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In Great Gatsby, Are character's fates determined by their actions or their...

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vet0202 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 13, 2010 at 8:27 AM via web

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In Great Gatsby, Are character's fates determined by their actions or their histories(inherited circumstances beyond their control)?

Do Wilson, Gatsby, and Myrtle determine their own fate by their own actions, or was it predetermined for them?

I think the histories set the options of actions the characters were going to choose, but ultimately they chose the fate themselves.  (Example) Gatsby was born poor, this circumstance had given Gatsby limited options he could have done such as when he dropped out of college because he was embarrased with his janatorial work.- He had two choices finish the school or drop out, and he CHOSE it. He chose his own fate

 

What are your opinions??

charcter's actions or their histories?

3 Answers | Add Yours

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted April 13, 2010 at 9:43 AM (Answer #1)

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Your question about The Great Gatsby isn't really about the novel.  It's more of a question about social determinism or naturalism or predestination or free will.  As such, any answer to your question will be determined by one's views on those issues.

In other words, I don't believe the novel addresses what you're after.  These aren't the themes or ideas or issues revealed in the work.  One could apply one's beliefs to the novel and make determinations for yourself based on your beliefs, but I think the evidence you would have to use to support any conclusions lies outside of the novel and within your beliefs.  The novel doesn't give any evidence one way or the other, at least as far as the three characters you mention.

If the issues you ask about are specifically raised in the novel, it is in the character of Daisy, rather than the three you ask about. 

Daisy, in chapter one, tells Nick that she was first upset that her child was a girl, but then altered her opinion, saying that she was glad she was a girl and that she hopes the girl is a beautiful little fool--that's the only hope a woman has, to be a beautiful little fool.

Daisy here is expressing a woman's only hope in a man's world.  Daisy, for most of her life, has lived in a world in which women were not even allowed to vote.  For centuries a woman's only way to better herself socially and economically was to marry a wealthy man.  The odds of doing that improve if one is a pretty little fool.

In fact, that is what Daisy pretends to be, and what she has done. 

Daisy might be a character you could center on in your study.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 13, 2010 at 9:44 AM (Answer #2)

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In his tableau of a frivolous era in America, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald depicts several characters who teeter between romantic ideals and cynicism with tragic results.  Gatsby and Nick are two such characters who miss "the indiscernible barbed wire between." 

While Gatsby searches for the green light on Daisy's pier, the symbol of love and money, he struggles between his romantic memories of Daisy and his cynicism toward the world as he realizes that Daisy may need other enticements such as parties and beautiful shirts, and a car with "wing-like fenders" to rekindle her infatuation with him. But, the two elements cannot be reconciled, and in the New York hotel room when Gatsby tries to coerce Daisy to tell her husband that she loves him instead, the love of materialism overcomes Daisy, "the king's daughter, the golden girl...whose voice is rull of money." 

Nick, too, becomes enamored of Jordan Baker, but his romantic ideals coincide with the amorality of this detached person who also represents the materialistic era of the 1920s.  Her haughtiness for Gatsby's parties that are "much too polite for me," and amoral behavior shatter with cynicism any infatuation that Nick feels: "I'd had enough of all of them...and suddenly that included Jordan too."

So, in the end, the characters of Nick, and especially Gatsby, prove to be tragic as they seek the romanticism of "the old unknown world," picking out "the green light at the end of Daisy's dock,"

the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.  It eluded us then, that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther....

Their ends are the result of their choices, tragic choices as their ideals collide with the illusionary Jazz Age.  On one's so-called fate, William Jennings Bryant aptly remarked,

Destiny is not a matter of chance, but a matter of choic.  It is not a thing to be waited for it is a thing to be achieved.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 13, 2010 at 7:32 PM (Answer #3)

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Indeed, this is a very compelling topic in Fitzgerald's work.  I would say that, like much of what he writes, there is complexity present.  Certainly, your analysis is accurate in that individuals such as Gatsby chooses the life he leads.  Yet, equally compelling is that there are parts of our own narratives that end up motivating these choices.  In my mind, Fitzgerald asserts that there are factors such as social acceptance and wealth acquisition that play a direct role in the choices individuals make.  Within this might be the idea that there is a convergence of different elements that guide our choices.  The characters in the novel do display this, as their actions are theirs and theirs alone.  However, in the end there are external and internal factors that drive their sense of autonomy and freedom.

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