Irony In The Great Gatsby

What moments reveal irony in The Great Gatsby? What chapters are they in and what does the irony reveal?

In chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby, an ironic moment can be seen when Nick openly expresses his scorn for everything that Gatsby represents yet proceeds to tell his story anyway. If Nick is so scornful, then why is he telling Gatsby's story? This particular example of irony reveals that Nick finds Jay's lifestyle both fascinating and repellent at the same time.

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The greatest irony of The Great Gatsby is the character of Gatsby himself. He is initially held up as a Romantic figure by the other characters. When people speculate about his past, they conjure up stories of espionage and romance. The actual truth is that Gatsby was a poor young man who made his money through underworld connections and bootlegging.

Gatsby's love for Daisy is also ironic. Fitzgerald never fully makes it clear if Gatsby is actually in love with Daisy the woman or Daisy as an ideal of old-money breeding. When describing Daisy's voice, Gatsby says it is "like money"—hardly a gallant description.

Other characters have their moments of irony as well. Nick claims he was told by his father never to judge anyone else, but he spends the whole novel doing just that. Wilson invokes the justice of God with his erring wife, Myrtle, but ends up committing murder when he believes Gatsby is responsible for her death. Daisy's weeping into Gatsby's shirts when she realizes she should have waited for him instead of marrying Tom is also deeply ironic in that it shows how shallow Daisy is: that Gatsby is now wealthy enough to buy himself so many fancy shirts is a greater draw for her than him being a (somewhat) better person or at least less dismissive of her than Tom.

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The irony to which we've just referred in chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby is one that applies to the whole narrative. As Nick Carraway makes it clear right from the get-go, he doesn't have much time for Gatsby's opulent, shallow world of conspicuous consumption and those who live in it. And yet, ironically, Nick chooses to write about that world and its well-heeled inhabitants.

What this reveals to us is the mixture of fascination and repulsion that many people, Nick included, have towards the rich and privileged. On the one hand, Nick finds the values of Gatsby, the Buchanans, and others rich New Yorkers deeply offensive to his traditional Midwestern sensibilities. But at the same time, he can't help being drawn into their world like a moth to a flame. There's something incredibly seductive about that world which exerts an almost magnetic pull on those outside of it.

At no point in the story does Nick ever lose his true self; to that extent, he remains on the periphery of the group whose story he wants to tell. But at the same time, he becomes more deeply involved in the often sordid details of their lives and loves than he would've liked. Right until the end, Nick is unable to resolve that ironic disparity between repulsion and fascination that he feels towards the glittering world of East and West Egg.

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The Great Gatsby offers many examples of irony. A number of these moments have already been pointed out in the posts above. 

The novel opens with one bit of irony that is often commented on. Nick describes himself on the opening page of the novel as someone "inclined to reserve all judgments" yet in the same paragraph he presents an evaluation (a judgment) of the many young men that have taken opportunities to tell him their stories. These stories are, according to Nick, "plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions." While Nick is not exactly condemning these young men and their stories, he is offering a judgment and situating himself as a narrator that will comment subjectively on his narrative.

Another example of irony in Gatsby is the scene where Daisy cries over Gatsby's shirts. 

“They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed.… “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such—such beautiful shirts before.”

This episode takes place in Chapter 5 and presents an irony within the romance of Daisy and Gatsby. The shirts are symbolic, functioning as an emblem of Gatsby's success and the material comfort that his success brings. Such success is ironic in two ways in this scene.

First, Gatsby and Daisy were once in love but did not marry because Gatsby was too poor. Acquiring wealth, he has now become Daisy's ideal match. Second, the love affair between Gatsby and Daisy is repeatedly contextualized - by Gatsby - as an affair of the heart. There is a sense that this affair represents almost a platonic ideal, a perfect romance. Yet the "heart" of the romance is as materialistic as it is emotional.

Affection and love seem to take a back seat to Daisy's impression of Gatsby's business success (and to Gatsby's desire to prove himself materially worthy of Daisy's love).

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One of the most memorable examples of irony in The Great Gatsby is when Gatsby sits out all night making sure that "Tom doesn't hurt [Daisy]" after the infamous yellow car incident.  While he is outside lovingly and gallantly watching over her, Daisy is inside making up with Tom. 

 This irony reveals much about Gatsby and Daisy.   With Gatsby, we as the reader are struck with an overwhelming sympathy and pity for him.  We see now that Gatsby has lived his whole live trying to live up to an ideal that he'll never reach in Daisy's eyes.  With Daisy, we see that she is no better than Tom, very disloyal, and will probably never really be happy with her life.   

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