In the novel The Great Gatsby , not many people really knew the man known as Jay Gatsby. When he was rich and powerful, he was the man you want to know. But when he was dead, life went on without him. It seemed as if nobody cared that he was the man behind the parties and all the good times. This shows that the opinion of the great Jay Gatsby changed by the end of the story. He was an icon of not only every man s image of the American Dream, but he was also apart of Americanism and the American Experience. He was seen as the richest and luckiest man during his time.
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Unlike any of the other characters in the novel, Jay Gatsby does not change during the course of the story. He as a person might not have changed, but the way that people perceived him certainly became different. When he was alive and well, he was the perfect idea of the American Dream. He had more money than he knew what to do with. He could afford to have oversized parties every weekend. Jay Gatsby was the person to know when it came to the Eggs.
In the beginning, he was only known as Jay Gatz. He was a poor boy in the army. He only had his charm to get him by. This is the time when he meets Daisy. She was a very rich girl, from a wealthy family. They were in love from the beginning. Unfortunately, Daisy believed that rich girls don t marry poor boys. From that moment on, Jay Gatz wanted one thing: to get rich so he could show Daisy that a poor boy could get rich. Jay Gatz became Jay Gatsby. This new man wanted to become the American Dream at an early age. He did what ever he could to get his money.
Daisy Buchannon is a dynamic character with many different sides to her personality. Early on in the book, she is portrayed as sweet and innocent. Her white and seemingly floating dress appeals to Nick in this way. She grew up as “the most popular of all the young girls in Louisville.” (1, 148). Even then she dressed in white. Daisy also keeps a daughter around as a show toy. Whenever company comes over, she beckons for the little girl to come and put on a little act for everyone. This signifies her life. Daisy becomes radiant and personable. When everyone has gone, she is a bored housewife, of no importance to the world wondering aloud what she is going to do with the rest of her life. She appears to be bored yet innocent and harmless. But her innocence is false. Simply a materialistic young girl and has little mind of her own is underneath all of that covering. Daisy rediscovers her love with Gatsby because of his nice shirts and large house. Daisy has been well trained in a rich family. She has grown up with all of the best. When Gatsby failed to contact her, she went off and married another man, without evening having heard word from Gatsby. All of these many and round characteristics add complications to the plot and dimension to the meaning she adds to the book.
The above mentioned characteristics also help to create some of the main conflicts. Daisy was involved in the conflict between her and Tom. Tom had a mistress and Daisy was upset by it. Another conflict is her love affair with Gatsby. Her apparent sweetness and innocence allow Gatsby to fall in love with her. But her impatience and ignorance of true love or the meaning of truth or compassion allow her to flawlessly marry Tom, without a sober thought of Gatsby. He falls for her, which leads up to the further conflict. The conflict is whether or not she will fall in love with Gatsby. Gatsby is still in love with her after five years. He hopes and dreams that she is too. This creates another conflict: Gatsby’s dream. When Gatsby was seventeen, he dreamed of being rich and powerful. When he meat Daisy, his dream changed. His goal was to see if he could reach his dream.
One of the more puzzling things about Jay Gatsby is where did he come from and where did he get his money? Nobody other than Daisy really knows where he came from. When people were talking at one of Gatsby s first parties, nobody could really say where he was from. They all said different places. When it comes to Gatsby s fortune, that is another enigma all together. When Nick asked about his fortune he first said, I inherited a good amount of money from my parents. Then when Gatsby mentioned, I was in the drug store business and the stock market, but I am in neither of these any more, Nick caught him in one of his lies. Gatsby has got good enough to get himself out of situations like this one. He merely told Nick that he worked after the great crash. This tells us that he tried a few ways to get rich, but he makes it sounds they never worked. It can only be speculated on as to what business he is into now or even how he came into his wealth, but we can be sure that he wanted to keep it to himself.
It was this defence mechanism that, in the end, destroyed him. Jay Gatsby had kept his business life such a secret that he couldn t let anyone get close enough to him to learn what he was up to. It was quite obvious that he did not like this loneliness, but he knew it came with all the wealth that he had. He did not want to be alone any longer. He now felt it was time to confront Daisy with his feelings for her. He set up the tea party so they could meet. In a way, Gatsby uses Nick to get the chance to meet with Daisy. It seems that Nick does not really seem to mind all that much. Gatsby and Daisy continue to meet and they become closer and closer. Gatsby begins to feel like he can bring back the past. Then when Daisy can t admit that she does not love Tom anymore, Gatsby s false sense of security falls through. He now begins to see that we can buy the future, but no amount of money can buy the past. It is this flaw that makes him a tragic character. It is the fact that he believed in Americanism a little too much, made it easy to destroy him in the end. People came to his house and conducted themselves like they were at an amusement park. But after Gatsby dies, nobody seems to care about him. We really see Gatsby s true friends, even though Nick isn t really considered to be Jay s friend , but he is more of an observer of the Gatsby s downfall.
The man behind Jay Gatsby was nothing more than a man who lived a shallow life, for a shallow purpose. It seemed that the people of the East and West Eggs never missed him. This man is a true representation of the American Experience. He flaunted what he had all the way until the end and he is never missed by anyone. He never really used his fortune for anything really productive. He is selfish and only wanted one thing from life and that was to live happily ever after with Daisy. After everything was said and done, Daisy never showed up to his funeral. This makes Gatsby’s whole existence seem worthless.
The ways the conflicts created by Daisy help the theme are numerous. The most significant way is that she is the central corruption of Gatsby’s dream. The dream began as a simple bid for happiness. Yet Gatsby was corrupted by money. He wanted money. He believed that money would make him happy. When he became rich, his dream was then centred upon Daisy. Daisy was the only thing (or at least he thought) between him and happiness. This personifies the meaning being conveyed by Fitzgerald. That the American dream has been corrupted by money.
Another theme is that everything is not as it appears. Daisy appears to be sweet, innocent, and intelligent. While underneath her “white dress” lies a corrupted inner self. She is crude and showy, all an act to attract people to her. This theme is displayed in almost every character. Everyone appears to be someone they’re not, just as people in the society of the 1920’s. With prohibition and the extremely active nightlife of the “Roaring 20’s, everyone had something to hide. This is displayed in Gatsby, who is involved in the drug trafficking business — almost a mobster. Yet he appears to be simply a smart businessman. Daisy herself is a good example, and adds greatly to the meaning of most of the meanings.
However, the author does not show his characters to be absolutely black or white. For example, he describes Nick and Gatsby s conversation after the quarrel happened between Daisy and her husband. Gatsby is afraid that Tom can hurt Daisy and he is waiting in their garden for some sign for help from Daisy:
He won t touch her, I said. He s not thinking about her.
I don t trust him, old sport.
How long are you going to wait?
All night, if necessary. Anyhow, till they all go to bed. (1, 151).
But at the very same time, Tom and his wife were sitting at the kitchen table and talking with an unmistakable air on natural intimacy about the picture (1, 152), and didn t seem to fight at all.
1. Fitzgerald, F.S., The Great Gatsby . Penguin Books, 1994. 187 p.
2. Abeltina, R., Fleija, D., Misane, A. English and American Literature . Zvaigzne, 1976. 340 p.