The Great Gatsby Title questionThink about the novel’s title.  There are at least three different ways to interpret it. Can you come up with these? Hint: think about it from Nick’s point of...

The Great Gatsby Title question

Think about the novel’s title.  There are at least three different ways to interpret it. Can you come up with these? Hint: think about it from Nick’s point of view, from what we know of his true past, and from what the general public might think.

Asked on by sarahct

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dstuva's profile pic

Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Concerning The Great Gatsby, one might consider Gatsby great because he loves purely and totally and completely. 

This is his tragic flaw, if jargon usually reserved for tragedy can be applied to the novel.  His love is idealistic and misguided, and ends up getting him killed, but it is poignant and is the driving force behind everything else Gatsby does.  While Gatsby may well be the most miserable person in the novel because he does not have the object of his love, he may also be the happiest, because he does love as he does.  The novel is first and foremost a love story, so one should look to love when examining the title. 

Of course, Gatsby is also "great" in the sense that he started poor and has achieved the American Dream.  And he's seen as somewhat of a circus attraction by people who frequent his lavish parties. 

And there is another possibility, also.  Some view the title as ironic.  The "great" Gatsby achieves his wealth by illegal means, and is really nothing more than a love-sick grown up who never grew out of adolescence.  This is a minority view, however.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I would say that, from Nick's point of view, Gatsby is great because he is the only genuine person in his whole circle of acquaintances.  Everyone else is fake in some way, but Gatsby does not pretend to be anything he is not.

From what we know of his past, you can argue he is great because he has worked himself up from poverty to become quite rich.

As far as the general public (in the book, I assume), they would tend to think he is great because he is so rich.  They will look at his house and all his stuff and say he must be great to have gotten so rich.

missy575's profile pic

missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I'm going to give you an idea about the perspective of the general public...

When you think THE GREAT anything, it usually has to do with a magician.  I see Gatsby very much as one able to vanish out of thin air (Nick saw him and then he was gone on the lawn that one night), one who is able to make things disappear(people's lives) and reappear(relationships).

Nick is also mystified by Gatsby, so I wonder if he thinks of Gatsby like a magician. Something to think about.

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