The Great Gatsby Essay

Essay by rbortz13High School, 11th gradeA, December 2009

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The author F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his book The Great Gatsby brings up the concept of how a person cannot succeed in life through deception. The character that represents this idea in the novel is Jay Gatsby, who lives his life through lies to society and himself, which in the end achieves nothing.

In the novel The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby is an example of a man who is concealing his past through the impression of high class and wealth. Society sees him as a person of old money, or wealth through inheritance, when in reality he originated from the poorer side of the general public. He conceals this through many of his possessions, his manner and the way he conducts himself to others. An example of this is a quotation stated by Nick Caraway when he is describing Gatsby's car, "It was a rich cream color, bright with nickel swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns.

Sitting down behind many layers of glass in a sort of green leather conservatory, we started to town."(Page 64) The symbol of color is used throughout the novel relating to different aspects of the story. The white color which describes the car, represents wealth and cleanliness, the image that Gatsby is trying to portray. In addition, the way that Nick talks about the 'many layers of glass' symbolizes Gatsby's character. It seems as though he is upper class and clean, when in reality, he gets his money through committing crimes. The parties that Gatsby throws also show the way he is trying to present himself to the public eye as a person of old money, meaning a person whose family has been weathly through generations. As Nick tells his interpretation of the party, it relates to this goal that Gatsby has set for himself: "Instead of rambling, this party had preserved a dignified homogeneity, and assumed to itself the function of representing the staid nobility of the countryside-East Egg condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard against its spectroscopic gayety." (Page 44) Gatsby is trying to imitate a party that people of old money would have. This shows how he is trying to deceive the rest of society. When Nick says that the party is 'on guard against its spectroscopic gayety', he is speaking of how Gatsby is trying to avoid the appearance that his parties are out of control and made up of people mostly from the lower class and new money, instead of being refined and exclusive to people of old money. Representing Gatsby's attempt at deception, this next quotation is one where Nick encounters a man in the library during one of Gatsby's gatherings, speaking about one of the books in the library. "'Absolutely real-have pages and everything. I thought they'd be a nice durable cardboard. Matter of fact, they're absolutely real. Pages and-Here! Lemme show you.'…'It's a bona-fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me. This fella's a regular Belasco. It's a triumph. What realness! What thoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop, too-didn't cut the pages. But what do you want? What do you expect?'"(Page 45) Despite how hard he tries to pull a veil over peoples' eyes, Gatsby cannot succeed in fooling everyone into believing his lies. This excerpt shows how this man sees right through Gatsby and the extent to which he goes to shield his false façade from the world. When the man thinks that the books were made of cardboard, this shows how he is describing the kind of man he thinks Gatsby is, that he is just a superficial person and has no deeper qualities to him.

Gatsby not only tries to deceive society, but he lies to himself as well. For example, he lies to himself about Daisy, giving himself a false hope that he can win her love again, just as easily as the way he gets his money. Gatsby moves across the sound from Daisy, thinking that she will just wander into one of his parties one night, see all the wealth and glamour that she has been missing and come right back to him. A segment from the novel that represents this idea is when Gatsby has a conversation with Nick discussing Daisy, "'I wouldn't ask too much of her,' I ventured. 'You can't repeat the past.' 'Can't repeat the past?' he cries incredulously. 'Why of course you can!' He looked around him wildly as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of his hand."(Page 110) Nick is trying to remind Gatsby of his too-high expectations for Daisy's reaction. Furthermore, Gatsby cannot realistically believe Daisy will come running back to him and leave the life she has made for herself while they have been apart. This shows how Gatsby thinks he has known Daisy for five years, but in reality, he knew her five years ago. This is a representation of Gatsby's dream and how he thinks he can obtain it when it is never really within his reach.

Another quotation that shows Gatsby's yearn for Daisy is when Nick talks about Gatsby's impression of Daisy's dock from across the water, "I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out that green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to his blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city," (Page 180) The symbolism of the green light in this phrase represents Gatsby's false hope that he could have Daisy despite the differences in their class and personalities since they were first together. This is another example of how Gatsby was trying to bring back the past and make himself believe that he could have something that was never even a possibility.

Lastly, Gatsby deceives society and himself by having the false belief that people care about him. This is shown when Gatsby throws his parties and large crowds come. Half the people have never met him and do not even know what he looks like. An example of this is when Nick listens in to a conversation that Gatsby's guests are having about him, "'Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once.' A thrill passed over all of us 'I don't think so much that,'…'it's more that he was a German spy during the war.' One of the men nodded in confirmation. 'I heard that from a man that knew all about him, grew up with him in Germany,' He assured us positively."(Page 44) This shows how far fetched peoples' stories about Gatsby are because no one wants to take the time to actually get to know him. This represents some irony because Gatsby, behind his mask of wealth, is just as ordinary as any other person that comes to his parties. A quotation that discusses the funeral shows how people felt about Gatsby, "I began to look involuntarily out the windows for other cars. So did Gatsby's father. And as the time passed and the servants came in and stood waiting in the hall, his eyes began to blink anxiously, and he spoke of the rain in a worried, uncertain way. The minister glanced several times at his watch, so I took him aside and asked him to wait for half an hour. But it wasn't any use. Nobody came." (Page 174) This demonstrates that people only use him for his parties and do not care what becomes of him. People would go to have their fun then just walk away the next day not even remembering what happened the night before. The setting illustrates the depressing outcome of Gatsby's life; nobody showed up at the funeral because Gatsby did not have any true friends.

Throughout the novel Gatsby conceals his past by lying to society about who he is and trying to cover up his faults through wealth. He also lies to himself by having a completely false hope that he can bring back the past. Because he was so involved in giving off an artificial impression, he never took time to be himself around people causing him to have almost no one in the end.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York, NY. Scribner.