In The Great Gatsby, why is Gatsby considered to be great?Why is Gatsby considered to be great?

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parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gatsby is "great" in that he is cast as a character "bigger-than-life."

Between image and substance, he is a bundle of contraditions. A jet-setter VIP in the fast lane, Gatsby nevertheless seems worn down by the glitter and gab of his contemporaries. For instance, he throws big parties but tires of them and at times even wanders off. He is preoccupied, even troubled, by his relationship with Daisy, a superficial "tart", but seeks more meaningful relationships among his male peers. He "lives by the rules" to maintain his status among the upper crust but takes this task on as a burdensome duty rather than as a privilege. He acts as a man of integrity, but rumour has it that he amassed his fortune through bootlegging during the Prohibition years.

Gatsby is enigmatic because of these contraditions, and the mechanics of his personality are difficult to figure out. He is "very human" but at the same time remains beyond the grasp of everyday, middle class people. He has enveloped himself in a world he has painfully constructed, but once this is done, he is no longer free to be himself. The myth has taken over the man.

Most critics agree that there are strong autobiographical elements in the fabric of Gatsby, as Fitzgerald lived in the same kind of society and faced many of the same problems. He deals more directly with these issues in his book The Crack-up. (For example, Fitzgerald made "unreasonable" sacrifices for his unstable wife Zelda much in the same way that Gatsby "took the rap" for Daisy.)

For more information concerning the ambivalence of Gatsby and the social concerns of Fitzgerland who lived during "the Jazz Age" (his own coined expression), see the references below.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In The Great Gatsby, why is Gatsby considered to be great?

Why is Gatsby considered to be great?

And yet another interpretation . . . Fitzgerald's title is the gift that just keeps on giving. I've read in several sources  that shortly before his novel was published, a nervous Fitzgerald cabled his editor, Max Perkins, to ask if he should change the name of it to Under the Red, White, and Blue. He asked Perkins what the effect would be. Perkins reportedly cabled a one-word answer: "Fatal."

One aspect of Gatsby's greatness is the sheer magnificence of his dreams, the very nature of them. I don't mean his pursuit and attainment of wealth--the gorgeous house, big yellow car, flashy wardrobe. His dream was even more ambitious. He truly believed he could create himself in the self-image he had dreamed up. FSF wrote of Gatsby's "Platonic conception of himself," adding "He was a son of God, " an ironic reference to Christian theology. Gatsby was God who created Gatsby as Son.

Then there was Gatsby's other dream/sincere belief that through the sheer force of his will, he could wipe out five years and repeat the past. I think Nick uses the word "colossal" to describe this dream. Maybe what made Gatsby great at heart was the nature of his dreams and what Nick calls Gatsby's "extraordinary gift for hope" and his unmatched "romantic readiness."



dneshan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The character of Jay Gatsby is considered to be "great" for a few different reasons depending upon which character you are looking at.  Nick is Gatsby's biggest admirer and the reasons that Nick feels that Gatsby is great is dependent upon the other characters in the novel.   Throughout the book, Nick is befriended by characters who are shady and self-centered -- Tom, Daisy, Jordan, Myrtle.  Through his interactions with these people, Nick realizes that Gatsby, despite the fact that his is somewhat living a lie, is a good person on the inside.  He would never treat people the way that Tom, Jordan, or Daisy does.  A perfect example of this lies at the end of the novel after Daisy kills Myrtle.  Daisy vanishes back into her house to make up with her husband, never telling him that it was she who killed his girlfriend while Gatsby waits outside her house to make sure she is alright, totally ready to take the murder rap for a woman who really does not seem to care much for the man that he is (but only for what he possesses). 

The other characters in the novel who visit Gatsby at his parties find him to be great because of the parties that he throws and the mystery that surrounds his character -- the rumors that are spread about him contribute a great deal to his "greatness" when looking at him through the eyes of these minor characters. 

litqks | Student

The title the 'Great Gatsby' is exceedingly significant, as it creates an obvious tone of ambiguity. This at first appears frustrating. As it symbolises the fact that he appears illusory like a magican with a 'caravansary' 'like a card house'. The fact that his greatness is not specified, and we seem to learn nothing more about him than his name, is suggestive of how everything else is obscelete. Thus evoking Fitzgeralds view that class, brandings and acheivements do not matter, which is furtehr shown by the constant name dropping of shallow people like the Buchanans. As in Nicks eyes, Gatsby just for the wholesome goodness he is, is Great.

he could be considered 'great' to someone who isnt part of the main plotline, which are people who dont know him at all, but only the stories of how he could have accumilated wealth. all those people are the people who come to his parties.

the irony of this is that he throws all these 'great' fancy parties that everyone else enjoys, and he, the one throwing the parties, doesnt even like them. this half fills his emotional void that he has, due to him not being with daisy for the past several years. this could lead one to believe that even if the book and many others in the book suggest and believe him to be great, gatsby doesnt believe it himself. IRONY!

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The Great Gatsby

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