Great Gatsby is a tragic hero

Essay by samtrpt January 2003

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F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is a classic American tragedy. The novel has all the basic elements necessary to classify a story as a tragedy: a tragic hero, his character flaw, and a twist of fate which results in the hero's ultimate destruction. Jay Gatsby is the doomed tragic hero, blinded by his irrational dream to relive the past. Fate interferes in the form of the unexpected manslaughter of one character's mistress by his wife. All these facets of the story come together to cause the end of Gatsby.

In order for a character to be defined as a tragic hero, he must be noble in character. Jay Gatsby demonstrates this in his devotion to Daisy Buchanan, whom he has been preparing for a re-encounter with for the past 5 years. When he finally finds himself in her presence again, "...there were twinkle-bells of sunshine in the room, he smiled like a weather man, like an ecstatic patron of recurrent light..."

He talks with Daisy, and even after 5 whole years of building her up in his mind, he is still very much in love with her. "...[After speaking with her,] there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the room." He loves her, everything he does is for her, and there is no characteristic more noble than true love and devotion.

The very denotation of a tragic hero is a noble person with a tragic flaw which helps to bring about his downfall, and which may cause the hero to make poor decisions. Mr. Gatsby's character flaw is his enduring dream of finding Daisy, the woman he met and fell in love with before he was sent...