Outward Appearances In The Great Gatsby Essay

, Research Paper In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby outward appearances are essential. They provide a glimpse at the artificial world inhabited by Jay Gatsby, a

, Research Paper

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby outward appearances are

essential. They provide a glimpse at the artificial world inhabited by Jay Gatsby, a

product of his own imagination(Lehan,”the road to West Egg” 29) and Daisy Fay

Buchanan, the embodiment of glamour and wealth (Brewley 44), two characters whose

action thoroughly develops the plot, and two who have become so consumed by the

image they have created that they do not truly know their own identities. This

deceptiveness created by outward appearances is seen no more clearly than in the pictures

painted by Fitzgerald of Gatsby’s “bewildering parties” (E.K. 7), and in his business

dealings which are connected with the “underworld bond and brokerage business”

(Lehan). The valley of ashes, “where all hopes must be left behind”(long 123), and the

grand mansions of Gatsby and the Buchanans also offer the reader a look at the massive

illusions created by Fitzgerald’s characters. As the Great Gatsby progresses, the outward

appearances of events, places and people can prove to be very deceptive.

What more can explify the importance of outward appearances than the parties of

the roaring twenties and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The first three chapters of the

novel are devoted to party scenes; 1) the “proper dinner party” at the Buchanan’s in East

Egg; 2) the wild drunken party at Tom and Myrtle’s apartment in New York; and, 3)

Gatsby’s extravagant party in West Egg. These scenes introduce all of the important

characters and places in the novel, as to give the impression of artificially (Miller 107).

Each of these parties emphasizes the impression or outward appearance each character

hopes to convey to others. This is seen most vividly, long after he is sickened by the

familiarity of Gatsby’s uninvited guests (Ornstein 54). Jay Gatsby “dispenses hospitality

with lavish and dazzling extravagance – a modern Solomon erecting a bizarre temple to

the wayward popularity” (E.K. 7). Gatsby is compared to Solomon because, like

Solomon, Gatsby is king of his domain, the Son of God. It seems odd that Gatsby would

invite strangers to his house, but he has a need for his guests, and though it seemed the

guests came only for the free party, the private beach, and the endless flow of cocktails,

they also needed Gatsby. He provided them with an escape from reality, yet in the end

illusions and reality must go their separate ways (Brewley 43). One of the most moving

scenes in the novel is when Gatsby bids farewell to his guests. Nick describes “a sudden

emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great doors, endowing with

complete isolation the figure of the host who stood on the porch, his hand up in a formal

gesture of farewell” (Fitzgerald 60). This scene evokes the image that the guests were

not human, but illusions created by Gatsby to support his vision. As Marius Brewley

stated, “The names of guests could have been recorded nowhere more appropriately as in

the margins of a faded timetable. They were the embodiments of illusions – as ephemeral

as time itself” (42). Brewley is referring, of course, to the list of names Nick recorded of

those who attended Gatsby’s parties that summer (Fitzgerald 65). The list itself evokes a

series of fabulous parties, attended by an endless number of eccentric, fashionable,

ambitious, and bored people (Miller 100). In the end the guests were nothing more than

the orange pulps and lemon rinds, what were left of Gatsby’s dream (Lehan, “The Road

to West Egg” 33). The mystirous and decieving outward appearances of the party’s

guest is by far out-shadowed by Gatsby’s past and business.

Gatsby’s business operations seem to provide the most interesting cover. Gatsby

got his start from his relationship with Dan Cody, but it is Meyer Wofsheim who gets

Gatsby into illegal business operations. Wolfsheim, who finds out, is the man who fixed

the 1919 World Series (Fitzgerald 78). He encounters Gatsby when he is discharges form

the War and covered with medals.. Wolfsheim becomes a sort of second father figure for

Gatsby, this “lord of the underworld” (Lehan “The Road to West Egg” 30). Wolfsheim

declares, I raised him up out of nothing, right out of the gutter” (Fitzgerald 179). It is

true that, in a sense, Wolfsheim raised Gatsby, but he raised him into the world of

artificial glamour that ultimately led to his destruction. The source of money holds no

significance for Gatsby; however, his goal is simply to earn enough money to win

Daisy’s love, and “it is with this money that comes from bootlegging, gambling and

bucket shops that Gatsby makes the fortune that allows him to buy his mansion in West

Egg” Lehan, “His Father’s Business” 57). In the beginning Daisy quips, “He owed some

drugstores, a lot of drugstore. He built them up himself” (Fitzgerald 114). It’s true,

Gatsby did own drugstores, but as Tom reveals in the denouncement scene at the Plaza

Hotel, “He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side street drugstores and in Chicago

and sold grain alcohol over the counter” (Fitzgerald 141). This scene concretizes Tom’s

earlier claim that Gatsby was a bootlegger. Daisy becomes terrified at this revitalization,

and the entire novel turns on what Daisy considers to be legitimate and illegitimate

wealth (Lehan, “Inventing Gatsby” 65). Tom destroys the entire facade that Gatsby has

built around himself, but as E.K. so truthfully stated:

Gatsby, for all… the uncertain haziness in which his vague business connections

and presumably ill-gotten wealth envelop him, he is far more real than the men

and women who stoop from the security of their well-ordered business and social

worlds to play with him and spend his money. (7)

This bit of information clearly re-emphasizes the point that outward appearances can be

deceptive.Gatsby’s vague past proves through deceptive appearances one can brought

from nothing to an quite artifical hero.

The Valley of Ashes; where George and Myrtle Wilson reside, is another place

where exteriors can be rather deceptive. On first glance, the valley of ashes appears to be

just that, a heap of ashes in a garage, but they actually represent the gray, dismal

environment of the Wilson’s – the life and class to which they belong (Miller 106). This

“wasteland” becomes the primary backdrop against which tragedy is played out, and

which causes it to take on a greater significance. Fitzgerald returns here again and again,

bringing his characters by its “spasms of black dust”(Miller 106). Myrtle tries to escape

this world of bleakness in her city apartment, where she resides as Tom Buchanan’s

mistress. It is here that she tries to maintain a facade of “wealth and respectability.” The

valley of Ashes soon shatters this facade, along with her gaudy expectations of entering

Tom’s world (Lehan, “Sugar Lumps and Ash Heaps; George and Myrtle Wilson”

93). Fleeing to escape her husband, Myrtle rushes hoping to be saved from her hell by

someone who she believes to be Tom, only to be crushed by the machine, “her life

violently extinguished as she knelt in the road, the blood mingling with the dust” (Lehan,

“A Son of God” 39). Ironically, it was Daisy who extinguished the life of Myrtle, but her

husband is deceived of this fact due to Tom.

As the valley of ashes represented the environment of the Wilsons, the grand

homes of Gatsby and the Buchanans represent the conflicting social status and

importance of outward appearances. Nick describes each house in a different way,

When referring to the Buchanan mansion, he says, “Their house was even more elaborate

than I expected, a cheerful red and white Georgian Colonial mansion overlooking the

bay” (Fitzgerald 11). This house embodies the taste that establishes money knows how

to buy. On the other hand, when he describes Gatsby’s house he cited, “…was a colossal

affair by any standard – it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Normandy…”

(Fitzgerald 9). This description reflects, ironically, upon Gatsby’s impractical dream

(Long 90). Coincidentally, the two houses are positioned as if they were confronting one

another. The distance between them also suggests that Gatsby, with his strange estate at

West Egg, is as close as he will ever come to the established society of the Buchanans

(Long 91). Both houses obviously contain substantial amounts of mystery, but on the

night before Gatsby’s reunion with Daisy, his house lights up from top to bottom – with

streaks of light, creating an impressionistic effect of grand illusion. Gatsby’s house

remains rather unreal, even after his death, when his father brings a crumpled photo of

Gatsby’s house – a mirage of success (Long 90). Nick tells the reader, “he had shown it

so often that I think that it was more real to him now that the house itself (Fitzgerald

180). This further emphasizes the illusionary quality the mansion possessed and the

importance of out ward appearances in Gatsby’s time.

The characters in The Great Gatsby provide the much evidence of the importance

of outward appearances and each shows deception throught the novel both to their

innerselves and peers. Daisy Fay Buchanan is the hardest character to define in The

Great Gatsby (Eble 94). Perhaps that “she bears the burden of compelling such romantic

intensity explains why Daisy is presented so vaguely as a character” (Lehan, “Careless

People; Daisy Fay” 73). “Gatsby sees Daisy as the embodiment of wealth and

glamour”(Brewley 41). She is the object of romantic obsession (Lehan, “Careless

People: Daisy Fay” 67). When she tells Gatsby that she loves him, his hopes for a life

with her lead to a confrontation with her husband, Tom. During this confrontation, Daisy

tells Tom that she never loved him, then recants her statement and says that she loved

him once but loved Gatsby also (Fitzgerald 139). Daisy’s indecisiveness

exemplifies “Daisy’s Lack of maturity, intrinsic worth, and solidarity of character”

(Lehan, “The Road to West Egg” 31). Gatsby chooses to ignore Daisy’s undesirable

traits, and will at all costs do anything to protect her. When their affair resumes after five

years, Gatsby fires all of his servants because he wants “somebody who wouldn’t gossip”

(Fitzgerald 120). He wanted to preserve Daisy’s reputation. It is quite ironic the lengths

which Gatsby will go to protect Daisy, whereas “Daisy, who will at last resort protect

herself no matter who or what she has to abandon” (Lehan “The Road to West Egg” 31).

She remains “spotless” and immaculately dressed in white, while at the same time she is

selfish, destructive, and capable of anything except human sympathy (Ornstein 59).

Gatsby tells Nick after their affair resumes “Her voice is full of money” (Fitzgerald 127).

This statement gives the tour of Gatsby’s house more substance, illustrating to the reader

Gatsby’s need to prove that he has earned enough to deserve her love (Lehan,

“Careless People: Daisy Fay” 75). This scene implies that Daisy is more concerned with

Gatsby’s outward appearance than which is he is as a person. Nick warns Gatsby,

“Don’t ask to much of her. You can’t repeat the past” (Fitzgerald 116), to which Gatsby

replies, “Why of course you can!” (Fitzgerald 116). It is obvious that “Gatsby endows

her with a meaning that she could in no way embody” (Lehan, “The Road to West Egg”

31). “In spite of the bright gleam of wealth and bored sophistication of her careless life –

Daisy is seen as what she is, ‘foul dust that floated in the wake of Gatsby’s dream’”

(Miller 103). “She vanished into her rich house, into her rich full like, leaving Gatsby –

nothing” (Fitzgerald 157). The careless attitude and false identity that consumes Daisy,

also embodies Jay Gatsby himself.

No outward appearances can be quite as deceptive as that of Jay Gatsby himself,

For “Gatsby is some what vague, his outlines are dim, the reader can’t focus upon him”

(Perkins 5). This can be said due to the many misconceptions one discovers about

Gatsby. James E. Miller, Jr. also confirms of Kaiser Wilheim, that he killed a man once,

that he is a German spy…” (98). “The suspense created by these wild stories eventually

gives way to Gatsby’s enormously vital illusion” (Miller 98); the illusion of obtaining

Daisy Buchanan’s love. This love for Daisy played an essential role in Gatsby’s

inventing himself. The narrator of the novel cites:

The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his platonic

conception of himself. He was the Son of God – - a phrase that, if it means

anything, means just that – - and he must be about His Father’s Business, the

service of vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty(Fitzgerald 104).

The novel’s narrator, Nick Carraway, gives the reader this description on Gatsby shortly

after Gatsby reveals the truth behind all the myths associated with himself. Nick also

notes that Jay Gatsby’s name was legally James Batz (Fitzgerald 104). This name change

occurs at age seventeen when, “ Jay is taken under the tutelage of Dan Cody, a

millionaire yachtsman and miner” (Gallo 37). Gatsby spends five years with Dan Cody,

and upon Cody’s death was deprived of his $25,000 legacy, forcing him into the army

(Gallo 37). Gatsby, in a sense, was “modeling himself after Dan Cody” (Lehan,

“Inventing Gatsby” 58). Just as Cody had built an empire, Gatsby was building an

illusion, a dream. The illusion began with Cody, but continues as he invents a fictitious

background: his aristocratic background and ancestors, and his Oxford education (Kuehl

15). “The more Gatsby talks the more absurd his story becomes” (Lehan, “Inventing

Gatsby” 60). Nick declares, “He hurried the phrase “educated at Oxford, “ … And with

this doubt his whole statement fell to pieces and I wondered if there wasn’t something a

little sinister about him” Fitzgerald 69). Despite the contradictions in his story, Gatsby

never emerges clearly and forcefully enough “to be considered sinister; he is created

more as a mythical person than as a real one (Eble 95). It is this “blurring of Gatsby” that

makes his “fantastic illusion more believable” (Lehan, “Inventing Gatsby” 60). He is the

“embodiment of every man’s unfulfilled aspirations” (Gallo 38). Gatsby’s personality is

composed of “gestures” as Nick calls them. They include the pink suits, the silver

shirts, the “old sports”, and many other mannerisms (Lehan “Inventing Gatsby” 58). As

Nick tell the reader, “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then

there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of

life…” (Fitzgerald 6). It is this lack of intelligence and judgement of reality

that leads him to his tragic death (Brewley 53). Gatsby’s long lost father attends his

son’s funeral with great pride, commenting that “Jimmy always likes it better down East.

He rose up to his position in the East” (Fitzgerald 176). This statement is viewed with

great sadness due to the fact that, although Gatsby had collected a vast amount of wealth,

in the end, he was left with nothing. It becomes evident, at the novel’s close, that

“beneath the elaborate, albeit gaudy, elegance of Gatsby looms James Gatz, the original

“roughneck” that Gatsby spends so much time trying to conceal” (Lehan, “Inventing

Gatsby” 59). However, Gatsby is not the only character who tries to conceal his true

identity. Daisy, the object of his desire, is also quite obscure.

Throught out Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby the importance of outward

appearances is ever present and continuosly deceptive. One can witness through the

parties of “dazzling extravagance”(E.K. 7), the decieving underworld business of Gatsby,

the “wasteland” Valley of Ashes (Miller 106), the unreal ,cold palaces of the East and

West Egg, and most of all in the imaginary self-invented souls of Jay Gatsby and Daisy

Buchanan the truth to the idea of outward appearances. Not only did these deceptive

masks prove to be important but they were essential to the plot of the novel. The Great

Gatsby ‘s success can be attributed to the twists and turns provided by the human need to

judge one another and develop onesself through the use of outward appearances.