Jay Gatsby: Shattered Dreams
F. Scott Fitzgeralds The Great Gatsby is a tragic tale of love distorted by obsession. Finding himself in the city of New York, Jay Gatsby is a loyal and devoted man who is willing to cross oceans and build mansions for his one true love. His belief in realistic ideals and his perseverance greatly influence all the decisions he makes and ultimately direct the course of his life. Gatsby has made a total commitment to a dream, and he does not realize that his dream is hollow. Although his intentions are true, he sometimes has a crude way of getting his point across. When he makes his ideals heard, his actions are wasted on a thoughtless and shallow society. Jay Gatsby effectively embodies a romantic idealism that is sustained and destroyed by the intensity of his own dream. It is also Gatsbys ideals that blind him to reality.
When he first meets Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby has committed himself to the following of a grail (156). With extreme dedication, he stops at nothing to win her love back, after years of separation. Gatsbys idealized conception of Daisy is the motivating force that underlies his compulsion to become successful. Everything he has done, up to this point, has been directed toward winning Daisys favor and having her back in his life. The greatest example of this dedication is the mansion he has constructed, a colossal affair by any standard…with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden (9). Once a penniless young man without a past (156), he transforms himself into a self-made millionaire and builds an extravagant mansion, all for the love of Daisy Buchanan. He also strategically places the mansion across the lake from Daisys house. From his window, Gatsby can see the blue colored lights of her house. Gatsby seems to be caught in a conflict between materialism and idealism that created and still defines the American character.
Starting from the first day that he meets her, Gatsby does everything within his power to please Daisy. Nothing has changed for him as far as his feelings for Daisy are concerned, even though it has been five years since their first meeting, and despite the fact that she has married Tom Buchanan. He revalues everything in his house according to the amount of response it draws from her well loved eyes (96). Inevitably, the two of them draw closer, but this in no way deters Gatsby from trying to make Daisy happy. He even terminates the employment of most of his servants because Daisy is afraid that they will begin gossiping about the afternoons she shares with Gatsby. The whole caravansary falls in like a card house at the disapproval in her eyes. (120)
Gatsby lives a selfless life in order to attain his dream. His loyalty to his dream is Gatsbys most noble characteristic. Although it seems to be too idealistic, Gatsby throws himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifts his way. (101) His entire existence revolves around his dream; recapturing Daisys heart, taking her away from Tom and living happily ever after in his mansion he built with her approval in mind.
Sadly enough for Gatsby, devotion is not the driving force that propels life in New York. Society is based on money and power, not faith and love. Daisy and Tom smash up things and creatures and then retreat back into their money or their vast carelessness. (187) Even Gatsby finds himself forced to earn his money through illegal activities and gambling. He sees nothing wrong with these activities because they
are part of his dream to have the resources to maintain his lifestyle the way he has become
accustomed. Gatsby is more or less enthralled by the glamour and excitement of NewYork, seeing the huge city from an idealized perspective. Tom overlooks Daisys time with Gatsby as a presumptuous little flirtation, (142), not the true love Gatsby hoped it would be. One could wonder if Daisy is worth the adoration Gatsby bestows on her. He truly loves her, but her shallow, materialistic nature must have tumbled short of his dreams (101) at some point. Upon Gatsbys death, after the loss of his dream, the reader is left guessing whether or not Gatsby held on to any fragment of his dreams about Daisy.
Gatsby is totally in the dark to the reality of society, placing more importance on his dreams than on grasped experiences. He has built up his own dream world so perfectly that he can never accept the fact that Daisy is never going to leave Tom for him. This blindness leads to his ironic death. While he is trying to protect Daisy, Gatsby is killed by Wilson, who is avenging the death of his wife Myrtle. Wilson does this in a fit of rage, after he discovers, mistakenly, that Gatsby was the one to run his wife over in the street and leave her for dead. This assumption, of course, is far from the truth. Gatsby dies from a gunshot and floats face down in the middle of his marble pool until his butler discovers his body. For almost five years, his idealism and his perseverance kept him, and his dream, alive. But sadly enough, he had no way of knowing that these very traits would also kill him. 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. (189)
Like many Americans still believe today, Gatsby believed that material things alone constitutes the American Dream. The story itself, and the main figure, are tragic, and it is precisely the fantastic vulgarity of the scene which adds to the excellence of Gatsbys soul its finest qualities, and to his tragic fate its sharpest edge. Gatsby is betrayed to the reader gradually, and with such tenderness, which in the end makes his tragedy a deeply moving one. Finally, before his death, Gatsby becomes disillusioned. His inner life of dreams loses its power and he finds himself alone in the emptiness of a purely material universe.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott.The Great Gatsby.Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli, New York: Charles Scribners Sons,1925