Is Gatsby really ‘Great’?
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The “Great Gatsby” is essentially about the rise and fall of the American Dream, and what meaning that held for Gatsby. It is also about how the American Dream is seen by Gatsby, not to obtain something materialistic, money, but to reach a goal not in keeping at all with what the American Dream stands for. For him the American Dream is a vehicle toward his goal.
The greatness of “Gatsby” can be explored through a variety of viewpoints. One can compare his successes and failures and then weigh them up, or look at how he should be remembered and discuss whether that is as a “Great” person.
What made Gatsby “Great”? The failures of Gatsby seem to be totally outweighed by his successes in all aspects of the words, but it is not the case. For example, his parties, which appear to encompass his whole life, are rarely attended by himself, the host; he even says it himself at his first meeting with Nick, “I’m afraid I’m not a very good host.” How can a man who fails to attend and host his own parties really be “Great”?
Gatsby had a name, his name to the people was “the guy behind the parties”, and he had no foundation of friendship with anyone at any of his parties; that’s why when he dies few people turn up to his funeral. This indicates that the opinion of Gatsby changes throughout the text. Possibly from good to bad, he is destroyed by his love for Daisy.
The secret to Gatsby’s apparent “greatness” is not in his success, but in his overcoming of the American Dream. Gatsby is an American but as I have already stated what the American Dream means to him is something totally different. The wealth that the American Dream holds is Gatsby’s vehicle to get to Daisy, she is the real goal, the goal he dedicates his life too. In the text we can see how James Gatz fails to win Daisy due to his financial situation. Gatsby therefore appears to be not “Great”, but foolish to believe in the past and what it used to hold for him,
“I wouldn’t ask to much of her”, I ventured, “you can’t repeat the past”
“Can’t repeat the past”, he cried incredulously, “Of course you can”.
The whole text in a sense is about Gatsby’s failed pursuit of the past.
Gatsby can be seen in a sense as a Christ figure, and therefore in an opinion a success. He takes the sins of others upon himself (Daisy’s), he spent most of his early life on the shores of a lake, and in the end will die for others sins. We can’t know if this is a coincidence or if Fitzgerald intended it so, but it does indicate the depth and mystery that Fitzgerald surrounds Gatsby with. Although having this mystery surrounding him creates an illusive figure rather than a great one.
When delving further into the depths of whether Gatsby is “Great” one may come across the fact that as the text progresses he is not succeeding more but digging an ever greater hole for himself. He could be seen to be “digging his own grave” or being “haunted by the past,” his past.
When fundamentally looking at what Gatsby really failed at we have to turn to Daisy. She corrupted him into thinking that he could have her; she caused Gatsby to follow an empty dream, his own “American Dream”. She comes to a point when she has to make a decision, and she never said that she chose Gatsby instead of Tom, it was a temporary blindness, it wasn’t the financial insecurity it was her insecurity. He really loses her when she marries Tom; at that point she has all security that she wants. From then on no matter what Gatsby does he will never win her heart, at the hotel she never says that she loves him, he says it for her and she agrees nonchalantly, Gatsby’s fall is not realizing his failure soon enough, but in contrast his perseverance even though it killed him is what makes him “Great”
Up to this point I have been very negative, but it seems the case that in relation to the other characters in the text, Gatsby was honest, he never once lies in the text, he never cheated anyone or killed anyone like the rumours suggested, in fact Gatsby had few flaws. Through nicks eyes we can see how much he admires Gatsby, “You’re worth the whole damn bunch of them”, Nick admired the perseverance that Gatsby had, in trying to achieve his goals. All of Nick’s friends lie or cheat to achieve there goals, whereas Gatsby takes the long hard honest way. Jordan Baker for example shows what shallow people inhabit Nick’s life; she cheats to win her way to top golf pro. Gatsby is the only really honest and good person. Gatsby’s behaviour toward the ones he loves is much more admirable than that of Tom or Daisy, and Nick realized this, he appreciated this more toward the end of the text when he understood Gatsby’s struggle.
The irony is that Gatsby is worth one hundred Daisy’s’, when she crashes into Myrtle, killing here she does not seem to care that she killed this innocent woman. At this point Gatsby still goes along with Daisy; this just shows how his character is slightly corrupted throughout the text by Daisy. She has no respect for human life. One would have thought that when Daisy left Gatsby the first time for the fact that he had very little money, Gatsby would have realized how shallow and small minded Daisy actually was.
Daisy’s last almost spiteful blow comes after Gatsby has died, his death would have been all over the papers, the time of the funeral etc, yet she still didn’t go. Gatsby therefore shows his foolish and unwise side, though it is only through the shallowness of someone else that we see him like that.
Was Gatsby a success or wasn’t he? In conclusion I find that Gatsby, although appearing to have failed to the reader and to himself is actually a success, he is “Great” he overcomes the American Dream and establishes a new meaning for it. The only thing that kept him from being greater or trying even harder was death. Nick’s last words, “tomorrow we run faster, stretch out our arms further and one fine day…” Life will go on without Gatsby, but he was a “Great” man.