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The greatness of an individual can be defined in terms far beyond tangible accomplishments. In F. Scott Fitzgeralds classic American novel, The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby's greatness comes from his need to experience success and his will to achieve his dreams. Nick Carraway narrates the story, and his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, is Gatsby's love. Daisy, however, is married to Tom Buchanan, a wealthy, arrogant womanizer who despises Gatsby. Gatsby feels the need to be successful and wealthy, and his participation in a bootlegging operation allows him to acquire the wealth and social status needed to attract Daisy.
In his narration, Nick focuses on Gatsby's fixation of Daisy and how he longs for her presence in his life. Gatsby's greatness comes from his power to dream, his competence in turning dreams into reality, and his absolute love for Daisy. In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby uses his dreams as motivation for his existence. Fitzgerald uses wealth and social status to define Gatsby's character, which is exemplified by his lavish parties and the dignitaries who attend them. In his formative years, Gatsby was employed by a wealthy yachtsman, Dan Cody. It is from Cody that Gatsby develops his appreciation for wealth.
To young Get, resting on his oars, looking up at the railed deck, that yacht represented all the beauty and glamour in the world (Fitzgerald 106). Fitzgerald uses this quote to mark the point at which Gatsby encounters wealth and power for the first time, and also, he uses it to symbolize Gatsby's social standing and economic status. By comparing Gatsby's rowboat with the luxurious yacht of Cody's, Fitzgerald presents the idea that money and power translate into bigger and better things. The event is symbolic in that it illustrates Gatsby's perception that wealth is a necessity. By saying that he was looking up to all the beauty and glamour in the world, Fitzgerald makes it evident that Gatsby idolized this lifestyle. Also, he shows that Gatsby views beauty as a materialistic quality.
Gatsby's materialistic view of beauty can be seen in his love for Daisy when Gatsby says, her voice is full of money (127). This quote by Gatsby shows how he identifies his love for Daisy with his love for money. Gatsby and Daisy met in Louisville, where they fell in love with each other, however, when Gatsby left for The Great War (World War I), Daisy fell in love and married Tom Buchanan. The most significant difference between Tom and Gatsby was their economic and social standing in society.
Tom was wealthy and powerful, and Gatsby was from a middle class midwestern family with little money or prestige to their name. Gatsby dreams of one day reuniting with Daisy and recapturing the love he lost, and he accomplishes this by acquiring the wealth and social status, which he lacked five years before. Gatsby invites Tom and Daisy to one of his parties and to display his new position among society's elite, Gatsby says, You must see the faces of many people youve heard about (111). Gatsby also refers to Tom as the polo player, implying that Tom is insignificant compared to the many celebrities present at the party (111). Daisy, however, is impressed by Gatsby's exorbitant amount of wealth, and she is eager to see him.
Gatsby, in turn, used his materialism and excessive displays of wealth to reunite with his former love. Gatsby is able to turn his dreams into reality. Gatsby idolizes money, and through bootlegging alcohol, he is able to obtain it. Gatsby also wants to intimately reunite with Daisy, despite her status as a married woman. These two desires of Gatsby's come to show the lengths Gatsby is willing to go, even if it is illegal or morally unacceptable, to obtain his dreams. Gatsby hides his involvement in the bootlegging of alcohol not only to preserve his innocence, but also to give the impression that he is wealthy on his own accord.
When Nick asks what type of business he is in, Gatsby replies, thats my affair, however, Gatsby does attempt to correct himself by saying he was in the drug business and then the oil business, but is not in either one now (95). By covering up his true source of employment, Gatsby is attempting to create a more presentable image of himself to Nick. This need to make himself better in the eyes of others is characteristic of Gatsby throughout the novel. Gatsby also feels the need to display his wealth. To Nick, Gatsby says, my house looks well, doesnt it?
See how the whole front of it catches the light (95). Gatsby uses this statement to seek reassurance from Nick on the appearance of his house. This statement once again reiterates Gatsby's need for others to his excessive wealth and extravagant lifestyle. Nick says in his narration, he hadnt once ceased looking at Daisy and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes (97). This quote shows not only how Gatsby sought approval of his wealth, but also how he based his love of Daisy on material objects. Despite being apart from Daisy for five years, Gatsby still feels that they love each other.
Gatsby's love for Daisy is so immense that he read a Chicago paper for years just on the chance of catching a glimpse of Daisy's name (84). By describing Gatsby's love for Daisy in this manner, Fitzgerald shows the degree to which Gatsby has longed for Daisy in her absence. In order to see Daisy again, Gatsby hatches a plan that will allow him to interact with her coincidentally. He decides that Nick, being Daisy's cousin, should invite her to tea one afternoon, and it is at Nicks house where he shall reunite with Daisy.
Gatsby's plan works to perfection, and his propensity for fulfilling his dreams is once again revealed to the reader. Gatsby's greatness can be seen in his unquestioned love for Daisy. Gatsby's love for Daisy is most evident in the death of Myrtle Wilson, Toms mistress. While returning from New York in Gatsby's car, Daisy accidentally hits Myrtle, killing her instantly. Gatsby says that he will take the blame for Daisy (151). It is at this time that Gatsby shows his greatest love for Daisy.
He is willing to put his own well being in jeopardy in order to spare the life and good name of Daisy. Daisy, however, is unable to return Gatsby's love. After Gatsby unites with Daisy at Nicks residence, she is unsure what is best for her future. She ultimately decides that Tom is her most secure choice.
When Daisy decides to stay with Tom, Gatsby says, of course, she may have loved him, just for a minute, when they were first married and loved me more even then (159). This quote shows how Gatsby misconceived his relationship with Daisy. He feels that Daisy's love is equal to his, and he struggles with the idea that she could love someone other than him. However, this power to dream is Gatsby's greatest quality because it gives a dimension to his character that is not apparent in anyone else in the novel. Gatsby relies so heavily on his dreams and aspirations that he is willing to have his life ensconced in their very essence. Nick says that Gatsby, represented everything for which I had an unaffected scorn (6).
However, he is able to see through this dislike of Gatsby's character to tell him, youre worth the whole damn bunch put together (162). In other words, Gatsby possessed the qualities of a great individual, but his reliance on material objects to show his love and his corrupt ideology prevent him from reaching his full potential as an honorable character in the work. Gatsby's greatness is not contained in noteworthy accomplishments, his wealth, or even his pursuit of love. Gatsby possesses the power to dream.
Gatsby dreamed of being wealthy and reuniting with Daisy. He fulfilled his dreams, but unlike his dreams, Gatsby's reality was hollow. His money was made illegally and his love for Daisy was based on only that which he could buy. Gatsby's greatness is not only present in what he dreamt for, but also, he possessed the ability to grasp his dreams and turn them into reality. Gatsby may not be a perfect character, but by living for a purpose, he is able to extract greater meaning from life, making him superior to the other characters in the novel.
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