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A Character Analysis Of Jay Gatsby Essay, Research Paper

Blaine Coffee



Character Analysis of Jay Gatsby

Scott Fitzgerald published the book in 1925 using the actual time in history, the Roaring Twenties to help create Gatsby’s character. Gatsby’s participation in the bootlegging business, the extravagant parties he throws, and the wealthy, careless lifestyle the Buchanans represent, are all vivid pictures of that time frame. Fitzgerald’s portrayal of the time period creates lifelike characters in the novel. By creating these personable characters, Fitzgerald is allowing the reader to associate himself with Gatsby, and letting him use his imagination, so that in the end, the reader can decide if the Great Gatsby is truly ‘great’. Fitzgerald allows the reader to incorporate the story into their own past and past relationships, ultimately putting the reader in Gatsby’s shoes and seeing what the reader would do in the same situation.

It raises a great debate; should people live their lives yearning for something in the past? Is it acceptable to live one’s whole life on a past experience or memory hoping to reach back in time and pull the past to the present? Is it healthy?

Gatsby’s tragedy is not his death. It is the death of his dream of utopia. He discovers that Daisy’s gold is money, not her soul. Nick describes the New World that the storyteller faces the night he lays his dreams to rest “material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about . . .” (169). Gatsby must have looked out upon a world he thought loved him, that he thought valued things like dreams and happiness, and the shock at what he found there, at what he found both in the emptiness of Daisy and the indifferent machine of the city were what killed all that he had ever hoped for.

Gatsby doesn’t understand time; he wants to skew it as he skews his life and the lives of those around him. Gatsby believes, until the very end, that “it eluded us then, but no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . And one fine morning…” (189). Gatsby reached an emotional plateau, upon which he expected to find utopia. But the flimsy, shadowy structure he built to reach that point won’t support him in

his crisis of self, and he is forced to realize that all of his ambitions have been in vain. Without the dream, there is no Gatsby. In the wreckage of so many falls from grace, Nick alone resurfaces, burdened by his understanding of the entirety of the tragedy.

The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is about the American Dream, and the downfall of those who attempt to reach its illusionary goals. The attempt to capture the American Dream is central to many novels. This dream is different for different people, but in The Great Gatsby, for Jay, the dream is that through wealth and power, one can acquire happiness. To get this happiness Jay must reach into the past and relive an old dream and in order to do this he must have wealth and power.

Jay Gatsby, the central figure of the story, is one character who longs for the past. Surprisingly he devotes most of his adult life trying to recapture it and, finally, dies in its pursuit. In the past, Jay had a love affair with the affluent Daisy. Knowing he could not marry her because of the difference in their social status, he leaves her to amass wealth to reach her economic standards. Once he acquires this wealth, he moves near to Daisy, “Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay (83),” and throws extravagant parties, hoping by chance she might show up at one of them. He, himself, does not attend his parties but watches them from a distance. When this dream doesn’t happen, he asks around casually if anyone knows her. Soon he meets Nick Carraway, a cousin of Daisy, who agrees to set up a meeting, “He wants to know…if you’ll invite Daisy to your house some afternoon and then let him come over (83).” Gatsby’s personal dream symbolizes the larger American Dream where all have the opportunity to get what they want. Later, as we see in the Plaza Hotel, Jay still believes that Daisy loves him. He is convinced of this as is shown when he takes the blame for Myrtle’s death. “Was Daisy driving?” “Yes…but of course I’ll say I was.” (151) He also watches and protects Daisy as she returns home. “How long are you going to wait?” “All night if necessary.” (152) Jay cannot accept that the past is gone and done with. Jay is sure that he can capture his dream with wealth and influence. He believes that he acted for a good beyond his personal interest and that should guarantee success.

Nick attempts to show Jay the folly of his dream, but Jay innocently replies to Nick’s assertion that the past cannot be relived by saying, “Yes you can, old sport.” This shows the confidence that Jay has in fulfilling his American Dream. For Jay, his American Dream is not material possessions, although it may seem that way. He only comes into riches so that he can fulfill his true American Dream, Daisy. Gatsby doesn’t rest until his American Dream is finally fulfilled. However, it never comes about and he ends up paying the ultimate price for it. The idea of the American Dream still holds true in today’s time, be it wealth, love, or fame. But one thing never changes about the American Dream; everyone desires something in life, and everyone, somehow, strives to get it. Gatsby is a prime example of pursuing the American Dream.

In this case, Fitzgerald is saying no it s not healthy. He says it ruins a person and things change. Is Gatsby great? In some ways he is, you have to admire a man who lives his whole life devoting himself to his passion and never getting sidetracked. But you also have to realize that some things are foolish to live a dream upon, because nothing ever stays the same. Things change and when you reach a goal you realize it wasn’t what you remember. Fitzgerald tackles an issue that everyone can relate to and has to deal with sometime in his life. Fitzgerald presents a likable character, a likable story and time period to the reader. At the end he has the reader contemplating what he himself would do if a similar situation would arise in his life. Fitzgerald raises a great philosophical question, making the book enjoyable to read and think about.

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