In The Great Gatsby, is Gatsby heroic or foolish?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Gatsby can be interpreted as being both heroic and foolish, depending upon the reader's attitude and philosophy toward life. Some might see Gatsby's efforts to repeat the past with Daisy by his side as being foolishly romantic, completely out of touch with reality. He fails to understand that his social standing will never be changed by money, no matter how much wealth he acquires. He fails to grasp Daisy's weak and selfish nature, refusing to accept the truth about her even when it becomes undeniable to anyone except him. (Gatsby dies believing that Daisy still will call and come to him.) He foolishly believes he can alter unalterable facts through strong will and persistence.

The heroic aspects of his character--some archetypal--concern the strength of his efforts, the overwhelming nature of his enemies, and his loyalty to his romantic quest. Gatsby battles against unconquerable forces and impossible odds to achieve his dream, but he never gives up. He dies in the effort. His love for Daisy seems to assume epic proportions as his loyalty to his dream of her consumes his life. Critics often interpret Daisy as being Gatsby's own Holy Grail.