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Characterizations In The Great Gatsby Essay Research

Characterizations In The Great Gatsby Essay, Research Paper When Nick enters the extravagant lifestyle of West Egg, he is home from war and an admiring outsider; the maturation and development of his character also distinguishes him from the other characters in the novel. His entrance into the priveleged class is initially marked with pride and excitement, which starkly contrasts the feelings of detestation and disgust that envelop his departure.

Characterizations In The Great Gatsby Essay, Research Paper

When Nick enters the extravagant lifestyle of West Egg, he is home from war and an admiring outsider; the maturation and development of his character also distinguishes him from the other characters in the novel. His entrance into the priveleged class is initially marked with pride and excitement, which starkly contrasts the feelings of detestation and disgust that envelop his departure. Fitzgerald engages the reader on a journey parallel to Nick s journey of self-discovery. In the opening passage of Gatsby, Nick quotes his father as having said, Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven t had the advantages that you ve had (5). At first the reader is likely to conclude that the advantages Mr. Carraway speaks of are monetary, but later Nick acknowledges that he agrees with his father: a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth (5). The reader discovers alongside Nick that decency, not wealth, is the supreme value. Although Nick escapes the frugal lifestyle of West Egg with a strong aversion for its inhabitants and all that they stand for, he retains his admiration of Jay Gatsby, a character that personified all that was wrong with the American Dream. Nick s assertion that Gatsby is worth more than the whole damn bunch put together (162) is supported by Gatsby s purer motives and actions. Gatsby holds the American Dream in its purest form. He maintains the essense that the originators of the dream had- the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Fitzgerald connects Gatsby s vision with the American dream when he identifies his boyhood ambitions with those of Benjamin Franklin. He compares Gatsby s wonder with the original settlers of America, overcome with the promise of the new world. Gatsby s dream centers around his love of Daisy, and he relentlessly pursues that dream to the point where it consumes his life. Being motivated by something pure, transcends Gatsby s motivations. This allows the reader to travel alongside Carroway and identify with Gatsby to the point that we are able to forgive the corrupt manner in which Gatsby attempts to attain his love. Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald masterfully uses metaphors to illustrate this relationship. Nick s personal library is one such example of objects that personify the tainting of Gatsby s dream. As Nick buys a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities (8), these books stand on his shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets (8) of these barons of finance; juxtaposed next to these names are references to our country s founders. This subtle arrangement sets up the idea of the of the American Dream being corrupted by the obsession with money. The fact that Nick is enamored with these books demonstrates that he also is impressed with the wealth and extravagance characterizing the people of West Egg. This demonstrates the rift in his goals and desires and thus foreshadows his journey of discovery. Gatsby transcends the selfish hypocrisy rampant throughout every other character in the novel because he adheres to the precept of accepting the consequences of his actions. Having taken Daisy in Louisville in the heat of passion, he feels it is his responsibility to marry her, regardless of her present situation and desires. His dream is based on an illusionary belief that time can be fixed and the past can be relived. This belief created at a young age, requires an almost adolescent faith amounting to self-delusion to sustain it. This idealism of youth transforms into his driving force and defines every aspect of his life, until it becomes his entire identity. After one of his parties, Gatsby makes it clear to Nick that he plans to relive the past and expects Daisy to renounce her marriage and love for Tom so that she may return to that moment of commitment emerging from Louisville five years earlier. When Nick argues that no one can repeat the past forever, Gatsby is dumbfounded: Of course you can (116), he argues, not even realizing the validity of with which Nick has confronted him. The death of Myrtle demonstrates another manner in which Gatsby s character rises above the other inhabitants of West Egg. He puts the safety of the one he loves above his own. Gatsby s child like naivet causes him to believe that the ideal world is not only possible but probable and deserved. He loves Daisy with his entire heart, and in his world Daisy inevitably must pair with the man demonstrating the most love for her. Because protecting Daisy from harm validates his love, he puts his own life on the line, and claims responsibility for the death of Myrtle. Later that night hiding in the shadows outside the Buchanan s house, Gatsby waits to protect Daisy from any danger that might erupt from Tom or otherwise. Totally incredulous towards the very real danger that currently surrounds him. He is concerned only with Daisy. Unappreciative of his self-sacrificing protection of her, Daisy sits with Tom at a table of cold fried chicken and bottles of ale, preparing her safe retreat back into the insulated world of their privileged society. In Gatsby s world, this undying devotion proves that he and not Tom is most deserving of Daisy s heart. Through the reader and through Nick s perspectives this also adds a sense of empathy towards Gatsby s character, while Nick watches him stand, in the moonlight watching over nothing (153). The final facet of Gatsby s character that proves Gatsby s true worth is how Gatsby possesses indefatigable hope. He is motivated by an undying belief that Daisy, in light of Gatsby s newly acquired wealth, will do the right thing, and make the moral choice she failed to make in the past. He argues emphatically that he can go back to the Louisville scenario of five years previous and simply pick up where he and Daisy left off. With his new found fortune, conceivably one greater than Tom s, Gatsby completely believes that Daisy will renounce Tom and marry him. In many demonstrations of his wealth Gatsby holds lavish parties. Bringing in garishly prepared food in vast quantities every Friday, Gatsby watches silently in the background as his many uninvited guests stay virtually all night, and conduct themselves, according to the rules of behavior associated with amusement parks (45). Liquor flows freely and fights are rampant, further contrasting the selfish motives of the guests with Gatsby s purer desires. Another mark of Gatsby s immense wealth lies in the evolution of his appearance. Whereas before he wore only his military uniform, he now has a man in England who purchases his wardrobe, sending over a selection of things at the beginning of each season (97). Compared to his meager military uniform, Gatsby s wardrobe now consists of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel (97). Being able to provide for Daisy in the manner to which she is accustomed, he cannot possibly imagine that she will refuse. This romantic disregard for reality is the foundation of the American dream, in the belief that money and wealth can recapture and permeate forever the untouchable qualities of love and youth. Even moments before his murder Gatsby still clings to the idealistic yearnings of his love. He sits in his pool floating on an air mattress and soaking up the rays of sun. At the same time he is floating and being supported by the surreal reality that he has constructed, and in blissful ignorance soaks up all the false promises rampant throughout the American dream. George Wilson gun in hand approaches Gatsby symbolizing reality. Not surprisingly Gatsby mistakes the reality of the situation with his dream, by calling out to Daisy. Much as the bullet pierces through Gatsby s flesh extinguishing his life while deflating the air mattress, so too at that moment does reality pierce unmercilessly through the meaning of his life, deflating the inevitable conclusion of his idealistic dream. Just as his dream had defined and become his life so to did the end of his dream coincide with the end of his life. By the second page of the novel, Fitzgerald s novel becomes an account of Gatsby s demise as told in flashbacks through Nick s perspective. This structure causes the reader to travel alongside Nick and make assertions of all the characters based on their actions alone. Of all the characters introduced throughout the novel Gatsby emerges and distinguish himself from the selfish motives of his respective counterparts. He founded his life on an uncorrupted vision of love that was unattainable. Even though the means to that end were corrupt, and the wealth he assumed originated from the likes of Cody and Wolfsheim s deeds, Nick alongside the reader finds a way to forgive him. In his own words Nick states that although Gatsby, represented everything for which he had unaffected scorn (6), there remained, something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life (6). His extraordinary gift for hope (6) convinces him and the reader that Gatsby held steadfast at the end of the novel, it was the foal dust and corruption of his dreams that lead him to his tragic end. THis paper received an a- at stanford university, in 20th century american literature

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