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The Artistry of James Gatz in the Great Gatsby

During The Great Gatsby, it is apparent that the author F. Scott Fitzgerald hints countless times of the recurring theme in the novel, “unreal” or “illusory” things. More specifically, he links this concept of unreality to his main character Jay Gatsby. Gatsby has conjured up his opulent lifestyle out of ambition and desire for a woman. This woman is Daisy Buchanan, his long-lost love of many years. Gatsby as a young lieutenant tried to woo Daisy but was unsuccessful because of two separate theories.

Reality: he wasn’t in the same wealthy social class Daisy was from (she was old money and Gatsby at that point was no money). Or the unreality: he had to go off and fight in the war and lost contact with her, which is the theory Gatsby himself must like to have believed in. However, to make sure the “reality” theory wasn’t genuine, Gatsby pursued the American dream. The dream many have to make uncountable amounts of money in a short period of time. By pursuing this American dream and also Daisy, he unknowingly created himself as an illusion, something made just for show in order to acquire something. Gatsby’s goals are tainted by unreality, and later is the trigger to his unfortunate decease.

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Fitzgerald has blatantly hinted to the reader that Gatsby’s pursuit of Daisy after the war could be labelled as a structured plan, “but now he found that he had committed to the following of the grail (156).” The author deliberately put that line in the story to show that Gatsby’s mission for Daisy is nothing but a mid-evil crusade. There are many ideas Gatsby attempts to execute to try to harness this “grail”. Gatsby purposely bought a mansion in West Egg right across the bay from Daisy’s house. Also, he gets Jordan Baker to ask Nick (the narrator) to invite Daisy to his house for tea. This is done to make it more convenient for Gatsby to “inadvertently” meet the woman he has loved for so long. Daisy’s meeting with Gatsby is very indistinguishable from the start. They meet and as Nick explains:

“For half a minute there wasn’t a sound. Then from the living room, I heard sort of a choking murmur and part of a laugh followed by Daisy’s voice on a clear artificial note ‘I certainly am awfully glad to see you again. A pause; it endured horribly. I had nothing to do in the hall so I went into the room (91).”

Gatsby’s expectations of their first meeting were most likely for it to resemble a fairytale. With Gatsby’s mindset, he probably thought Daisy would immediately fall into his arms and declare her love for him. Instead, his illusion is flawed, and the grail ceased to be obtained, for now anyway. Gatsby’s second notion is to make everything like the past, to basically relive it. As he tells Nick, “I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before, she’ll see (116).” He was taken in by Daisy the first time they ever met. What Gatsby fails to realize is time has changed, and so has she and the life she lives. As the “un-biased” narrator also put it, “you can’t relive the past (116).”

Gatsby’s pursuit of the American dream can also be described as illusory. He does it all so he can finally be of the same social class as Daisy, the one thing he was missing back when they first met. He raised his fortune illegally by selling alcohol out of drug stores during the time of prohibition. All the money he has can be labelled as “fake” money. Gatsby through his dreaming has turned into a whole different person from who he was. A prime example of this is how he was born to the name of James Gatz. He changed his name to Jay Gatsby to assume a new identity, to be the wealthy man with the girl of his dreams. He got engulfed by the American dream and spit out, Daisy finally rejects him and all hope is lost. He hits rock bottom and finally starts to wake from this illusionary world he has been living in for quite some time:

“If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dream-like air, drifted fortuitously about…. like that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees (169).”

Without Daisy his dream world does not exist, he needs her love to be satisfied. Such a harsh awakening for a man with such high hopes and dreams, which all have been shattered by his ignorance.

Gatsby led a life of illusions ever since he abandoned James Gatz. False dreams of reliving the past and fake dreams of riches bringing happiness got the best of Jay Gatsby. He lived most of his life trying to attain Daisy, but because there was no actuality in his thoughts, he failed. Daisy was the most significant person in his life, he priced her with too much worth because he never really had her. All he really wanted was an existent fantasy world with him as king and Daisy as queen. Everything Gatsby represented was destroyed without the final piece to the puzzle. It was very convenient for Gatsby that he was shot after those final demoralizing moments of his life. His soul was already dead before he finally opened up his eyes.

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The Artistry of James Gatz in the Great Gatsby. (2021, Feb 28). Retrieved July 9, 2021, from