In your eyes, how is Jay Gatsby perceived as a madman ?

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ktmagalia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jay Gatsby, a man who "appears to be mentally ill" or "a lunatic"? In my eyes, as with the prior editors, Gatsby is far from insane.  He knows exactly what he is doing and for what reasons, an indication of complete sanity.  However, if one is using this epithet loosely, as used in J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye in which a madman is a colloquialism used frequently to express Holden's crazy antics, then perhaps one can infer that Gatsby is acting a little crazy in his obsession with Daisy.

After all, is it "normal" to throw lavish parties and not attend in order to attract the woman of your dreams, night after night, watching and hoping that she will attend? Is it "normal" that his sole reason of being is to be with his past love? Is it "normal" that he

commits himself to “the following of a grail” in his pursuit of her and what she represents. This obsession is characteristic of a dreamer like Gatsby, who loses a sense of reality but rather believes in “a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing.”

In my eyes, is Jay Gatsby a "madman" in the denotative meaning? No. But, if one is using "madman" in the looser sense, a person who "loses a sense of reality", and who is senselessly trying to recreate the past creating potential havoc in the process, then I would have to agree.

Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gatsby isn't a madman in The Great Gatsby.  I'm not sure exactly what madman means, but whatever you're thinking of Gatsby probably doesn't fit the definition.

Gatsby is hopelessly in love.  He is obsessed with recovering a past that is an illusion.  He is fooled by a romantic and idealistic image of Daisy and his former relationship with her.  He loves Daisy totally and completely, it appears.

But this doesn't make him a madman.  It makes him foolish and naive.  He is willing to sacrifice himself for Daisy's sake when she accidentally kills Myrtle while she's driving.  Then even after the accident and after Daisy rejects him because he asks "too much"--he asks that his dream is true, that Daisy has loved him and him only since they first met--he waits for a phone call from her the next day.  He is figuratively blind as are the other characters in the novel.  But none of this makes him a madman. 

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous post is quite accurate.  I am not sure he is a madman.  Gatsby does carry himself in a very eccentric manner, one that is designed to win over the heart of the woman with whom he believes he is in desperate love.  I think that if one wanted to extend the definition of "madman" to someone madly in love with another, perhaps this might be able to be stretched to fit.  He does have an irrepressible love of Daisy and a willingness to seemingly do anything for her, but I am not sure that the standard understanding of a "madman" fits here.  If one wanted to be creative enough to say that he is "madly in love," but I think that's it.  "Madman" is a bit too strong here.