In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, evaluate dreams and illusions.

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The concept of dreams and illusions is important in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

Perhaps the greatest problem in the novel is Gatsby's inability to separate his dream true love with Daisy with the reality that she is, before everything else, still married to Tom—with a child. The true love he believes they share is an illusion. Daisy indicates her difficulty with the pressure Gatsby places on her in terms of what he wants from her.

“Oh, you want too much!” she cried to Gatsby. “I love you now — isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past.” She began to sob helplessly. “I did love him once — but I loved you too.” 

Gatsby’s eyes opened and closed.

“You loved me too?” he repeated.

This reflects the appearance vs. reality theme. Gatsby cannot believe that Daisy loves Tom too. For he can only see what he wants. This is illusion. 

Gatsby also had a dream of leaving his past behind—his parents who are lazy farmers. Gatsby changes his name and believes that he can leave "James Gatz" in the past and become Jay Gatsby. However, there is something of the illusion about Gatsby that comes from his dream. He puts on "the dog:" he comes across as a nice guy, but he is involved in illegal activities (his "racketeering"); he pushes the persona he has adopted, including his accent from "Oggsford" and his repeated use of "old boy." Nothing here seems real.

Gatsby has people visiting his house in droves: the cars never stop coming. However, this all is an illusion as well. When Gatsby dies, none of these "friends" come to the funeral. This "truth" is hard for Nick to accept, but it comes from Gatsby's illusion of a man with close friends, for does anyone really know him at all—including Gatsby himself?

I couldn’t get to the house,” [Owl-Eyes] remarked.

“Neither could anybody else.”

“Go on!” He started. “Why, my God! they used to go there by the hundreds.” He took off his glasses and wiped them again, outside and in.

“The poor son-of-a-bitch,” he said. 

"Owl-Eyes," as Nick refers to him, is the only person besides Nick and servants that attend the funeral. Owl-Eyes is appalled at the way Gatsby is deserted when he dies. Old-Eyes understands the sad truth in Gatsby's unattended funeral. Obviously the only reality in the relationship between Gatsby and his "friends" is the money he has spent on them.

Jay Gatsby represents someone who has achieved the American Dream, however, though he creates a seemingly wonderful life for himself, Gatsby loses sight of who he is. This may be because Jay never liked who he was before and he is simply the reflection of the man he has created. This, too, is an illusion.

kuldeep10 | Student

he repeats 'old sport' not old boy

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The Great Gatsby

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