What are the connections between The Great Gatsby and  Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey that make Gatsby an anti-hero?Main events in the heroic steps that prove he is an anti-hero

Expert Answers
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to mythical criticism, Gatsby is the Alazon (the imposter thinks he is better than he really is) AND the Erion (the self-deprecator who thinks he is not as good as he really is).  To Tom, he's an Alazon; to Nick, he's an Eiron.  What is he to the reader?  A bit of both.

Actually Gatsby plays three mythical roles in the novel, according to how it is framed by Nick:

  1. Hero: rags to riches; lives the American Dream
  2. Loner/Outcast: rebels against the elitist upper class
  3. Scapegoat: is blamed for a murder he does not commit

Also important are the mythological symbolism of colors, numbers, shapes, clothes, and cars.

Gatsby doesn't exactly go through all the steps in the hero's journey.  He actually subverts the journey, namely the "belly of the whale" stage in which a typical hero must accept his new identity.  Gatsby tries to invent his: he is the hero, mentor, and supernatural aid in his own myth.  Nick says his is a God who refuses to acknowledge the past.  In this way, he is more of a Byronic Hero than an anti-hero.  Here are the qualities of a Byronic Hero:

•unusually handsome, or inextricably attractive, often to both sexes •wounded or physically, disabled in some way •moody, mysterious, and/or gloomy •passionate (both in terms of sexuality and deep emotions generally) •remorse laden (for some unnamed sin, a hidden curse, or crime) •unrepentant (despite remorse) •persecuted by fate •self-reliant (often rejecting people on both physical and emotional levels) •is an admirable rebel (against convention, society, religious doctrine) •has a distaste for society and social institutions •is isolated (both physically and emotionally) from society (a wanderer, an exile) •is not impressed by rank and privilege (though he may possess it) •is larger-than-life in his ability--and his pride •suffers gloriously from titanic passions •tends to be self-destructive

evon123 | Student

Fitzgerlad's The Great Gatsby does show a connection to the archtypal monomyth, the hero's journey, however, Gatsby does not go through all the steps. At first, he goes through the separation stage, where he his mind is separated from his usual environment--he is an outcast; none of his guests really know him. He is called for an adventure when he realizes that he must fight for Diasy when she married Tom. He didn't refuse the call--he was awfully obsessedwith her. Along the way, he has his helper,Nick Carraway, for advice.

In order to attain his American Dream (goal, which is Daisy), he faces a road of trials. He has to deal with Tom, and try to find a way to win Daisy back. Of course, throughtout these road of trials, he faces the woman, Daisy, as a Temptress. This is archtypal because woman are usually considered to be the cause of a man's demise in the bible and other religious texts (Adam and Eve, Pandora's Box). One thing of course, Gatsby doesn't enter the belly of the whale; he is not reborn again and does not find his true identity. He worships Daisy too much. Lastly, he must endure a climax/final battle. Myrtle's accident is a major climax because it unravelled many other reprucussions at the end, such as George killing Gatsby, a final battle indeed.

Sadly, after his death, Gastby doesn't get an apotheosis. When he dies, he is not free from his mind, as you see the last thought he had was of Daisy. In the last, where the hero is supposed to return, Gatsby doesn't achive his American Dream, his life-transmuting trophy. However, he is still remembered and is considered superior to Nick.

This is how The Great Gatsby is related to Joseph Cambell's The Hero's Journey.

Read the study guide:
The Great Gatsby

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question