In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, why is it ironic that few people attend Gatsby's funeral?  

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, almost no one is present for Gatsby’s funeral. Nick Carraway is there, and so is Gatsby’s father, and so are a couple of others and perhaps some servants:

A little before three the Lutheran minister arrived from Flushing and I began to look involuntarily out the windows for other cars. So did Gatsby's father. And as the time passed and the servants came in and stood waiting in the hall, his eyes began to blink anxiously and he spoke of the rain in a worried uncertain way. The minister glanced several times at his watch so I took him aside and asked him to wait for half an hour. But it wasn't any use. Nobody came.

Gatsby’s funeral seems ironic for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • When Gatsby was alive, he would throw huge, lavish parties. Many people were more than willing to visit Gatsby when they could enjoy themselves (literally at his expense), but in death he is basically abandoned.
  • Gatsby himself was determined to be popular and to be seen; after his death, few people seem to care about him.
  • Although Gatsby had spent most of his life trying to put his past behind him and had even changed his name from the name (“Gatz”) he had at birth, in the end his father is one of only two people present who had been close to him. Even Nick Carraway had never been particularly close to Gatsby.
  • One might have expected people to have shown up at the funeral simply because of the scandal involved in Gatsby’s death, but not even curiosity-seekers appear.
  • Gatsby, in life, had been obsessed with success, but his funeral in many ways is a failure, at least if judged by the standards he himself would have valued.
  • Mr. Gatz, one of the few attendees who has come to genuinely honor Gatsby, actually knows very little about some of the darker aspects of his son’s life.
  • The funeral is an ironic comment on the individualism so much prized by Gatsby and by American culture in general. Gatsby had spent much of his life trying to distinguish himself from (and yet also for) others, and after his death he is left, essentially, alone.



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The Great Gatsby

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