The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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In "The Great Gatsby," what was the active role of Gatsby? Was he a bootlegger?

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Jay Gatsby is the character in the novel around whom all the action revolves. As such, he is the protagonist. Nick Carraway shares Jay's story with the readers who promptly know that the story being told is about him, since the title of the novel names him directly and the following extract, immediately after the introduction, further emphasizes the fact:

Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction — Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn.

Nick, in the role of narrator, informs the audience about Jay's dream, his holy grail, which is to win back Daisy Buchanan's affections and recreate the past. He informs us about the extreme measures Jay takes to realize his ideal. We learn about his new-found wealth and his relationship with shady characters, such as Meyer Wolfsheim, from the underworld. It is as if Jay is some fantasy character seeking to fulfill an impossible dream.

Nick expresses both scorn an admiration for Jay - firstly, because he represents everything about society which he despises: its greed and accompanying ostentatious materialism and secondly, its infinite hope, aptly symbolized by our protagonist in his quest for the realization of an ideal. It is this desire that, ironically, culminates in Jay's destruction and brings to the fore just how empty and meaningless the extraneous quest for happiness is.

Jay's poignantly tragic tale serves as an admonition that the desire for satisfaction, peace and happiness cannot be found outside oneself. Jay never achieved what he desired, for he sought, as Daisy brutally told him, 'too much.' Unfortunately for Jay, he did not want to believe in reality and tried to find happiness in the past and that, in itself, made his quest a piteously futile one. 

The question of whether Jay Gatsby was a bootlegger resulted from the many rumours that were bandied around about him. His past was mired in secrecy. The few glimpses we have into his history informs of one who dreamed of a bright future and who was prepared to work towards it, as illustrated by the careful notes...

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