The Great Gatsby, The Flawed Narrator Essay, Research Paper
In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the question arises of whether the American dream is possible or impossible. Jay Gatsby searches for this dream throughout his life and it ultimately leads to his death. The search started at a young age as we see when Gatsby?s father shows Nick a copy of Hopalong Cassidy, which contains the resolutions made by James Gatz for his self-improvement. ?Jimmy was bound to get ahead (182).? These are the words of his father even after James left his family behind because they were poor.
From boyhood to manhood we get our next look at Gatz and the development of his dream. The only thing that is known about Gatz?s life on Dan Cody?s yacht is what the narrator, Nick, tells us. It was at this time that he began to remake himself, changing his name from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby.
The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God?a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that?and he must be about his Father?s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end. (104)
So even before he meets Daisy, the dream already starts off as being unworthy to the dreamer, Gatsby. After the adventures on the yacht, Gatsby gets cheated out of the money left to him by Dan Cody.
The next change that occurs in Gatsby takes place in Louisville. As a young officer in the army, he meets Daisy Fay. From this meeting ?? it is clear that the vague, inchoate dream alights on Daisy, and romantically transfigures her into a creature of Gatsby?s imagination? (Miller 169). Daisy rejects Gatsby simply because she is rich and he is poor. This seems to do nothing but motivate Gatsby to become successful and eventually win her over.
Gatsby soon becomes obsessed with his dream of finding Daisy and winning her heart. ?Gatsby cannot distinguish time now from time past and future, nor right from wrong? (Stallman 159). He begins bootlegging in a string of drug stores, handling bonds from governmental bribes, and takes part in bigtime gambling. He loses sight of his moral character with his fascination of ?the dream.? These illegal activities allow Gatsby to acquire millions; hence, he sets up his mansion at West Egg across the bay from Daisy. There was a green light at the end of Daisy?s dock that Gatsby could see. This green light may have been the smallest detail that Fitzgerald gives us but it seems to be the symbolization of the whole dream. As said by Nick it is ?the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us? (189). ?The green light might also represent to Gatsby a projection of his wishes: a signal to go ahead, to ?beat on? against the current,? to attempt so desperately with his ?unbroken series of successful gestures? the recapturing of that past which he can never attain? (Burnam 153). Gatsby reached out for the green light, which obviously represented Daisy. This was his dream of hope towards having her.
Five years later, Gatsby once again encounters Daisy. The action that took place at the beginning of the novel kept the fate of Gatsby?s dream alive. But we must agree with Nick and his view: ?There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his [Gatsby?s] dreams ? not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusions? (101). Nick tells Gatsby that he cannot repeat the past and Gatsby replies, ?Can?t repeat the past. Why of course you can!? (116). Nick makes the realization that Gatsby might be chasing something that was already gone.
In the scene where Tom confronts Gatsby in the New York hotel room, Tom tells Daisy what his spies have learned about Gatsby?s activities. Remember this happens after Gatsby has already confessed his love for Daisy. Gatsby loses control and begins ?defending his name against accusations that had not been made? (142). Fearing Daisy?s rejection once again, Gatsby fights hard to clear his name, but at this point Nick tells us that ?only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward the lost voice across the room? (142).
Obviously, the dream was still alive. After Daisy had killed Myrtle Wilson with Gatsby?s car, Jay goes to Daisy and Tom?s house and waits in the bushes. Gatsby is afraid that Tom will hurt her if he finds out that she was driving, but Nick tells us that Tom and Daisy are together at a kitchen table holding cold fried chicken and bottles of ale. Without hurting Gatsby by telling him that Daisy and Tom are trying to work things out, Nick tries to get him to go home by saying that it was quiet in the house. Gatsby refuses to leave and Nick does not want to destroy his hopes. ?So I walked away and left him standing there in the moonlight?watching over nothing? (153).
An enraged insanity comes over George Wilson because Tom has told him that the car that hit his wife belonged to Gatsby. Gatsby?s dream had been so big that he did not confess that it was actually Daisy who was driving the car. In the end Gatsby realized that his dream was shattered and that he would never be able to obtain Daisy, but it was too late. Wilson then killed Gatsby and committed suicide. As Gatsby dies, we must once again agree with Nick on the subject of Gatsby?s self-knowledge: ?I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn?t believe it [the call from Daisy] would come, and perhaps he no longer cared. If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream? (169). Gatsby has probably come to realize that you cannot repeat the past and his constant struggle for the American dream was now over.
Fitzgerald seems to know the character Gatsby so well because he himself knows what it is like to be rejected of his dreams. However, Fitzgerald once again chased his dream and it came true but Gatsby?s dream ended in tragedy.
Why did Daisy not leave Gatsby after she found out that he is rich and lives right across the bay from her in West Egg? The answer is not the money he had but the type of money he had. Gatsby?s money was new money. He lived in West Egg, which represented ?new money.? Daisy came from a wealthy background, which represented ?old money.? She would be throwing her reputation away if she left Tom for Gatsby , and she is too greedy to let that happen. Gatsby does not realize it but Daisy is incapable of love because she is shallow and egotistical. ?His own dream of wealth meant nothing in itself; he merely wanted to buy back the happiness he had lost?Daisy? (Kazin 151).
Gatsby?s act of making himself a self-made man established the guidelines for his life and set the tone of his behavior. As Jeffrey Steinbrink said:
He learned early that detachment, disingenuousness, chicanery, and nerve often rendered even the most imposing circumstances malleable; especially under the protective mantle of his army lieutenancy he found himself capable of taking from the world almost anything he wanted, virtually without penalty. In taking Daisy, however, he allowed his detachment to slip, and once more he entered the world of time?of human ties, memories, and decay (180).
This leads to the question: Is the American dream possible or impossible? To me the answer is that the American dream is impossible. America obviously has a stereotype put on us to where we get what we want or we are not happy. Of course the two main goals are to be wealthy and to find true love, but does this actually lead to happiness. We are a greedy world and regardless of wealth and love we constantly want something else to satisfy ourselves. There is a keyword in the phrase ?the American dream? that explains it in full. It is just a ?dream? that is unattainable. As The Great Gatsby has shown us, the dream may lead to moral corruption, a loss of the sense of what is right and wrong, misery, and maybe death as the character of Jay Gatsby has shown us.