How is honesty the most prevalent theme in The Great Gatsby?    

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With the possible exception of Nick, no one is consistently honest in The Great Gatsby. Nick has to be honest, because he's the narrator, and we need to have an honest broker to guide us through this shiny, opulent world in which nothing is ever quite how it seems. Dishonesty is rampant in the book—both dishonesty to one's self and to others. The main problem is that just about everyone is trying to be something they're not. And even those who act according to how they've always behaved, such as Tom Buchanan, still act dishonestly. Witness his numerous extramarital affairs.

Wherever we look it seems that no one can be, or even wants to be, true to themselves. Myrtle Wilson wants to leave behind her humdrum existence in the Valley of Ashes and sample the delights of a gilded, upper-class life—hence her affair with Tom; Jordan Baker is someone Nick describes as "incurably dishonest," a pathological liar who once created quite a scandal by appearing to cheat during a golf tournament; Daisy Buchanan deceives herself by remaining married to Tom despite his myriad infidelities; and then there's Jay Gatsby himself, a man whose enormous wealth has been built on the proceeds of organized crime. Everyone has acted dishonestly in some way or another, yet the age in which they live, the age of the self, individualism, and the headlong pursuit of wealth and status, positively encourages such behavior.

afi80fl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Great Gatsby, honesty is a huge theme, as no one is quite what they seem.  Be it Tom who plays the devoted husband, yet leads Nick to his apartment in the city where he has an open affair with a girl from the Valley of Ashes, or Daisy who appears weak and defenseless, yet later on runs over her husband's mistress in Gatsby's car, characters are very multidimensional.

Gatsby refuses to give straight answers, and it is not until after he all but loses hope for achieving his goal of winning back Daisy that he comes close to being honest with Nick, the narrator.  In fact, Nick doesn't get the whole picture of Gatsby's life until after he is dead, and he has an opportunity to speak with his father, Mr. Gatz, at a very poorly attended funeral. 

No one is what they seem.  Jordan cheats at Golf, while Tom, Daisy, and Myrtle all have extramarital affairs.  When Nick tells Gatsby that he's worth "the whole damn lot of the put together", he is making a valid judgement call in that no one else ever comes clean and exhibits true honesty except for Gatsby in the end.  This adds a lot of meaning to the quote early on in the novel where Nick says, "No, Gatsby turned out alright in the end... it was what preyed on him" that finally got to him.

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Honesty is the most prevalent theme in The Great Gatsby because it dominates every aspect of the novel. Specifically, it is the lack of honesty which really comes to the fore in this story. Jordan Baker, for example, is famed for cheating in golf, and Tom and Myrtle are both lying to their partners while they enjoy an affair. Even Daisy Buchanan's persona is one based on lies: she confesses to Nick in Chapter One that everything is "terrible" but would never openly admit this to other people around her.

Gatsby, too, lives a life dominated by lies. He built his fortune using lies and deception, for instance, and hosts his parties for Daisy's benefit, not to impress or entertain others. As such, honesty and lies drive the plot of the The Great Gatsby.

Honesty is also responsible for creating the major turning points in the novel. When Daisy openly (and honestly) chooses her husband over Gatsby, for instance, Gatsby's dream is officially over. Moreover, when Wilson discovers his wife's affair, this leads him to murder Gatsby and then take his own life. It does not matter that Wilson was wrong about Gatsby; what matters is that honesty and lies brought about his destruction.

aicanson | Student

Quote on Jordan cheating 


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The Great Gatsby

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