Keeping secrets can become a dangerous game for the keeper; however truth can also be damaging. Explore how The Great Gatsby develops the conflict between keeping secrets and telling the truth....

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One of the biggest examples of the tension between truth and secrets is of course Gatsby himself. As the novel develops, it becomes clear to the reader that his very identity is a construct and that Jay Gatsby is an invented persona that James Gatz works hard to enact. The amount of ferocious speculation concerning his character is something that adds mystery and allure to his persona, as is shown through the following quote in Chapter 3, where various individuals discuss what rumours they have heard about their host:

"Oh, no," said the first girl, "it couldn't be that, because he was in the American army during the war." As our credulity switched back to her she leaned forward with enthusiasm. "You look at him sometimes when he thinks nobody's looking at him. I'll bet he killed a man."

The guests think that he is variously a German spy, or that he killed somebody. The intense debate and speculation surrounding his character suggest very strongly that this is a lie or a deceit, even though it is not overt, that Gatsby is using to benefit the construction of his persona. However, at the same time, the novel also shows the dangers of the truth. This is demonstrated through Gatsby's inability to accept that Daisy will not leave Tom for him, and that his dream of marrying her can never be a reality. Note how his inability to accept the truth is signalled through the way that he tries to ignore the reality of Daisy's daughter, which is of course a tangible proof of the way that Daisy has not been with him and has married somebody else. It is Gatsby's inability to differentiate between what he desires to achieve and what he can actually achieve that finally destroys his character.


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