In The Great Gatsby, how are Wilson and Gatsby similar? Dissimilar? To whom is Nick more sympathetic?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jay Gatsby and George Wilson are similar in that both of them attempt to achieve the American Dream: the idea that a person can begin with little to nothing, and, through hard work and perseverance, that person can prosper and achieve financial and personal success. Both men try to achieve this dream honestly, and both fail. Wilson continues to try to pursue the dream by honest work, and he just cannot get ahead. Gatsby seems to have decided honest work didn't benefit him much, so he turned to bootlegging (the production, distribution, and sale of illegal liquor during the era of Prohibition). In this way, then, the men differ: they take different paths in their attempts to reach the American Dream; however, they are similar in the fact that neither of them successfully attains it.

Nick seems, in the end, more sympathetic to Gatsby, if for no reason other than that Wilson kills Gatsby for committing a crime he did not commit. Ironically, Gatsby committed a number of other crimes for which he went unpunished, but murdering Myrtle Wilson isn't one of them. Gatsby's fundamental ability to maintain hope that he would, one day, have everything he'd ever dreamed granted him a kind of innocence that Nick seems to admire.

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The Great Gatsby

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