The Tragic Great Gatsby The American dream, many writers have written about it. Many politicians have made promises regarding it. But how important are money and success? Does it bring happiness or fulfillment? F. Scot Fitzgerald is one of many who attempted to put this idea in its proper perspective. His novel, The Great Gatsby, explores his interpretation of the dream. “The Great Gatsby is an exploration of the American dream as it exists in a corrupt period, and it is an attempt to determine the concealed boundary that divides the reality from the illusions” (Bewley 38). Jay Gatsby, born as James Gatz to a poor family of farmers out west, achieves the American dream to its fullest. Still, Gatsby ultimately dies a tragic figure because he wastes his life chasing an unattainable dream by the name of Daisy Buchanan.
First, James Gatz, later known as Jay Gatsby, grows up an ordinary average American boy. Like many Americans, he has a dream of fame and fortune but not a lot of money to go along with it. He wants to become somebody. Even as a young boy, he reveals his great determination to his father. He makes a schedule of daily activities to keep himself on the right track to success. As his father states at the ending, he was always trying to improve his mind. “Jimmy [Gatsby] was bound to get ahead. He always had some resolve like this or something. Do you notice what he’s got about improving his mind? He was always great about that” (Fitzgerald 175).
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Yet, somewhere along the way, Gatsby loses sight of this dream for another. Her name is Daisy. From this point on, all his achievements, self-worth, and his identity only meant something if she approved. “He hadn’t once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes” (Fitzgerald 92). From the moment he sets eyes on Daisy, she becomes all of what he is devoted to. She is beautiful, wealthy, and adored by many. He loves everything about her. She is his “grail”. In other words, she is what he is searching for to bring salvation to his soul. Ironically, it becomes as futile a search as the grail was to the men of the round table.
However, he doesn’t deem himself worthy of her. “The delusion is the vision of Gatsby’s life with Daisy, and the purposes are his need for money and social position to make himself worthy of her” (Hanzo 66). Thus, he lies to her about his background. “He let her believe that he was a person from much the same stratum as herself – that he was fully able to take care of her” (Fitzgerald 149). Hence, comes the actual reasoning for the name of the novel, The Great Gatsby. He recreates his identity for the sole purpose of her approval. This false identity becomes the foundation for all his success and his failure. “This talent for self-invention is what gives Gatsby his quality of “greatness”: indeed, the title “The Great Gatsby” is reminiscent suggesting that the persona of Jay Gatsby is a masterful illusion” (Phillips 1). Even though in reality their love affair only lasts a short while, he becomes obsessed with her. Unfortunately, as Gatsby is in the navy when they meet, he is required to leave for duty. While he is gone, Daisy marries another man by the name of Tom Buchanan. Still, Gatsby’s loyalty never fails. He believes he can win her back. He never accepts the fact that she could ever love another. In his mind, they are destined to be together, and he stays true to this illusion, or rather a delusion, to his deathbed.
Then, halfway through the book, it appears that Gatsby is going to achieve his one true dream. Gatsby uses Nick Carraway, Daisy’s second cousin once removed and the narrator, and Jordan Baker, Daisy’s friend, to meet her again. Characteristically of Mr. Gatsby, this meeting is drawn on false pretenses. Daisy is not told the true reason for her going to Nick’s house. Furthermore, Gatsby insists on the meeting happening at Nick’s because he lives next door. From there Daisy will be able to see his castle-like mansion for which she is to be the queen.
The first awkward meeting turns out rather well. So, Gatsby invites Daisy and Nick back to his place. Finally, Gatsby could show Daisy everything he has acquired for her. “Daisy admired this aspect or that of the feudal silhouette against the sky, admired the gardens, the sparkling odour of jonquils and the frothy odour of Hawthorne and plum blossoms and the pale gold odour of kiss-me-at-the-gate” (Fitzgerald 92). This is a palace built for her.
Then, Gatsby invites her to a party which she shows up with Tom, her husband. The once seemingly secure Mr. Gatsby appears uneasy. Not only because of Tom but also because of the way Daisy reacts. Daisy did not approve of all the guests, and he realizes this. ” ‘She didn’t like it,’ he said immediately” (Fitzgerald 110). Although Gatsby has become notorious partly because of his parties, this is the last one he has. Furthermore, he fires all of his servants in his household and hires all new servants that know how to keep a secret. He does this because Daisy is now coming over in the afternoons. Only one more step is needed for his dream to be achieved. It now seems obvious that Daisy will leave her husband, and they will live happily ever after. Regrettably, only fairy tale stories end this way.
Next, Mr. Gatsby’s illusion begins to fall apart. He never actually understands that Daisy during his absence did go on with her life. A good example of this is shown when he saw Daisy’s daughter for the first time. “Afterward he kept looking at the child with surprise. I don’t think he had ever really believed in its existence before” (Fitzgerald 117). His obsession with her kept him from accepting the fact that she did share something with Tom. Mr. Gatsby puts Daisy on a pedestal, and this pedestal belongs to him only, at least so he wants to believe.
However, even evidence at the beginning of the story points otherwise. Jordan even says that it appeared that Daisy loved Tom when they were first married. Also, why would she keep bringing Tom along if she is truly devoted to Gatsby? Why bring him to the party? Why flaunt her love affair in front of Tom? Perhaps, the answer is jealousy. Tom is having an affair. Everyone knows about it. She wants her revenge. However, she never plans on leaving him. Daisy after all is human. This explains why when Gatsby forces the confrontation, she backs down. Tom reveals to everyone that Mr. Gatsby is a fraud. He made his fortune from being a bootlegger. He isn’t a true Oxford man. He isn’t truly a part of their social club. Gatsby begins to fall apart.
He wants her to admit she never loved Tom in front of everyone and that she’s leaving him. She can’t do that though. It isn’t the truth. “I did love him once – but I loved you too” (Fitzgerald 133). The keyword here is “loved”. She doesn’t say, love. Although dismayed, Gatsby still dies not understanding the truth. “In the end, a victim of time and its own fictionality, the dream dies. Almost anticlimactically, Gatsby’s death follows” (Lockridge 7). His dream of having her is exactly that, a dream. “‘I don’t think she ever loved him,’ Gatsby turned around from a window and looked at me [Nick] challengingly” (Fitzgerald 152). In the end, Gatsby is willing to give up everything for her.
Daisy accidentally runs over and kills Mrs. Wilson, the woman Tom is having an affair with. Gatsby covers it up for her and is willing to take the blame. However, Mr. Wilson is made to believe by Tom that Gatsby purposely ran over his wife. Thus, Mr. Wilson shoots both Gatsby and himself. Mr. Gatsby, the romantic, dies never achieving his one true goal. His fortune and his house meant nothing to him without Daisy. His house lay empty and ghostlike after his death, but worst of all the only loved ones to show up to his funeral are his father and Nick. None of his so-called friends come. Daisy does not come. Mr. Gatsby achieves the American dream, but without his one true love, he dies an unsuccessful man.
In conclusion, Jay Gatsby dies a tragic figure because he wastes his life chasing an unattainable dream by the name of Daisy Buchanan. Like many young, poor, American boys, James Gatz starts out in life with the American dream. From early on, he shows great determination and intelligence. However, after he meets Daisy he trades in his American ideals for an obsession with her. He still achieves what many would consider the American dream, but it no longer is his dream.
Like the Great Houdini, Gatsby creates an illusion. The illusion is that he belongs with her and her crowd. He obtains a mansion and a fortune, but it is all to make Daisy happy for when she eventually leaves her husband and comes to live with him. This is his dream, and he stays faithful to it to the end. However, this doesn’t happen. After Gatsby’s illusion falls apart, he dies shortly after. They find out the truth about who Gatsby really is, and he doesn’t win Daisy. Thus, he dies tragically and all alone.
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