What is the significance of conflict in The Great Gatsby? 

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sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In most story telling mediums (stories, books, movies, video games, etc.) conflict is usually what drives the plot forward.  Without conflict and struggle, most stories would be simple, boring narrations of random events throughout a character's day.  In The Great Gatsby the conflict isn't so much a conflict that drives events forward (although it does happen in the book), but is more focused on money/wealth, societal roles, and relationships.  If all of the main characters in The Great Gatsby were all wonderful friends with each other and had no love interests or jealousy, it would make for a pretty boring story.  Plus, several of the characters wouldn't be motivated to do any of the devious backstabbing that happens either. 

sciftw's profile pic

sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In most storytelling mediums (stories, books, movies, video games, etc.) conflict is usually what drives the plot forward.  Without conflict and struggle, most stories would be simple, boring narrations of random events throughout a character's day.  In The Great Gatsby the conflict isn't so much a conflict that drives events forward (although it does happen in the book), but is more focused on money/wealth, societal roles, and relationships.  If all of the main characters in The Great Gatsby were all wonderful friends with each other and had no love interests or jealousy, it would make for a pretty boring story.  Plus, several of the characters wouldn't be motivated to do any of the devious backstabbing that happens either.

To be specific, Gatsby's desire to be with Daisy puts him in conflict with Daisy's husband Tom.  It's quite devious for Gatsby to be wooing a married woman, especially since her husband is very much in the picture.  But on the other hand, since Tom has historically cheated on Daisy, the reader is introduced to a marriage already in great conflict.  Perhaps Gatsby wouldn't be quite so motivated to woo Daisy if he perceived her marriage to be a happy and faithful one.  Perhaps not though, since Gatsby's fortune was made doing less than honest and legal work.  Jordan should have an internal conflict about her cheating, but doesn't seem to have much conflict with it at all.  To her, the end justifies the means.  Nick's conflict is more or less trying to figure out how/where he fits in with what he calls "careless people."  

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