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Describe James Gatz. How does he compare to Jay Gatsby?

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acannn36 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 14, 2009 at 8:52 AM via web

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Describe James Gatz. How does he compare to Jay Gatsby?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 14, 2009 at 10:37 AM (Answer #1)

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James Gatz is Jay Gatsby's real name.  He was born to poor farmers from the Midwest.  At 17, he left for the Great War and traveled troughout Europe.  Upon returning, he changed his name and pursued a life of extravagance.

Gatz's shift in identity is symbolic of America's after World War I.  Hemingway called the returning soldiers "the Lost Generation."  Clearly, Gatz wants to forsake his identity to pursue riches, status, and Daisy, the embodiment of his dream. 

Also, the U.S. emerged from the war with a burgeoning sense of youth and optimism; hence, the "roaring 20s" and the "Jazz Age."  But, it was short-lived, as the Depression and another world war loomed on the horizon. 

In the end, James Gatz's dream woman does not match his optimism.  Her voice is described as "full of money," and yet, she doesn't say much.  She even contributes to Gatz's death.  The novel ends just as it began, with a father's commentary.  Gatz's father reveals his son's self-improvement initiatives, which are all the more poignant after his death.


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