How does the theme of appearance versus reality affect the plot and characters in The Great Gatsby and Macbeth?

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The theme of appearance versus reality affect plot and character development in both The Great Gatsby and Macbeth. In The Great Gatsby, appearance versus reality can be seen in the eponymous character of Gatsby himself. He projects the appearance of a wealthy self-made man who is cultured, cultivated and worldly.

The reality could not be more different from the appearance. Despite the image he projects, Gatsby grew up in relative obscurity and poverty. He is not the worldly yachtsman who attended Oxford that he wants people to think he is. In fact, he never graduated from college and struggled financially for many years, which we learn when the story relates his initial meeting with Daisy when he was a young soldier. He could not offer her anything at that time.

Gatsby’s character develops as he reinvents himself in an effort to join the world of old money and win the prize he has had his eye on his entire adult life, Daisy. This is also what drives the plot; Gatsby takes a house to be near Daisy and ultimately gain access to her life in an attempt to get her to fall in love with him again.

The gap between appearance and reality is different in Macbeth. When the play opens, Macbeth is what he appears to be: an important member of the king’s inner circle and one of his soldiers. However, the story hinges upon the difference in the appearance of Macbeth’s loyalty versus his actual loyalty or lack thereof. This drives both character development and plot. Specifically, at the urging of Lady Macbeth, Duncan’s so-called loyal soldier Macbeth conspires in the plot to kill Duncan and assume his throne. From there, this intrigue further corrupts Macbeth and leads to his character developing into escalating violence, as he gets further steeped in the evil that the murder unleashes.

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How does the theme of ambition affect plot and character development in The Great Gatsby and Macbeth?

Ambition plays a critical role in both Macbeth and The Great Gatsby. It drives the characters to dark, irrational actions, and it adds drama to both plots that negatively impact the main characters.

For instance, Macbeth’s fervent ambition drives him to do dark things such as murdering King Duncan with the support of his wife, Lady Macbeth. Taking this action forever changes both characters, and thus ambition not only drives the action of the play but affects character development. Both Macbeth and his wife slowly start to go mad, as seen through moments like her hallucination of blood on her hands and his hallucination of the dagger.

While ambition does not lead characters in The Great Gatsby to such drastic actions, it still does lead them to illegal and irrational activities. For instance, Gatsby’s dream of being with Daisy again leads him to devote his whole life to being good enough for her. He engages in the illegal sale of alcohol to earn money and even takes the fall for her when she kills Myrtle. These actions put him in danger, and the latter even leads to his own death.

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