will take the blame to protect Daisy. It is his final act of love toward her because the next day, Wilson finds Gatsby lounging in his pool and shoots him in the head, killing him. It was Gatsby’s naive hope for love that kept him alive, but also that killed him in the end. His dream of eternal love made him superior to others, but as Gatsby proved, even great men can be destroyed.

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American Lifestyles in the Great Gatsby. (2021, Feb 28). Retrieved December 1, 2022, from