Who is most responsible for Gatsby's death in The Great Gatsby?

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F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby inspires many critical arguments. One of the debates centers on who is most responsible for Jay Gatsby's death. Possible candidates are Tom Buchanan, Daisy Buchanan, or Jay Gatsby himself.

One might argue that the fault lies with Tom Buchanan. True,...

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F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby inspires many critical arguments. One of the debates centers on who is most responsible for Jay Gatsby's death. Possible candidates are Tom Buchanan, Daisy Buchanan, or Jay Gatsby himself.

One might argue that the fault lies with Tom Buchanan. True, it is George Wilson who shoots the bullet that kills Jay Gatsby. However, it is Tom who leads Wilson to believe that Gatsby's car is Tom's; thus, when Myrtle is killed, George immediately suspects Tom. To deflect blame, Tom directs George to Jay. Whether Tom believes that Jay was actually driving the car or whether Daisy confessed to him is irrelevant when evaluating Tom's action. Either way, he is protecting himself. Tom stops George from shooting him, and he eliminates his enemy so Jay cannot tempt Daisy again.

One school of thought places the blame directly on Jay Gatsby himself—or rather, James Gatz. From his early life, he was unhappy with his family's meager lifestyle. Dan Cody provided him with the opportunity to change that life—and so James Gatz was reborn into Jay Gatsby. Then, he met and fell in love with Daisy, and he spent five years molding himself into the man he thought she wanted. He lives in a fantasy world, and he pushes away any type of reality.

Although he makes business connections, Jay does not connect with any real friends except for Nick. It does not help him to remain aloof from the hundreds of party-goers, as Jay holds onto unrealistic expectations—especially for Daisy. For instance, he seems genuinely shocked to see Pam. Nick observes that Gatsby "kept looking at the child with surprise. I don't think he had ever really believed in its existence before." It's almost as if Jay thinks he can wish away the child. His intent to change reality to what he wants it to be is completely unrealistic.

When Nick cautions him that he can't go back to the past, Gatsby insists he can. "I'm going to fix everything just the way it was before." He is so enamored with Daisy and so out of touch with reality where she is concerned that he is even willing to take the blame for her crime. Even after Daisy has crushed him by stating that she loves both Tom and Jay, and she clearly chooses to stay with her husband, Jay lingers outside of her house in case she needs him. He does not want to face the truth; when it eventually hits him, he is destroyed. Emotionally, Jay Gatsby is dead long before that bullet hits him.

We cannot ignore Daisy's role in Gatsby's death. Daisy is the love of Jay's life: everything he has done for the past five years has been undertaken in the hope of reuniting with her. Once they begin seeing each other again, Daisy is content to hide her relationship with Jay and is not willing to make it public. Because she visits his mansion in the afternoons, Jay dismisses his servants so that no one will see her and gossip about the lovers. She does not correct him when he thinks they have a future together.

Finally, when Jay confronts Tom and demands that Daisy say she loves Jay and not her husband, Daisy is unable to do so. She falls apart, and the affair is effectively ended. She then turns her back on Gatsby, coldly forgetting about him as he waits outside her house. Daisy never comes forward to admit she was the driver of the "death car," not Jay. That lie sets in motion a series of events that ends in Wilson murdering Gatsby. Not even when Jay is gunned down does Daisy come back to attend his funeral. While she does not physically kill Gatsby, Daisy exhibits callous behavior and refuses to stand up for love; thus, she kills his spirit, which is much worse. He dies a shell of a man, one without any hope or feeling of love. He pays "a high price for living too long with a single dream."

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One might argue that George Wilson is actually the most to blame for Jay Gatsby's death, especially since he is the person who actually fatally shoots Gatsby. It is true that Wilson kills Gatsby because he believes that Gatsby is the person with whom his wife has been having an affair as well as the person who hit and killed her with his car. (He does not know that it was actually Tom Buchanan she was having an affair with or that Daisy Buchanan was driving the car that hit his wife, Myrtle.) Certainly, then, Tom and Daisy do play a significant role in Gatsby's demise, but it is Wilson who ultimately decides to pick up a gun and shoot Gatsby, first, and then himself.

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Tom and DaIsy Buchanan are equally to blame for Gatsby's death. Daisy is to blame, firstly, because she drove the car which killed Myrtle Wilson. Secondly because she allows her husband to continue to believe that it was Gatsby who was driving.

Tom is to blame even though he has been misled by his wife; he tells George Wilson that Gatsby was responsible knowing full well what a murderous state of mind Wilson is in; he effectively signs Gatsby's death warrant.

Nick's judgement doesn't differentiate between the two, 'They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness'. No question Nick is thinking of Gatsby and his dream when he says this.

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