The Pseudo-Great Gatsby

Essay by jackdoeCollege, UndergraduateA+, July 2009

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At some point nearly all individuals aspire to become great. But what exactly constitutes greatness? Shakespeare possibly offers a simple answer in his quote, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em." However, at an elementary level, greatness refers to upholding a distinguished status, effectively setting apart the select few great individuals from the masses. Although, greatness can be highly subjective, some characteristics of great individuals are common throughout. For instance, great individuals tend to be intellectual and realistic; they devise concrete plans and strive to materialize them. Additionally, great individuals believe that the path of hardship and struggle is far better than the easy and immoral path. Finally, great individuals are generally humble and often selfless individuals who endeavor to achieve the greater good. Nevertheless, Gatsby believed that wealth makes a great man, but failed to recognize that those who attempt to achieve material prosperity deviate almost entirely from the true components of greatness.

The immoral and materialistic pursuit of greatness is evident in famous films such as Scarface, which showcases an individual committing heinous acts to attain success. Similarly, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, provides a character aspiring greatness, who similarly resorts to criminal means to accomplish his objectives. Thus, despite Fitzgerald's immediate and consistent glorification of the character Gatsby; as in the novel's title, ultimately Gatsby represents a stark contrast to embodying greatness. Additionally it will be demonstrated that Gatsby's impractical and selfish ambitions caused him to pursue immoral avenues of procuring great riches. Thus, as Gatsby fails to understand what truly makes a great man and represents a start contrast to one, his pitiful and tragic demise was justified. Since overweening ambitions and selfish intentions are at the core of Gatsby's misguided attempt to achieving greatness, they are primarily responsible for Gatsby's ultimate downfall.

All throughout the novel, Gatsby's impractical goals were a source of complications. In reality, Great individuals set solid goals while acknowledging both their potential and limitations. An example of a truly great individual is Mahatma Gandhi who revolutionized Indian society through civil disobedience with the use of non-violence. Gandhi could have attempted to fight the British and forcefully remove them, but this would have done much more harm than good. As is clearly revealed by Gandhi, great individuals must possess the ability to make concrete and practical goals. In comparison, Gatsby not only set impractical goals but he was also insecure and delusional. It is important to note that Gatsby had a very bleak upbringing in which he fled his home to fend for himself by the age of seventeen. Surviving on minimal pay, he dreamed endlessly of excessive material wealth and high social status. This is shown in the passage, "The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from the platonic conception of himself…He invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end." ( 95) Thus Gatsby's entire life was based on childhood self-conceived illusions, which he believed in wholeheartedly. Essentially, Gatsby lacked the control and wisdom required to be great, as he was solely focused on acquiring material prosperity. Moreover, another entirely impractical goal was to regain Daisy, his teenage sweetheart. This goal was highly unrealistic and improbable, as Daisy had been married for five years and had a child. It is imperative to note that Daisy had initially rejected him because of his poverty; which possibly served as one of the key motives behind his blind ambition to amass riches. Therefore, Gatsby's failure to relinquish this past rejection, led to a burning desire to regain his lost love. This is demonstrated in the passage, "Daisy it's all over now. It doesn't matter any more. Just tell him the truth-that you never loved him-and it's all wiped out forever." (125). Gatsby's impracticality is made more than evident as he feels he can merely "wipe" the past and all would be better. He does not consider the ramifications of a divorce on Daisy and her family. Thus, not only was Gatsby's life a product of his self-absorbed imagination, but he was also a man who lived in the past and ruined the present in order to correct the errors of his past. It is apparent that he cannot be deemed great as his fixation on the past and delusional and irrational ideals, amount to a hollow and impractical character. Furthermore, his ambitions resulted in unethical means of wealth.

Great individuals not only accept that the hard path in life but fully endorse it as it ensures them long term success. An example of a great individual who truly abided by this ideology is the late Martin Luther King. He is considered one of the greatest peacemakers in America and like Gandhi through the promotion of nonviolence and equality among races was able to effectively eliminate the societal discrimination of Black individuals. However, what makes him truly great was his devotion and dedication towards his strong humanitarian stance, in which he was fully and possibly permanently successful as his polices of equality amongst various races still exists today. Furthermore, although Martin Luther King's several speeches consistently initiated the message of equality, he was never immediately successful and instead had to repeat his message for several years. Although in the end, he died for what he believed in, he is forever commended for "fighting the hard fight" and his efforts towards ridding America of discrimination. In contrast to this, Gatsby, who sought power, wealth and the love of Daisy, chose to exchange his dignity for material gains through bootlegging. Bootlegging or the illegal sale of alcohol was a highly unethical avenue to which some turned to quickly amass riches during the prohibition. However, Gatsby chose to indulge in these criminal acts, which further reinforces the idea that his intentions were just to satisfy his needs, regardless of which immoral path he was required to follow. Since criminal activities leads to further corruption, Gatsby's run in with the cops shows complete and utter disregard for the justice system, where he merely waves a "Christmas card" (67), and gets away without even a warning. This demonstrates that Gatsby is corrupt and uses his wealth and status to evade the cops and bend the law. Nevertheless, perhaps the most unruly act committed by Gatsby was of cheating on Tom's wife, his teenage love, Daisy. In fact, Gatsby desired nothing more than for Daisy to immediately divorce Tom, disregarding the emotional consequences Tom, Daisy and their child would have to bear. In fact, Gatsby openly admits cheating on Daisy as he declares, "Both of us loved each other all that time, old sport, and you didn't know. I used to laugh sometimes." Thus, not only does Gatsby admit to cheating on Daisy, but he is also proud of it and confesses to taking pleasure in Tom's unawareness. Thus, Gatsby was vastly unethical, corrupt and occupied by ill-intentions. As a result Gatsby represents a stark contrast to what would be expected of a truly great individual. In essence, Gatsby can be said to be the antithesis of Martin Luther King, as he is not only selfish and immoral but chose the easy method of gaining wealth rather than the path of hard work and honesty. Thus, it is no surprise that Gatsby's decadent and delusional life resulted in a tragic, yet deserved demise.

At the end of one's life, it can be measured exactly what the individual has put into their years on earth and the success and/or prevalence the deceased had while alive. Essentially, great individuals tend to leave behind great legacies, with principles and models for others to adopt and live by. Moreover, great individuals tend to strive for the common good and are therefore remembered for it upon their death. For instance, Mother Theresa who had dedicated her life to helping the needy was a magnificent source of inspiration for philanthropists worldwide. As a result upon her death she was mourned for and remembered by hundreds of thousands worldwide. In contrast to this Gatsby, was considered a, "Mr. Nobody from Nowhere." (123). Furthermore, upon his death, even his business associates and numerous party guests refused to pay tribute to him at his funeral. This signifies that although at face value he may have had numerous friends and allies, almost none of them truly respected him. It can also be further interpolated that Gatsby's greatest failure was his inability to regain Daisy. Very simply, despite Gatsby vast wealth, Daisy rejected him a second time because his wealth and status was earned through criminal means. The saying, "crime does not pay" seems to suit Gatsby nearly perfectly. A life of crime not only led Gatsby to lose Daisy a second time, but indirectly ended up costing him his own life. A close friend of his remarks, "He had come a long way to this blue lawn, his dream had come so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He didn't know it was already behind him." (171). Therefore, his friend confirms that Gatsby had not only failed to achieve his goal, but was unaware of it. Gatsby's life can be compared to Tony Montana's from Scarface. Both characters were selfish and delusional, they built vast fortunes and lavish residences, but in the end were hunted down and murdered, leaving behind nothing but fallen empires. Thus, his tragic fate serves as the final evidence that Gatsby was indeed not worthy of being referred to as "great".

Thus in the end it becomes apparent that Gatsby is truly not as great as he was perceived to be. Gatsby was not only foolish in having excessive demands and desires but also immoral in his quest to materialize them. It can be discerned that his lofty goals set him upon a path of corruption and immorality eventually leading to his own destruction. This is ironic as Gastby was considered to have a "gorgeous," (8) character, and even be "worth the whole damn bunch [of main characters] put together." (146). However, it is essential to remember that regardless of his criminal activities and immorality, it was his lack of pragmatism which was his single greatest flaw. This is discussed in the concluding lines of the text, "Gatsby believed in the green light the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then but …tomorrow we will run faster stretch our arms farther. . . boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.." (171). This text although rich with metaphors essentially concludes the ideology that nearly all individuals are unable to advance until they stop harbouring delusions about themselves. The metaphor relates to an eager individual fighting the currents attempting to advance towards the goal at the end, all the while failing to realize that with every passing second their goal continues to become eternally distant. This is exemplified by the idealistic Gatsby who imprudently declares, "Can't repeat the pat, why of course You can!...I'm going to fix everything to the way it was before." (106). Gatsby believes so strongly in his desire and abilities to recreate his teenage affair with Daisy, that he fails to consider its absurdness. As Oscar Wilde aptly suggests, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past." Thus ultimately, Gatsby was solely successful at cultivating the exact mechanism that would be the source of his tragic and pitiful death. Although, The Great Gatsby, is a fictional work it infers many lessons for society to adopt. Gatsby's life which was wrought with selfishness and immorality serves as a reminder that success only comes when individuals commit to practical goals, struggle righteously and never falter to lend a helping hand when needed.

[BOOK] Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: a reader's guideN Tredell - 2007 - Continuum Intl Pub GroupCited by 1 - Related articles - Web Search[PDF] ►The Dissertation Committee for Jeffrey Allan Jaeckle certifies that this is the approved version of …E Carton, T Hilfer, J Reesman - repositories.lib.utexas.eduPage 1. Copyright by Jeffrey Allan Jaeckle 2005 Page 2. The DissertationCommittee for Jeffrey Allan Jaeckle certifies that this is the approvedversion of the following dissertation: Reading the ...

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