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Cleanth Brooks begins the essay by stating that Americans have believed that we are innocent. He implies that our innocence is depleting. Fitzgerald uses his wide array of characters throughout the novel The Great Gatsby in order to portray the image as he sees it, and perhaps what Americans believed during that time, of the “innocent” American.

Brooks begins with basically a walk-through of the story while still providing details of the characters’ qualities that suggest their innocence. His first character he analyzes is Jay Gatsby, a character in the novel. Fitzgerald writes that Gatsby has accrued his fortune during the prohibition era, but he never comes out and says how Gatsby made his money. Brooks then says Gatsby is portrayed as an idealist and that the sole idea that Gatsby is concerned with is that of Daisy, his one true love. He is innocent because Daisy left him, not seemingly for love, but more for money. She found her security in Tom Buchanan. Gatsby thinks that, if he makes money, she will fall in love with him and as he confronts her, he is shot down. He does not understand the way things have changed and where they are going.

Fitzgerald also displays the innocence of Gatsby by describing where he came from. Brooks notes that he was brought up in a deprived family. He also notes that in this sort of family there is no nurturing or tradition. Gatsby set out on his own without having the proper care from his family. He was forced to learn everything on his own. Gatsby also lived by a schedule, and Brooks writes that this schedule displays Gatsby’s need to have everything planned. He states that this unique quality in men causes elephantiasis of the will. This is revealed in Gatsby throughout the novel.

A final couple that is austere to their surroundings is the Buchanans. Brooks states that are not innocent, but rather careless. When Nick states, “I felt as though I were talking to a child (Tom Buchanan),” Brooks says that this displays Tom as innocent, or not knowing what reality is like.

Brooks uses details from the novel and character analysis to discover the innocence in a few of the main characters in The Great Gatsby. His point is understood rather easily and it makes sense.


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