What are some examples of naivete in The Great Gatsby?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Jay Gatsby is by far the most naive character throughout the novel. He naively believes that he will be able to win Daisy's affection by becoming wealthy through illegal means and reentering her life five years after seeing her. Jay Gatsby realizes from the beginning that his social status prevents him from seriously courting Daisy and decides to enter the bootlegging business after he returns home from war. The fact that Jay Gatsby is looking for genuine love in a person whose voice is "full of money" reveals his naive character. It is also interesting that Jay Gatsby hopes to have an authentic, meaningful relationship while pretending to be an aristocratic man from a wealthy family. He not only fails to see Daisy's superficiality but also looks beyond his own attempts to create the false impression of being a financially secure aristocratic. Jay Gatsby is also naive for believing that Daisy would be willing to leave her stable household, husband, and daughter behind to marry him. Instead, he purposefully dismisses Daisy's relationship with Tom and focuses on the possibility of marrying her.

In addition to Jay Gatsby, Tom, George, and Gatsby's father are also portrayed as naive throughout the novel. For Tom Buchanan to think that Daisy would remain faithful while he openly has affairs is both ridiculous and naive. George Wilson is also depicted as naive for not noticing his wife's suspicious behavior much sooner. Jay's father could be considered naive for believing that his son attained such wealth through legal, honorable means.

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Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Gatsby was also naïve in the way he went about sustaining his wealthy lifestyle. He was naïve to believe that chasing a married woman would not have adverse affects. For everything Gatsby did, he believed the end justified the means. The end was, for him, love – or at this point it was more like a fascination with his nostalgic memory of her and his fascination with the quest itself; the quest to win her back. To sustain his wealthy lifestyle, Gatsby resorted to business dealings with Meyer Wolfsheim, a notorious gambler, bootlegger and racketeer. In addition, Gatsby attempted to build himself up by appearing to be a prominent socialite, but contradictorily, he built himself up by abandoning the more innocent man he was (Gatz) for a functionally superficial bootlegger (Gatsby). His naivety is largely based on his general assumption that ‘the end justifies the means.’

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I had to whittle down the original question.  I think that the most overwhelming example of naivete in Fitzgerald's work has to lie with Jay Gatsby.  Gatsby believes that his dream of winning Daisy is something that can be accomplished through the acquisition of material wealth.  Gatsby believes that his dual pursuit of his American Dream and Daisy are going to be accomplished simply by displaying wealth and its trappings.  This is an example of naivete because Gatsby does not account for barriers that will prevent his entrance into the world of protected wealth and that he can "have" Daisy.  Gatsby believes that she will choose him with the same reckless abandon that he pursues her.  This is naive because it fails to account for Daisy's own desire to preserve her sense of self and her situation, forcing her to stay with Tom.  In the end, Gatsby's pursuit of his dreams is done through a focus of naivete, a statement that Fitzgerald might be saying of all who are so dependent on their own dreams.

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