F. Scott Fitzgerald Questions and Answers

F. Scott Fitzgerald book cover
Start Your Free Trial

I need an example of a thesis statement for an essay on how Jay Gatsby failed to achieve his dreams in The Great Gatsby.

Expert Answers info

Julianne Hansen, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookM.A. from Clemson University

calendarEducator since 2019

write1,929 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

There are numerous ways you could build a thesis showing how Jay Gatsby, who by outward appearances many would consider the pinnacle of success, fails to achieve his ultimate dreams. First, you need to be clear about what you think Gatsby's dreams really are. Money? Fame? Mansions? I would argue those are but necessary steps along the way to his ultimate goal: Daisy. Gatsby believes that if he is successful enough and wealthy enough, he will finally prove himself worthy of his much-adored Daisy. In the end, Daisy doesn't choose Gatsby, so how does he fail in his quest? You could build a thesis statement that looks something like this:

Ultimately, Gatsby fails to achieve his dream of Daisy because she is not his to claim, because he has built his dream on a fantasy, and because he has lied to obtain his current status.

Your body paragraphs could then line up as follows:

Daisy is not his to claim: First, Daisy is her own person (though often a weak character) who can make her own choices. Though pressured, she has already left Gatsby behind once in the past: she has chosen to marry Tom. She also chooses to turn a (mostly) blind eye to Tom's affairs. Gatsby thinks that Daisy is open for the "taking," but he overlooks quite a bit in this line of thought.

Good quote for this section:

"I don't think she ever loved him." Gatsby turned around from a window and looked at me challengingly. "You must remember, old sport, she was very excited this afternoon. He told her those things in a way that frightened her—that made it look as if I was some kind of cheap sharper. And the result was she hardly knew what she was saying."

Even when Daisy chooses Tom (again), Gatsby still thinks he can win her over. He maintains that she couldn't have meant it; there is still hope that he can still pursue her.

He has built his dream on a fantasy: Gatsby is in love with the Daisy who existed years ago. This Daisy has a child—whom Gatsby himself really doesn't acknowledge. In his future plans for Daisy, where is the room for Daisy's child? How does he plan to deal with Tom, the father of Daisy's child, should his big dream work out? Gatsby is so lost in his dreams that he overlooks some realities of their long-past relationship. Daisy has moved on and changed; Gatsby thinks of her as the same, unchanged young girl he once loved.

Good quote for this section:

"Oh, you want too much!" she cried to Gatsby. "I love you now—isn't that enough? I can't help what's past." She began to sob helplessly. "I did love him once—but I loved you too." Gatsby's eyes opened and closed.

"You loved me TOO?" he repeated.

Gatsby has not even considered the possibility that Daisy could love Tom, a man she has married. That throws chaos into the fantasy that he's been living in.

Gatsby has lied to obtain his status: He's created an entire fake persona and changed his name. He's created false personal histories to better support the societal background he dreams he'd had. He engages in shady, likely-illegal business dealings. Surely all these lies are bound to catch up to him at some point.

Good quote for this section:

It passed, and he began to talk excitedly to Daisy, denying everything, defending his name against accusations that had not been made. But with every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up, and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room.

Tom knows that the source of Gatsby's money makes a difference to Daisy. Gatsby has failed to realize this about her. (Which begs the consideration of which man really knows Daisy better.) Daisy wants Tom's "old" and respectable money and leaves with him—not Gatsby.

There are other choices that would build an excellent paper, as well. Hopefully you can tweak these ideas as you consider which parts of Gatsby's failed dreams really speak to you.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial