In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, does Jay Gatsby achieve the greatness for which he so desperately struggles? Analyse Gatsby

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Clearly, the tone of satire is omnipresent in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby as Jay Gatsby, a sort of stage name for James Gatz, the "great Gatsby" much like those men of the Vaudeville acts the 1920s, creates an image of himself and a dream both predicated upon illusions. For, he perceives himself as a demi-god--"he was the son of God," Nick observes--who can repeat the past and attain whatever he desires. Like Trimalchio he holds splendid parties. But, his American Dream is also a myth, an illusionary ideal of materialism as the formula for success.

Gatsby's search for success and for his idealistic love ends in tragedy. Like the failed performer of Vaudeville, his audience departs and he is alone on the stage of the false world of West Egg in which dreams are empty of value and beauty;

...he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is....

Daisy has only been beautiful because Gatsby has conferred beauty upon her; his mansion of Marie-Antoinette rooms and leather bound books becomes a merely empty house as his acquaintances abandon him; his mythological automobile with a "labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns" and "triumphant hatboxes" and "fenders spread like wings" now is only a yellow "death car." Tragically, Gatsby's dream has descended to the banal and criminal.

lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jay Gatsby spends his whole life trying to achieve a persona that is based on a lie; he wants to be an old money, East Coast aristocrat when he actually comes from a poor family in North Dakota.  He wants to be an Ivy League graduate, when he actually quit college in Minnesota where he was working as a janitor.  Some of this was to impress Daisy Buchanan, although these characteristics of wanting to be something he wasn't surfaced long before he met her.  It never really seemed that Gatsby's story would have a happy ending, and it didn't, as Gatsby died a murder victim, shot to death in his swimming pool in the aftermath of a sordid, soap opera like chain of events involving adultery, a car accident and manslaughter.  Despite these unhappy events, Nick Carraway feels a sort of admiration for Gatsby's spirit and willingness to devote himself to chasing his dreams; indeed, Gatsby becomes a symbol of what Fitzgerald believed to be the lost American dream, a dream once pure but tarnished by the immorality and corruption of the 1920's. 

tarissa1 | Student

I am doing a literary essay on The Great Gatsby, with the topic of: 'The American Dream, or Nightmare?'. As we know, the American Dream is a central theme that is explored in this novel, so in order to find out if Gatsby attained the greatness was striving for we must identify what his dream was and then compare it to the American Dream.

It is tough to tell exactly what Gatsby wanted. Some say it was to be old money, others say it was to have Daisy want him as much as he wanted her, or just perhaps what she symbolised... That is a whole other story though... I would conclude that he wanted to be successful, in the financial, love and social aspects of his life. He equated that with happiness. 

Now let's look at what the American Dream is. It is an ideology, ethos or culture that is inherited by any American. It stems from the   Declaration of Independence, namely this part: “Certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (The idea that it is an inheritance emphasised that it is a RIGHT. 

The part that I feel is most applicable to Gatsby is the "pursuit of Happiness.” section. We see that all his life he was striving for more (he practically disowned his parents, sprung up from Dan Cody, made his money in some sketchy deals, was fabulously wealthy, and wanted Daisy etc..), and it appears that when he attained his earlier goals he did not find pleasure in that, as he had already set his sights somewhere higher!

So, here is my point. I don't think Gatsby ever did achieve the things he as striving for, because by the time he did reach something he wanted, for example becoming wealthy, he did not take any pleasure in it. This means, in turn, he was never happy, and in turn, he was never successful. 

HOWEVER, if the dream is to be constantly pursuing, or chasing, or striving for happiness (it does not specify that one ever attains it) then Gatsby fulfilled the American dream... Based on that, I would say Gatsby lived the American nightmare... If I were to working day and night to achieve something and never got it, I would be far from happy. To have the hope that one day you may achieve happiness, and yet by doing that you yourself keep pushing it further away, is most certainly a nightmare... 

*These are only my opinions, and reasoning's, please forgive me if I have said anything offensive, or if I have misunderstood something*



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The Great Gatsby

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