Why is Gatsby considered to be an American romantic hero?Why is Gatsby considered to be an American romantic hero?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jay Gatsby, born James Gatz, can be considered heroic as well as tragic. His heroism is initially understood (assuming, of course, that the biographical details he shares with Nick Carraway are true) by virtue of his military service during World War I. He notes that he was decorated and promoted for courageous actions and produces a medal of "Valour Extraordinary" presented him by the government of Montenegro. He can also be considered heroic on the basis of his willingness to accept responsibility for the death of Myrtle Wilson—a death caused by Daisy Buchanan's recklessness and Myrtle's mistaken assumption that Tom Buchanan was driving the vehicle that struck her. This gesture of self-sacrifice is heroic.

These acts individually and collectively suggest an individual who can be categorized as heroic. Whether Gatsby is heroic in a broader sense of the word, however, can be debated. This is an individual who has come by his considerable wealth through illicit activities, including bootlegging and gambling. His love for Daisy is pure and is the motivating factor in his determination to accrue great wealth through any means necessary.

This obsession with Daisy, however, is troubling from a psychological perspective. In today's parlance, Gatsby would be considered a stalker but for the fact of Daisy's continued infatuation with him despite her marital status. All in all, he is a tragic figure, but heroism is a more subjective determination in this case. Personally, this educator considers him heroic on the basis of a clear pattern of courageous actions irrespective of any underlying motivation.

luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jay Gatsby is a romantic hero because he sacrificed his life for the woman he loved.  Jay's life, after meeting Daisy, centered around one goal: to make enough money to get Daisy back.  He dreamed of recapturing what he and Daisy had before he left for the war five years prior to the start of the story.  He bought his house to be close to Daisy.  He held parties hoping Daisy would come to one of them.  He asked Nick to arrange the tea party so he could see Daisy again.  When Jay, Nick, Daisy, Tom, and Jordan are in the hotel in New York City, Jay tells Tom that Daisy is going to leave Tom to be with him.  All the characters know that isn't going to happen except for Jay - he believes Daisy will leave Tom.  When Daisy hits and kills Myrtle Wilson, Jay is ready to take the blame.  Nick suggests to Jay that he leave town, just to be safe, but Jay won't leave Daisy.  He believes that Daisy needs him, but she leaves town and then doesn't even come to his funeral.  Everything Jay did, he did for Daisy.  That makes him a romantic hero.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jay Gatsby is dedicated to a dream, to a sense of his own potential, and to a need for self-improvement. These fixations all can be described as romantic. And we can also say that Gatsby succeeds in his pursuits, for a while at least.

The question of heroicism in regards to Gatsby really is answered by the prominent role he plays in this very famous novel. He is not a traditional hero, or even a good person, but he is the central figure in a tale of compromised and murky morals and he stands out a someone with a pure, shining dream that is unsullied to the end.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not sure whether to interpret this question as romantic in terms of women or in terms of the American dream.  Gatsby did accomplish the American Dream, but it did not make him happy.  He did not really succeed in getting the girl he wanted either.

bdlugosz1988 | Student

Good afternoon!

To answer your question, you must first break it down. Jay Gatsby is an American, he is considered a Romantic, and he has been viewed by readers for generations as a hero. We can establish that he is an American not only because of his birth right but also because of his uniquely American entrepreneurial spirit and optimism. We can also see how Gatsby is a Romantic as he is driven by feelings of passion and the pursuit of something sentimental (Daisy and lost love) rather than logic. Now that we can see Gatsby as an American and a Romantic, it makes sense that he would also be considered heroic. The tragic ending that awaits most heroes in literature generally comes from their own initial optimism and bravado mixed with this sense of romantic sentimentality. For these reasons, Jay Gatsby is considered an American romantic hero who met a fate he was destined to find.

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The Great Gatsby

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