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What Makes Gatsby Great Essay

The title of The Great Gatsby – a masterpiece written by F. Scott Fitzgerald has presented the readers with the main irony of the novel: he was James Gatz, not Jay Gatsby, nor was he great. Through Nick Carraway’s narrative, James Gatz, or later on Jay Gatsby represents everything that is pathetic and deceitful, yet surprisingly genuine. During the novel, Gatsby’s “greatness” is portrayed through several of his qualities, such as his purely unconditional love for Daisy Buchanan and his interminable will. Although to Nick, Gatsby represents the truth and light in the darkness dominating over the grandiose New York society in the 1920s, the sole purpose for all of his greatness – Daisy and his desire to fit into the established upper class represents has corrupted his greatness. Despite the purely romantic nature of his dream, Gatsby has committed criminals activities in order to attain it. As a result, even though Gatsby is “great” for his dream, his “romantic readiness”, and his “extraordinary gift for hope”, it is also reasonable to say he was a mere criminal who has done despicable things.

One of the main reasons for Nick to perceive Gatsby as “great” despite his obvious flaws was the existence and nature of Gatsby’s dream. Indeed, ever since his youth, his American dream has been pure with motivation and ambition being the main forces behind it. During a time of moral decay and excessive hedonism, Gatsby seemed to be the only one striving for the original American dream – the pursuit of happiness, not materialistic wealth; indeed the nature of his dream was truly genuine and romantic. This dream is what allows Gatsby to be “gorgeous”, to have “some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life”. It does not seem to matter whether Gatsby is living for the past or the present; it only matters that he has a purpose for living. This has caused him to be clearly differentiated from Tom and Daisy – people who have had everything in life completely laid out for them life has become purposeless and mundane.

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Furthermore, although one can draw a number of similarities between the characters of Gatsby and Myrtle, Gatsby’s genuine pursuit for pure love was clearly different from Myrtle’s motives of pure desire for wealth, status, and sexual pleasure. Also, Gatsby is different from Jordan Baker, although they both have dreams, Gatsby’s dream was extremely idealist and romantic, while Jordan’s dream, or purpose – to win her golf tournaments, was clearly practical. Finally, Gatsby, although a member of the West Eggs, is clearly different from the people at his parties. He did not seek to flaunt his wealth; instead, his conspicuous spending was to serve his efforts of getting to meet Daisy again. It is clear that the existence and nature of Gatsby’s romantic dream have separated him from the “foul dust [that] floated in the wake of his dreams.”, as put in Nick’s words. Although Gatsby has been seeking to acquire more and more wealth, this was to serve his purpose of finding true happiness, which is the original goal of the American Dream.

Another main aspect that makes Gatsby “great” is arguably his eternal dream ever since his youth and his determination and ability to turn it into a reality. Witnessing the extent to which Gatsby has gone in order to attain his dream, Nick has observed Gatsby be “the son of God”. Gatsby has been wishing to transform himself into his ideal figure – a figure of status and wealth, and he had succeeded. While his dream is certainly impractical and almost quixotic, Gatsby shows a remarkable work ethic and determination that should be appreciated. His dream seems to be an innate gift he inherited, as ever since youth, Gatsby has had the determination to become what he was not: a natural member of the established rich with money, power, and reputation. Furthermore, Gatsby has taken continuous and resolute steps in order to attain his goals. During Gatsby’s funeral, his father – Henry Gatz was very proud to show Nick Gatsby’s detailed schedule for self-improvement ever since he was young; Mr Gatz also told Nick, “Jimmy was bound to get ahead. He always had some resolves like this or something”.

He did all he could in order to improve himself, for example: “Rise from bed…Dumbbell exercise and walking…Study electricity…Work…Baseball and Sports…Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it…Study needed inventions”. Even though later on Gatsby was surrounded with tremendous wealth, his American dream has never been tainted with materialistic greed, even in an era of decayed social and moral values. Indeed, Gatsby himself embodied the pristine original American dream with its themes of hard work, self-improvement, happiness, and individualism, although, in the surrounding society, the American dream was corrupted – the original pursuit of happiness has turned into a quest for wealth and pleasure. It is clear that Gatsby did not pursue power and money simply for greed or prestige, he did everything he did, whether through criminal means or not, simply for his dream, and his dream is embodied in Daisy.

All the parties Gatsby has been throwing at his houses, all the wandering around at his parties seeking for someone who knew Daisy, all the “elaborate ways he [Gatsby] worked up to it” in order to ask Jordan Baker to ask Nick to arrange a meeting between Gatsby and Daisy represented Gatsby’s relentless effort in order to attain his dream. Although throughout the story, bits and pieces of information regarding Gatsby’s past were provided, and we the audience do not know what is fabricated or what is actually true, only one thing seems to matter to Nick: it is that Gatsby, although he “represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn”, has a respectable purpose in life and has been working determinedly to attain it.

Despite Gatsby’s genuine love for Daisy and his admirable capability for hope and determination to achieve it, it evident that he is still corrupt with a mysterious criminal background. Although his American dream was pure and romantic, Gatsby’s notion of thinking that money and status would help him achieve his dream was mistaken. Ever since his youth, Gatsby has dreamt to become extravagantly wealthy, then, after the war, he received an education in the ways of Dan Cody, the opportunist millionaire. Bootlegging is therefore a way that Gatsby uses in order to gather all his extraordinary wealth in order to attract Daisy and win her heart back. Being unable to marry Daisy before the war due to insufficient wealth, it seems logical to Gatsby to gain money in every way possible, even if it is illegal. While it is arguable that his relentless determination of achieving his hope was extraordinary and original, it is also accurate that this very obsession has marred the romantic image of Gatsby.

This obsession has caused him to live in illusion ever since he has met Daisy. Gatsby is essentially such an idealist, a dreamer that a romantic memory of the past was all he is living for, while to Nick, it is simply a “fragment of lost words that he [Gatsby] heard long ago”. Gatsby sees Daisy as the embodiment of the past that can be recreated in the future, given that he has sufficient wealth and status. While Nick tells Gatsby that the past cannot be repeated, Gatsby responds in incredulous disbelief: “Can’t repeat the past?” …… “Why of course you can!”. Gatsby is excessively obsessed with returning to that distant time when he and Daisy first fell in love when she promised to wait for him when they would be together again and live happily ever after. It was a time of chasteness, idealism, and romance – all the characteristics Gatsby’s dream seems to possess.

One might argue that Gatsby is a vain and pretentious character; however, it is more reasonable to surmise that all his conspicuous spending and fabrications were coherent with his notion that in order to achieve love and happiness, he must have money. Nevertheless, considering the setting in which the story takes place when surrounding society was filled with corruption and hedonism, it is arguable that Gatsby is indeed a great man; yet, due to his nature and dream, he does not belong to the surrounding society. In conclusion, what makes Gatsby a great person rather than a vain criminal is the driving force behind the relentless pursuit of his dream. Years earlier, he was a poor young man, charmed by the most popular girl in Louisville who was in favour of a wealthy bachelor, and since then he has been spending a lifetime to get her back.

Although the society around him is rotten, although his ideal lover – Daisy, whose voice is “full of money”, is certainly not a worthy subject of his affection, although his own ways of achieving wealth were corrupt, Gatsby’s longing for a “fairytale” love and his willingness to sell his soul for it have justified the book’s title. Gatsby is indeed a great man. However, an idealist and dreamer like him do not belong to the rotten society in which he lives in. All the criminals act that he has committed and all the pretentious and grandiose acts were are the purest things in this sordid tale.

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