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What is the platonic conception of Gatsby in The Great Gatsby?

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maya23 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 7, 2010 at 11:52 PM via web

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What is the platonic conception of Gatsby in The Great Gatsby?

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted May 8, 2010 at 1:47 AM (Answer #1)

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You are referring to the part of the novel where Nick says:

"Jay Gatsby sprang from his Platonic conception of himself"

Plato was a Greek philosopher who, among many other things, was concerned with the real world versus the ideal world. So when Nick says this, he means that in a sense, Jay Gatsby invented himself. He invented an ideal of himself and then tried to live up to that ideal. He was not happy with his "real self" (a poor man from an uneducated family), so he re-invented himself as an educated and wealthy man.

In Greek mythology, it is believed that the Godess Athena "sprang full grown from the head of Zeuss" so the use of the word "sprang" is also a reference to the Greeks, only mythology in this sense. The Jay Gatsby that appeared on the stage of East and West Egg "sprang" from his own creation, but Nick soon learns who the real Gatsby is when he meets Gatsby's father.

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