In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, what is Gatsby's real first and last name?

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Julie Feng eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, we learn that the titular character was born with the name "James Gatz," and known as "Jimmy Gatz" for much of his life, but changed it to Jay Gatsby. 

The reason he changed his name is because he wanted a new identity to reflect his new lifestyle. To him, "Jimmy Gatz" was a lower-class farm boy who had been dumped by the love of his life. However, if the name changed form, to "Jay Gatsby," it could be the name of a millionaire who deserved to win someone like Daisy Buchanan. 

Daisy's cousin and the narrator of the novel, Nick Carraway, believes that that Gatsby had his new name ready for a long time. It came from his "Platonic" representation of himself, meaning that he saw himself in a certain "perfect" way and was conforming however he could to become that ideal self. Instead of James Gatz of some unnamed farm in the middle of nowhere, he becomes Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in America. "James Gatz" could never live in West Egg.

He changes his name the very moment he sees his first opportunity to make money: helping a man called Dan Cody to smuggle alcohol into American from Canada through Lake Superior. Thus, when he is just seventeen years old, Jay Gatsby earns a fortune through illegal means, and leaves Jimmy Gatz behind forever. 

It is also the effect of Gatsby's wild and vivid imagination. He always saw himself as this type of man: wealthy, refined, respected. Because of this, he never accepted his parents as his own, or his background and heritage as his own. Gatsby's dreams are a reflection of the so-called American Dream in many ways. He had a romanticized vision of his own future, which was at odds with his upbringing. Thus, to become a successful and rich magnate, he had to leave a lot of things behind--including his name. He wanted to be someone else so badly, that he changed his entire identity in order to leave his root behind. His imagination is an important part of his character. It is what keeps him pining for Daisy all those years, and what allows him to finally make a fortune and recreate himself in order to get her back. The name change is simply a reflection of this. 

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gatsby was in some ways Fitzgerald's alter ego. Both were from humble backgrounds and aspired to higher social status. Gatsby went to Oxford, Fitzgerald went to Princeton, which was a rich boys' party school in his day. That was where he acquired the expensive tastes and habits which turned out to be his misfortune. Fitzgerald altered his name, as did Gatsby. What does the F. stand for in F. Scott Fitzgerald? It stands for Francis. He must have hated it because it sounded like a girl's name even in his time, and now it is exclusively a female name. He preferred to be called Scott or Scotty. 

The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers.
                                                       Marshall McLuhan

“How weird it is, the way people’s names seem to suit them--how they get a name and grow up to be like it.”
        Sir Ralph Richardson, quoted in The New Yorker, 2/21/77

And that was the first time Byron remembered that he had ever thought how a man’s name, which is supposed to be just the sound for who he is, can be somehow an augur of what he will do, if other men can only read the meaning in time.
                                        William Faulkner, Light in August

cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 6 we learn about Gatsby's background and find out that his real name is James Gatz.

To many literary critics, Fitzgerald's choice of his name "has been "a difficult puzzle to solve." Interpretations of its origin range from "God's boy" to a slang term for gun to a German term for derision. The link below offers further discussion; however, you must have a premium subscription to enotes to access it.

taangerine | Student

Gatsby's real name  is "Jimmy Gatz", but changed it to Jay Gatsby in hopes of a more successful new lifestyle. 

Ada Sison | Student

His full name is James ("Jimmy") Gatz. He changes his name to Jay Gatsby later.

melissa1106 | Student

Gatsby's real full name is James Gatz. He chooses to change his name from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby because he wants to reinvent himself in a new life of success and luxury. He never believed his original life was his destiny so he changes his life and thus changes his name.

zumba96 | Student

His full name is Jay "Jimmy" Gatz

ssurferbabe15 | Student

gatsby's real name is James Gatz.

englit1990 | Student

gatsby's name was Jay Gatz but he changed it to suit his new lifestyle because he didnt want to be reminded of his past

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The Great Gatsby

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