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Exploring Reality in the Great Gatsby

In Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby is one who follows his dreams as though they are real. He strives to construct his own perfect world. He builds his life of wealth and luxury in hopes of attracting an old love interest, Daisy. Gatsby’s power accrues and eventually creates his own destruction. In Gatsby’s world, little is actually reality. Everything about Gatsby is fake: his name, his past, his money, his friends, his ideas and his house. “For a while, these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing” (105). He can not see the fine line between reality and fantasy. His mansion is the center of all that is fake where there is little that is unaffected.

When Nick, Daisy’s cousin, observes Gatsby’s parties, he notices that Gatsby himself has little to do with his guests. Is this because he is a poor host? No. Gatsby’s guests come for the party. Since it is during the period of prohibition, Gatsby’s a bootlegger and his house is one of many places which people can obtain alcohol. He continues to throw elegant, expensive parties, in which he observes the gayety in hopes that one day Daisy will appear. Week after week he waits for her. He has spent the past five years creating a life to which he thinks Daisy will be attracted.

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Previously, Gatsby’s mentor, Dan Cody, introduced him to a world of wealth. “The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God- a phrase which, if it means anything, means just- and he must be about His Father’s Business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty” (104). He spied Cody’s yacht out on Lake Superior when he was seventeen. Gatsby rowed out to the massive boat and Cody questioned him. Cody was impressed with Gatsby’s striking personality. Cody then hired Gatsby to work on the ship, which was where they became good friends. “He was employed in a vague personal capacity – while he remained with Cody he was in run steward, mate, skipper, secretary and even jailor” (106). When Cody died, Gatsby was supposed to inherit twenty-five thousand dollars of Cody’s millions, but the money was snatched up by Cody’s lover, Ella Kaye.

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Regardless, he had a taste of money and the idea of what money can bring. After Gatsby’s escapade with Cody, he encounters a beautiful young woman while en route to a military post across seas. The lady, Daisy Fay, was extremely wealthy. Gatsby seemed out of place when he was with her, yet he had a passionate attraction to Daisy. At the time, Gatsby was a “penniless young man without a past” (156). “Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor” (157). After going off to war and being away from daisy for years, he realizes and decides that he could use wealth to win over Daisy who seems to be a grail in his eyes. Gatsby uses bootlegging alcohol, a lucrative business, to bring forth money, wealth and power. Over the years, Gatsby obtains the money which allows him to increase his power and control over his life. This power and control is god-like. Only God has these extremes. Gatsby feels that he can change life to how he wishes. If he creates the perfect place, Daisy will never want to leave.

Eventually, he does draw Daisy to his house with help from Nick. She is like all the other people who flock there each week, careless and phony. For the most part, all are affected persons with contrived personalities and no true ambitions or emotions. All Daisy cares about is money and material objects. For instance, when Gatsby gives her a tour of his house, she is amazed by his shirts. They signify his wealth to such a degree that they make her cry. She had the opportunity when she was young to be with Gatsby for the rest of her life, but because he was poor she chose to marry Tom Buchanan, who was and is now very wealthy. Now she realizes what she could have if she married Gatsby and it brings her to tears. She is torn between Gatsby and Tom. Daisy loves both men and they are both wealthy, thus she is in a bind. Gatsby strives to make his home have an atmosphere that fits Daisy’s taste so he can win her over. Therefore, his house has a surreal aura.

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Gatsby’s love for is Daisy is immense and his life is constantly changing because of her. For example, when Gatsby gives Daisy and Nick a tour of his house, Nick noticed, “[Gatsby] revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from [Daisy’s] well-loved eyes” (96-97). Gatsby does everything he can to obtain his sought-after goal. Though he fails to separate her from Tom forever, he never loses his hope that she will come back to him. After the fight for Daisy, between Tom and Gatsby, she is driving Gatsby back to her home, when she spots Myrtle Wilson, Tom’s mistress, and hits her with the car. Myrtle dies on impact while Gatsby and Daisy flee the scene.

Upon arrival at the Buchannan’s, Gatsby hides outside her house waiting for her. Nick is leaving when he notices, “I walked away and left him standing there in the moonlight—watching over nothing.” Meanwhile, inside the mansion, Tom and Daisy are conspiring. They decide to leave town, place all the blame on Gatsby and let him take the fall. The next day Gatsby is murdered by Myrtle’s husband. It’s ironic how Gatsby’s corruption doesn’t lead him to death, but it is his idealism for Daisy, a femme fatal, that kills him.

Gatsby’s life is full of wealth and material objects. But, it is not real. Gatsby strives to create a perfect world where he and Daisy can live happily ever after. This creates a fakeness that can be easily attached to Gatsby. But Gatsby actually has one pervading quality, which dignifies his true character. The sole place where there is a reality in Gatsby is in his aspirations and hope for love. Nick observes,

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[I]t was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which is likely I shall ever find again. No—Gatsby turned out alright in the end; it was what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men. (6-7)

He is a romantic hero and a love-seeker. While Nick is discussing his dislike to all which is phony in New York, he notes, “Only Gatsby…was exempt from my reaction—Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn…there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away” (6). Reality lies in the heart of Gatsby, the aspirations of his soul. The lone reason Gatsby is appealing in Nick’s eyes is that Gatsby is a romantic hero.

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Exploring Reality in the Great Gatsby. (2021, Feb 28). Retrieved March 24, 2023, from