Is Gatsby good or bad?

Jay Gatsby is neither wholly good nor wholly bad—like most people, he had significant negative and positive qualities. On one hand, Gatsby has made his fortune through criminal activities and is rather self-absorbed in his pursuit of Daisy. At the same time, however, he's an affable, optimistic soul who seems to enjoy seeing the people at his legendary parties have a good time.

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Jay Gatsby—or James Gatz, to give him his real name—is a very complex character. This is part of the reason why he's such an endless source of fascination, both for readers and the other characters in the story. For the most part, his complexity arises from his moral ambiguity....

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Jay Gatsby—or James Gatz, to give him his real name—is a very complex character. This is part of the reason why he's such an endless source of fascination, both for readers and the other characters in the story. For the most part, his complexity arises from his moral ambiguity. Like most people, Gatsby is neither wholly good nor wholly bad, but a combination of both. Even so, he certainly seems more "good" than many of the other characters in the book.

In terms of bad characteristics, Gatsby can be quite materialistic and shallow. An inveterate social climber, Gatsby doesn't just want to be rich, but to be accepted by the old-money elite of East Egg. He is a dreamer, but his grand dreams can be selfish and sometimes border on delusion. He entertains fantasies about being with Daisy Buchanan, for example, without considering that Daisy may not be willing to leave her husband, child, and entire life behind to be with him.

Then there's matter of how Gatsby came to such phenomenal wealth in the first place. Gatsby became rich due to his involvement in bootlegging, the illegal production and distribution of alcoholic beverages during Prohibition. Even though many view Prohibition as a spectacularly misguided policy, Gatsby was still profiting by breaking the law all the same, and that's not typically something to be admired.

However, despite these negative qualities, Gatsby still comes across as mostly a good person. Charming, outgoing, and generous, he's someone readers could easily imagine being friends with. In contrast to many of the other jaded, cold, and unhappy characters, Gatbsy's earnest and romantic personality is endearing, if a little exasperating at times, especially in relation to his doomed courtship of Daisy. Gatsby ultimately seems like good but misguided person who, like many others pursuing the American Dream, has come to prioritize the wrong things. In the end, readers might find it difficult to disagree Nick's assessment of Gatsby: that Gatsby is worth "the whole damn bunch put together," referring to Tom, Daisy, and all the others.

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