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  • Subject area(s): Hospitality
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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Paula Jankowski

May 18th, 2016

Response Paper #3

A Tragic Hero

Throughout the novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jay Gatsby, or James Gatz, is considered to be an individual of many flaws, dreams, and secrets. Although Gatsby’s far-reaching goals and yearnings may seem opaque to the readers of the novel, to him, they are essential in transcending his lowly past and fulfilling the vision he has of a “perfect” life. This ideal life which Gatsby fantasizes about—and is consistently working towards—includes all the standard aspects of life: wealth, success, and the “American Dream.” However, the true driving force of his struggle to become such a success, is his love for Daisy and his desire to repeat his past with her as somebody who is perfect, in the way he always thought she was. Although it is easy to recognize the many flaws in Gatsby’s plan, Gatsby’s failures do not compromise the grand image Nick Carraway holds of him. Rather, Nick Carraway’s begin to recognize that Gatsby is a tragic hero, whose demise was solely caused by his idealistic view of Daisy, his aspiration for a false “perfect” reality, and the people he was surrounded by.

Daisy Buchanan is revealed as the motivation for all of the incomprehensible actions Gatsby took to achieve his success, which also unveils her as the root of his downfall. Gatsby found an unfamiliar fascination with Daisy when they first met, and her one-of-a-kind love was one which Gatsby never gave up on. However, although Gatsby shared an idealistic view of Daisy, her personality realistically brought about a certain destruction to his character. Daisy had a choice of either marrying Gatsby for true love, or marrying Tom Buchanan for money—but with an ensured high standing in society, and wealth, there was realistically no difficulty in her decision. From bootlegging to gambling, Gatsby took extreme measures to achieve the level of wealth which he believed would compel Daisy to love him once more and change her mind. When Daisy and Gatsby reunite many years later, Gatsby goes to great extents to boast his newly-acquired wealth to Daisy, and is convinced his prosperity will win her back. When Daisy sees Gatsby’s exquisite collection of shirts, she cries,“‘They're such beautiful shirts,’ she sobbed, her voice muffled in the think folds, ‘It makes me sad because I've never seen such—such beautiful shirts before’” (118-119). Daisy does not cry when she reunites with Jay but rather when she sees all of his material wealth. Nevertheless, things seem to be back to the way they were in the past and the two characters have an affair. When Tom and Gatsby come face to face, Gatsby states,“She [Daisy] only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her [Daisy’s] heart she never loved anyone except for me” (130). However, when Gatsby asks Daisy to confess that she has never loved Tom—she is unable to do it, which shows that the sole purpose of her affair with Gatsby was to get revenge on Tom. While this time with her meant the entire world to Jay, Daisy did not see it to be anything more than part of her plan. Nick who quietly oversees this entire affair believes that the fraudulent things which Gatsby did to achieve his wealth and make her love him once more--do not make him a bad person, but rather show that the love he had for Daisy was genuine—though she had not been worthy of it.

Gatsby—a man with insatiable hope, who had dedicated his entire life to attaining a “perfect” reality— discovered that in losing Daisy, he had also lost everything he had ever wanted, had, and even still dreamed of. Money and all of his material wealth were meaningless to him now that Daisy was just a fragment of his past. Towards the end of the story, Gatsby awaits his demise as he takes responsibility for a crime that Daisy committed. Although he knows that Daisy was the one who driving his car when it hit Myrtle, he does not tell anybody. He would rather face the consequences than allow Daisy to do so, which shows the extent of his kindness, compassion and the love he feels for her. However, Daisy is not nearly as concerned about Gatsby’s fate as he is hers, and she returns to Tom right after Gatsby decides to take the blame for the accident. Gatsby knew that his hope was slowly running out and that his fake persona was deteriorating, “I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn’t believe it would come, and perhaps he no longer cared[…] He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass”(161). Although Gatsby had believed that he had failed, Nick Carraway reassures Gatsby that his only mistake was loving Daisy. Throughout the entire novel, Nick seems repulsed by the way which these individuals treat others and realizes that Gatsby would never treat people the way they do. Owing to this, just before Nick leaves Gatsby’s house for the last time, he tells Gatsby, “‘they’re a rotten crowd[...]’you’re worth the whole damn bunch put together’” (154). When Gatsby is murdered, it is not for his own crimes but for Daisy’s, and she never thanks him for all that he had done for her. This advocates Nick’s idea that Gatsby’s failures do not define him as anything less than a great character. Rather they suggest that with his determination, he was capable of achieving anything he dreamed of-- his dream just wasn’t the right one for him.

Despite all of the events that take place in the novel, the most defining aspect of Gatsby as a tragically heroic figure to Nick Carraway, unfortunately come with his death. Gatsby’s character in the novel seems to be defined by the extravagant parties that he held every weekend, which everybody in the city would attend. With all of these people constantly crowding into Gatsby’s home, it becomes hard to believe that Gatsby would ever be alone. However, the sad truth was that nobody cared for Gatsby at all, not even Daisy—who he had spent his entire life fighting for. Gatsby’s closest friend before his death, Nick Carraway, hosts a wake for Jay a couple of days after his death, but nobody shows up to pay respect to Gatsby. Owl-eyes, a omniscient character who seems to mysteriously appear throughout the novel, points out, “‘Why, my God! They used to go there by the hundreds” (175).  Carraway at one point seems to have faith in humanity, and that somebody will show up—so he insists that the funeral is held off for a little while longer. Nevertheless, Gatsby’s supposed closest friends—Wolfsheim and Daisy—do not even bother to attend the funeral, and his efforts to hold off the funeral, "wasn't any use. Nobody came" (174). In this moment, Caraway realizes that despite the thousands upon thousands of people who had attended Gatsby’s parties, enjoyed his hospitality every summer, and the innumerable amounts of friendships or admirers he had, none of them were true. Nick realized, that “They were careless people[...]they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness[...]and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (179). Nick’s private commentary on Gatsby’s funeral reveal it was the acts of others which led to Gatsby’s demise, and despite all of the fraudulent things Gatsby had done in his life, Nick believed Gatsby was still the most authentic person he had ever met. Carraway realized that deep down, Gatsby hadn’t cared about his wealth or extravagant life-- he only cared for finding love again-- contrary to all those who surrounded him. Although his entire success was built on lies and deception, it could never be considered worse than how cruelly those around Gatsby, had used him.

In a world full of deception, Gatsby finds that honesty is not a policy that brings success and happiness. Gatsby starts out his life as a poor boy due to the honesty of his family and the morals that he valued, as he grows up however, he sees that deception is a much easier reality. Despite Gatsby’s fraudulently obtained wealth and success, there is nothing evil or greedy about him in the eyes of Nick Carraway. Nick realizes that everything that Gatsby did, and the fraudster he was--had been nothing more than an attempt at rekindling his love with Daisy Buchanan. Nick’s grand image of Gatsby is not compromised when he fails in his plans, but he seems to pity Gatsby for genuinely loving somebody as unworthy of it as Daisy. Despite Nick’s initial fascination with fortune, through his friendship with Gatsby, he seems to grasp an understanding of the unhappiness that wealth causes, and is disgusted how the lies, deceits, and misdeeds of others lead to the demise of someone as great as his friend, Gatsby.

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