DBQ-industrial American by Wilson Chai

Essay by sliang3 March 2009

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby, focuses on the characters’ struggles and how they alter themselves to maintain in high society. Gatsby is an example of a character who dreams of living among the upper class and to be accepted as a respectable man.

In this particular passage, Gatsby demonstrates his ability to tell lies in an elaborate fashion that leaves Nick, the protagonist, in suspicion but also in inquisitiveness. For example, Gatsby unexpectedly asks Nick “what’s your opinion of me anyhow?”(Fitzgerald 69). This inquiry shows that Gatsby cares about what other people think of him and how they make of him, which is a distinctive characteristic of a person who wants to be recognized into high society. Another case in point is that Gatsby suddenly pours out a cluster of stories to defend himself against the rumors that appear to give people the wrong impression of him.

He covers up these rumors to bury his past that he keeps very vague about and to make sure everyone has a respectable opinion of him. He is determined to confront every imperfection of his past and smother it so it does not disturb his reputation. In this way, Gatsby makes sure he sets a name for himself among the socialites.

Consider when Gatsby expresses that he “lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe—Paris, Venice, Rome— collecting jewels, chiefly rubies, hunting big game, painting a little, things for myself only and trying to forget something very sad that happened to me long ago”(Fitzgerald 70). This statement appears extremely fabricated that one would almost laugh at Gatsby’s attempt to boast about his extravagant life. Gatsby is a dreamer. He has established himself as a charming, gracious, mysterious self-made man but longs for more. However, his greatest flaw is that he tends to recapture the past. Consequently, everything he has accomplished in his mature life is the sole purpose of fulfilling his impractical dreams; Gatsby is the American dreamer.

Gatsby’s “rags-to-riches” accomplishment makes him a manifestation of the American dream. He was a son of unsuccessful farmers and alienated himself with his family. During the time he was on his own, he was able to reinvent himself from Jimmy Gatz to Jay Gatsby. Then, he encountered Daisy and fell in love. After meeting her, everything he did was to win Daisy’s heart. Yet, money was the issue that prevented them from being together. Gatsby did whatever it took to make sure he was not poor again. As a result, he has evolved into a man of wealth; a man with “new money”. Gatsby tries desperately to forge his status, for instance, buying British shirts and claiming to have attended Oxford in an attempt to justify his position in society. But, it is still the issue with class that separates Gatsby and Daisy, who ultimately remains with her husband, Tom, who is from the same class she is in. In the end, Gatsby finds himself unable to break into the East Egg society. Still, Gatsby’s perseverance and strive to accomplish this goal is admirable, which marks him an icon of an American dreamer.

It is bizarre that Gatsby decides to inform Nick, in particular, his past life, when he could inform anyone. This may be so because of the fact that Nick is related to Daisy. Before Gatsby knew that Nick was a cousin of Daisy’s, he did not associate with anyone at his parties. For instance, every party he throws, every purchase he makes is part of his grand plan to win Daisy back. By hosting these parties, he can learn who is associated with Daisy so he can reach out to her. In a sense, the friendship between Gatsby and Nick develops after Gatsby learns that Nick is linked with Daisy. All in all, the stories that Gatsby feeds Nick is essentially to inform Daisy about his tasteful life and to hope that she would be back into his life again.

In one way, his pursuit is a romantic gesture, but in another way, it enables a silly delusion. It is not that Gatsby cannot distinguish ideality from reality, but the fact that he is so focused on his dream of Daisy that he falls deeper and deeper into a fantasy world. Furthermore, his inability to deal with reality and to hold onto his dream eventually, leads to his death. Gatsby is determined to distance himself from the past, but he lives his adult life trying to recapture the past he had with Daisy. What's more sad is that he is not in love with Daisy, but the idea of herself.

In many ways, Gatsby is “great”, but peering into him analytically does one see that the things he represent are not so worthy.

Works CitedFitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1925.

"Novel," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2008 http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.