Essay on the immorality of the characters and incidents in The Great GatsbyWhat do you think of this essay topic and can you please help me expand on it? The Great Gatsby is ultimately a story...

Essay on the immorality of the characters and incidents in The Great Gatsby

What do you think of this essay topic and can you please help me expand on it?

The Great Gatsby is ultimately a story about morality and the essentially immoral society at the time.

In a literary essay, discuss to what extent you agree or disagree with the above statement. Substantiate your views with close reference to incidents and characters in the novel.


Your help would be much appreciated. Thank you!The G

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the character analysis section of enotes, Jordan Baker of The Great Gatsby is described as having

an amoral aura about her, and the world revolves around herself and false material values.

This description seems to apply to Daisy and Tom Buchanan as well as they act on what is expedient to them.  Tom exploits the women that he takes; they are no more to him than sexual objects in his smug and villainous world.  Daisy, too, feigns being "foolish" to exploit others and maintain her illusions.  There is a passivity to Daisy that suggests the effete, amoral personal.

Myrtle Wilson, however, is not such an amoral character; she truly is immoral.  Fitzgerald describes her in more concrete terms.  She carries her "surplus flesh sensuously as some women can," and she exhibits a vitality, making her actions actively immoral as they are in defiance to the love of her husband, who desperately attempts to restrain her by forcing her to stay home. 

Myrtle also demonstrates a moral corruption as she attempts to move up in social class, pretending to be other than what she is as Nick remarks,

The intense vitality that had been so remarkable in the garage was converted into impressive hauteur.

 In the hotel room, she is affected in her manner with the McKees:

"I told that boy about the ice." Myrtle raised her eyebrows in despair at the shiflessness of the lower orders.  "These people!  You have to keep after them all the time."

Before the others in the hotel room, she pulls her chair close to Nick and boldly tells him of her first meeting with Tom with some detail.  When she boldly calls out "Daisy! Daisy!," overstepping the bounds of her class in Tom's amoral perception that is unconcerned with anything else, she has her nose broken.

Of course, like Myrtle, Jay Gatsby is also guilty of moral corruption as he attempts to move up in social class, using any means necessary. His involvement with the underworld of Meyer Wolfscheim is, of course, the most salient example.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that the major characters--Jay and Tom and Myrtle--would give you plenty of material for an essay on immorality in The Great Gatsby.  Think of Jay's illegal business ventures, Tom's consistent affairs with women (even on his honeymoon, for petes sake) and his views on racial superiority, and Myrtle's affair and lying.  Like I said, plenty to digest with them.  Two minor characters with major morality problems, though, include Jordan Baker and Meyer Wolfscheim.  She is a professional golfer who cheats.  That kind of behavior at that level is outrageously immoral.  Wolfscheim was, solely or in part, responsible for "fixing" a World Series.  That's immoral on a national scale, as well. 

You should be able to have a lot of fun with this essay!

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you threw this assignment at me right now, I would likely concentrate on Daisy.  You don't have quite as much material as you do if you were to follow Gatsby or perhaps Nick, but she provides a pretty fantastic portrait of an immoral woman, if you'd like to take that angle.

She is incredibly manipulative and uses her beauty to get whatever she wants, whether that is attention, adoring worship from Gatsby, or eventually absolution from her crime and a clean getaway.  She uses Tom, she uses Nick, she uses Gatsby, everyone and everything she has ever been around she bends to her purposes.

I think you could make an interesting essay out of that, but there are tons of other ways to take that as well.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Daisy uses everyone. She uses Nick because she strings him along and plays him. She does the same with Gatsby. I don't think Daisy is looking out for anyone but Daisy. That is the root of her immorality, if you think about it. She uses others instead of having relationships.
lostie | Student

How does Daisy use Nick?

lostie | Student

What do you think of this?

*EDIT: I wrote this before seeing the above answer which I'd like to incoporate. I also need to throw in a few quotes here and there.


The Great Gatsby is ultimately a story about morality and the essentially immoral society at the time. It revolves around a group of immoral characters. Not many good things can be said about these people. Upon closer inspection it can be seen that most, if not all of the characters in The Great Gatsby exhibit immoral characteristics, even Nick Caraway at certain points.


One of the most immoral people in the novel is Daisy Buchanan. Daisy is at her core, an exceptionally manipulative person who uses her beauty to get whatever she wants.  She even uses other people such as Tom, Nick and Gatsby. In fact, she uses everyone and everything she has ever been around for her own personal gain. This can be seen with regards to her almost absent relationship with her daughter whom she uses as a shiny toy to show off to guests she has over at the house. When Daisy does not have guests, her daughter returns to her room and has no contact with her mother.


One would think that Daisy is a marvelous person as she is the basis for Gatsby’s dream. Gatsby becomes a bootlegger to acquire wealth in order to win the love of Daisy. One must wonder what attracts Gatsby to this woman. Why does he go through all of this trouble to be with her? There are far better women in the world than Daisy. Nick describes Daisy’s voice as being “full of money”. She is a superficial person with no moral code. She only cares about wealth and status.


Daisy goes on to have an affair with Gatsby while married to Tom, a definite immoral act to commit. She can also be viewed as a “gold-digger” as she marries for wealth, not for love.


The most immoral act that Daisy commits is the murder of Myrtle Wilson (whilst accidental, Daisy still fled the scene of the crime). She even allowed Gatsby to take the fall for the murder and skipped town with Tom so as to free herself from her crime. This directly led to Gatsby’s murder. She and Tom did not even attend his funeral.


Daisy’s husband, Tom is also an immoral person. He is selfish and does whatever he needs to do to get what he wants which includes control over others. Tom is also abusive. Whilst he may not be physically abusive towards Daisy, he is emotionally abusive towards her. His string of affairs (including one he had on his honeymoon) clearly do not sit well with Daisy. He was not even there on the day his daughter was born. Tom’s abusiveness is shown when he breaks Myrtle’s nose with an open hand. He also did not appear to care when Myrtle, his mistress, had been killed by his wife.


Other notable immoral characters are Myrtle Wilson who is cheating on her husband George, Meyer Wolfsheim who is responsible for “fixing” a World Series, Jordan Baker, a professional golfer who cheated in order to win a tournament, George Wilson, who murders Gatsby and at times, Nick who knows all about the on goings of all the character’s affairs and lies and backstabbing and merely sits back and watches. He particularly shows immorality when setting up a meeting with Gatsby and Daisy, thus actively causing their affair.



lostie | Student

Daisy...brilliant!!! I forgot to mention that I must make reference to at least two characters and it must be 500 words. I don't want to talk about Jordan because my friend is focussing on her.

So not Nick, Jordan or Gatsby...That leaves Tom, George and Myrtle.