Jay Gatsby, the eponymous hero of The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald, is a flawed but admirable character. Fitzgerald’s use of narrative technique, structure, symbolism, and characterization effectively convey Gatsby’s admirable qualities of loyalty, hope and determination whilst also making us aware of his tragic flaw, which leads to his demise. Gatsby’s main flaw is his inability to see reality, which fails in his dream. Throughout the novel, Gatsby’s character embodies the ideals of the American Dream, and the destruction of his dream symbolizes the corruption of the American Dream.
The narrative technique created by Fitzgerald makes us aware of Gatsby’s admirable qualities and, subsequently, his flaw. He employs the use of a first-person narrator called Nick Carraway. It is through Nick’s observations and consciousness that we interpret the character of Gatsby. Nick introduces Gatsby as “exempt from my reaction – Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn,” which immediately influences our judgement as Gatsby being someone special whom Nick makes exceptions to his normal contempt. Nick admires his “extraordinary gift for hope,” which emphasizes Gatsby’s optimism and diligence to his dream that becomes apparent throughout the course of the novel. The reader is made aware that Nick blames “what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams” for the events of the summer of 1922 and not Gatsby for his tragic downfall. Nick’s choice of words “preyed” and “foul” suggests he feels that Gatsby fell victim to the immoral, decadent people who surrounded Gatsby and destroyed his dream.
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Nick reinforces his admiration of Gatsby in the closing lines of the novel, where he marvels at Gatsby’s unwavering faith: “Gatsby believed in the green light,” which highlights his devotion to following his dreams. Thus Fitzgerald effectively uses a narrative technique to shape our opinion of Gatsby and particularly convey his admirable qualities. Structurally, Fitzgerald builds a sense of mystery and tension surrounding Gatsby and his background. Our first glimpse of Gatsby is at the end of Chapter 1, where Nick sees Gatsby as a lonely figure who “stretched out his arms towards the dark water” and a “green light.” As the novel progresses, we find out that the green light Gatsby enigmatically reaches for is Daisy’s dock across the water. The significance of the green light is shown to be Gatsby’s dream of recreating the past and reigniting his romance with Daisy. Nick observes that Gatsby was “trembling,” which emphasizes the determination and magnitude of his desire.
We admire Gatsby’s motivation and dogged devotion to achieving his dream, and it is clear that the green light comes to symbolize the ideals of the American Dream. As the narrative progresses, rumours and speculation build about Gatsby and his wealth, effectively creating narrative tension as the reader anticipates the introduction of this mysterious character in Chapter 3. As we learn about Gatsby’s dream, we are also made aware of Gatsby’s main flaw – his inability to see reality. Nick admires Gatsby’s “romantic readiness,” yet this personality trait leads to his demise. Gatsby’s persistent faith in achieving his dream of Daisy is an obsession that he fails to relinquish even when it is clear that his dream is over and Daisy will not leave her husband. After the confrontation in the Plaza Hotel, where Tom has exposed Gatsby’s inferior status and criminal connections, it becomes clear to the reader that Daisy has rejected Gatsby and is returning to Tom.
Daisy is described as “drawing further and further into herself” as Gatsby desperately tries to cling to the remnants of their affair until eventually calling on Tom to rescue her – “Please, Tom! I can’t stand this anymore.” It is apparent that the affair is over, yet Gatsby fails to give up hope creating a sense of sympathy for the man who gave up everything to achieve this dream. Although this character flaw leads to his demise, Gatsby remains admirable as he never gives up what he believes to be his true love. Consequently, Gatsby dies because he blames Daisy’s carelessness and remains faithful to her until the end. After the confrontation, it is clear that Gatsby’s dream is over, and Nick observes “only the dead dream fought on,” emphasizing Gatsby’s struggle to keep his hopes alive. Subsequently, Gatsby fails to realize that the affair is over and keeps vigil outside Daisy’s window. However, it is clear to the reader that his actions are futile as Nick closes the chapter telling us that Gatsby was left a lonely, isolated figure “watching over nothing”.
Gatsby’s last sight of Daisy was of her standing at the window for a minute before she “turned out the light.” This symbolizes the fact that she has thrown his dreams into darkness. A great sense of sympathy is created for Gatsby here as this reflected our first glimpse of him when he was seen alone reaching for the green light – ever hopeful. Tragically it is this dedication and loyalty to Daisy which bring about this downfall. Although Gatsby failed to see that his dream of Daisy was unfeasible due to the social divide, his character remains worthy of respect due to his hard work and determination. Gatsby realizes that great wealth alone is not enough to obtain Daisy and completely reinvents himself to break the social barrier to access her world. He builds an illusion of an eccentric aristocrat by adopting affected phrases such as ‘old sport,’ dressing in imported English shirts and living in a “factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy”.
The fact that his house is an imitation accentuates the artificiality of his whole life, which he has created with the sole purpose of capturing Daisy’s heart. He also throws large parties where “cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive,” conveying the sheer quantity of high society guests arriving from the city. Gatsby hosts these extravagant parties to raise his social status and hopes that Daisy will come, yet fails to see that his dream is unfeasible. This builds a sense of sympathy for Gatsby as he is prepared to completely discard his identity to achieve his dream of Daisy, who proves to be unworthy of such a sacrifice.
Therefore the eponymous hero in F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was a flawed character who remained admirably until the end. Through the narrator’s eyes, we are influenced to admire Gatsby’s dedication to his dream of happiness and love, which in turn led to his downfall. Gatsby’s dream was corrupted by pretentiousness and material, yet he failed to realize the impossibility of his desires and died, a tragic hero, as a result. The failure of Gatsby’s dream suggests that the American Dream, in general, has been corrupted by greed and materialism.