Fitzgerald stated, "Gatsby is excessive, foolish and foredoomed." Discuss this statement in relation to the themes and ideas explored in The Great Gatsby.

The phrase "Gatsby is excessive, foolish and foredoomed" comes from literary scholar Tony Tanner rather than from F. Scott Fitzgerald. Tanner’s statement encourages the reader both to consider to what extent Gatsby is those three things and to apply the qualities to America as well. The theme of excess applies to American Jazz Age society overall, as well as to Gatsby’s wealth and his obsession with Daisy. Foolishness in love seems to foredoom both Gatsby and Myrtle.

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American literary scholar Tony Tanner has written extensively on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. His essay “‘The Story of the Moon that Never Rose’: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby” appears as a chapter in his book The American Mystery: American Literature from Emerson to DeLillo. Tanner considers Gatsby to be a quintessentially American novel, and to be strongly but not exclusively associated with the Jazz Age and Fitzgerald’s disillusionment with US society. His full comment from which the quoted phrase is taken reads (p. 195):

And to the extent that Gatsby—“Gatsby”—is excessive, foolish and foredoomed, so, the whole book suggests, is America.

This suggests that Gatsby is foredoomed in large part because he is excessive and foolish—an idea that is born out by other characters as well. The excesses of materialism are connected with Gatsby’s accumulation and extravagance along with the shallowness of the Buchanans’ unearned wealth. The party scene especially conveys the pointlessness of getting and spending, as many of the guests do not even know the host or arrive uninvited.

But in Gatsby’s case, the excesses are emotional as well: he is foolish not just because he thinks he will impress Daisy with his riches, but because he cannot give Daisy up. Gatsby embodies the American Dream because it remains a dream. As soon as he realizes it will not come true, he has nothing to live for. In this respect, it is Daisy rather than George Wilson who kills Gatsby. He was foredoomed because he was unwilling to face reality for far too long.

The idea of people being foredoomed through excesses and love is associated with Myrtle as well as Gatsby. Convincing herself that Tom loved her and wanted her to be with him, she rejects her humble but honorable husband. In terms of plot, Myrtle’s inability to end her fantasy about Tom brings about her doom, which in turn triggers George to kill Gatsby and himself.

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