The Superficial Gatsby
In the novel entitled The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, Jay Gatsby is at times made out to be better than us. At first glance he is sophisticated, using big words and claiming that he is an 'Oxford man.'; But when we look closer we can easily see that this man is a farce. Much of this man has been shrouded in mystery. We know very little about his past until later in the book. We don't know where he was born, who his parents are, or where all of his money came from. He frequently disappears form Nick's view seemingly without a trace. All of these things make him out to be somebody of real importance but by looking closely we can gather an abundance of evidence to the contrary. We see that he is just a man looking for the lost love of his life, Daisy. He is a man looking for the American dream and when he does not find it, we see at last that he is just like the rest of us.
The word great is somewhat vague in meaning. Whether someone is great or not often times depends on the person judging them. My personal beliefs as far as greatness are concerned are not very complicated. When I think of someone who is or was great, I think of Jackie Robinson, Louis Armstrong, and Albert Einstein. These are all people who affected the way we live and have changed our society as a whole for the better. My parents are great; my teachers are great, and my coaches are great. All of those people have a lot of influence directly over me and they are always changing me for the better. A truly great person has to make sacrifices and be very brave. Jackie Robinson was the first black person to enter the major leagues. To face the kind of racism that he faced and still perform the way he did is a feat hat I don't think I could do. His bravery and grace under pressure has earned him a place among the greats. He is a wonderful example of greatness, and there are many more like him. Not everyone has the same kind of standard for greatness as I do. Another part of being great is growing up from an impoverished background. Some people, like the two kids who murdered thirteen kids at Littleton High, think that Hitler was a great man. Some people think that Stalin and Milosevic are great. These dictators did not rise to power without support from other people. People fought and died for these tyrants because (most times) they thought they were great.
It is my belief that Daisy led Gatsby on. She turned out to be a contemptible person who only used to love him but lacked the strength of character to tell him that. In chapter seven Daisy tells Tom that she never loved him but she ends up ditching Gatsby for him. She is too easily pushed around by Tom. If she had told him that earlier maybe he would have listened to her and done something else with his life. He has the potential to be very great. He had the character traits of a good leader. He was very charismatic, and thought things out carefully before jumping into them. We know he could have been a good leader because of his experience in the army.
'If he'd lived on he'd have been a great man. A man like James J. Hill. He'd of helped build up the country';(176).
But when he really thought that he could get at Daisy, he went after her and in the process changed some lives but not necessarily for the better. Daisy will never forget what Gatsby did for her in taking the blame for Myrtle's death. Nick found out that perhaps it is impossible to achieve that American dream.
There are a lot of places where Gatsby could be considered a great man. In chapter three we find out that he throws parties for people he does not even know on a regular basis. He gives them food and wine and something that will make their lives a little more enjoyable if only for for one night. He also buys a girl he does not know well an evening dress to wear to his parties.He is for the most part a very kind person. It is a shame that he had a very shady past otherwise he might have had a real nice funeral with a lot of people instead of just his dad, Nick, and Owl eyes. He is just not great in my sense of the word.He touched the lives of a lot of people but not in the way people like Einstein or Robinson changed them. Where Einstein wrote the book on modern physics and Jackie Robinson changed the way baseball is played forever, Gatsby only does little things like throwing parties ,which is a nice thing to do, but it doesn't even compare to what Einstein and Robinson did.
Another part of being great is not having to hide your past. There are a lot of parts of the book in which we see the fake life he has made for himself. In chapter three when Nick is in the library with owl eyes we see that all of his books are still uncut. This leads me to believe that he has not really read any of them. Also he changed his name from Gatz to Gatsby. He buys things like his swimming pool that he never even uses. Almost every part of his life is a lie made up by him so he can lead the life of Jay Gatsby. All of this lying makes him out to more of a fraudulent character that a great one. All of it is a farce put on by him to impress a woman that he will never get. A really great person confronts their past, even if it is a bad one, and they come to terms with it. Jay Gatsby has not done that. He keeps his lie going to the very end. More than just lying, a big part of wanting to marry Daisy was to get at her money. That is one of the most despicable acts I can think of.
Though I do not see him as great, I do see Gatsby as a tragic character. All he wants was to get this girl and her money. He was in pursuit of the America dream and when he knew finally that he could never have it, he was shot and killed by Wilson. If he had lived he might have moved on and done something really great with his life.
Obviously Gatsby doesn't really fall into my definition because he has not really changed anybodys life in a way that is similar to the examples above. He has however changed lives. He changed Nick's life by being a friend and allowing him to watch as Gatsby ran after the American dream. He changed Daisy's life by loving her and doing the best he could to get her back. Daisy's problem is that she is pushed around a little too easy and just like that she seemingly forgets everything between Gatsby and herself. But being a great person is more than just those few things. Being a great person means being great and living up to that standard for most of your life. Most really great people continue to meet the standard of being great for a long time. That is part of what makes them so great. Jay Gatsby has turned his past life in to a fraud. Jay Gatsby who, for his own purposes, would break up a marriage. These are not traits of a truly great man.Then we come to the question: Why? Why would Fitzgerald name the book 'The Great Gatsby?'; I believe it is because Nick is the narrator and does see him as great. When I was finished reading this novel I did not come off thinking not thinking 'wow that man was really great.'; I came off thinking (among other things) 'wow that title is not accurate'; because there is an abundance of evidence to the contrary even when it is presented by a narrator that thinks he is great. I believe that is what Fitzgerald wanted us to think (among other things).