The Great Gatsby?
F. Scott Fitzgerald?s Great Gatsby tells a story about the American Dream, and the downfall of those who attempt to reach its illusionary goals. The American Dream has always been based on the idea that each person, no matter who he is, can become successful in life by his hard work. The dream also embodies the idea of a self-sufficient man, an entrepreneur making it successful for him. Jay Gatsby, the main character, embraces this dream of happiness in order to recapture his past love, Daisy Buchanan, who rejected him due to his economic standing. He achieves wealth and success through racketeering in hopes to win back Daisy. It is this point which brings up a controversy among various critics. It is a fact that Gatsby uses criminal activity in order to become wealthy. The question is whether he uses this criminal activity to fulfill his idea of the American dream or is he just a common criminal dressed up in fancy clothes? I feel that Gatsby is an honorable person. He uses criminal activity only as a means to obtain the love and respect of his only true love. His criminal activity is not just to acquire wealth; it is to become one of the elite so that he may become worthy of Daisy?s love. Jay Gatsby is not just a criminal who manipulates others; he is a romantic who hopes to fulfill his own version of the American dream.
One critic, Robert Ornstein, believes that Jay Gatsby is great. He writes that Gatsby?s fantasies of love ?is the kind that keeps people from becoming?too old or too wise or too cynical? (Gatsby is a Classic Romantic 33). When Gatsby finally reunites with Daisy, he compares the ?great distance that had separated him from Daisy?as close as a star to the moon? (Fitzgerald 84). Nick Carraway, the narrator, describes Gatsby?s face as an ?expression of bewilderment? as Gatsby listens to Daisy?s voice ?with its fluctuating, feverish, warmth, because it couldn?t be over-dreamed? and describes her words as ?deathless song? (Fitzgerald 87). From reading those statements given by Nick, one can tell how sincere and how much admiration Jay Gatsby has for Daisy. Ornstein describes The Great Gatsby ?as a fable about the unending quest of the romantic dream? (Gatsby is a Classic Romantic 33).
One opposing critic, Thomas H. Pauly, does not believe that Gatsby is great. He claims that ?Jay Gatsby replaced the perception of a gangster as a lowlife with an image of an upscale, stylish, wealthy figure? (Gatsby Is a Sinister Gangster 41). Pauly states that he uses his newly acquired wealth to persuade Daisy of his merit (Gatsby is a Sinister Gangster 43). Joyce A. Rowe, who is featured in Pauly?s essay, assumes that if Gatsby were a criminal in today?s society, he would be dealing with drugs and selling fire arms to terrorists (Gatsby is a Sinister Gangster 46). Thomas H. Pauly also states that Gatsby is just a businessman who is more of a ?cunning criminal? than Nick could ever imagine. This is Fitzgerald?s passage where Gatsby is trying to persuade Nick to think about working with Gatsby:
?Not very much.?
This seemed to reassure him and he continued more confidently.
?I thought you didn?t, if you?ll pardon my-you see, I carry on a little business on the side, a sort of side line, you understand. And I thought that if you don?t make very much-You?re selling bonds, aren?t you, old sport??
This quote is supports Pauly?s idea that Jay Gatsby is not at all a romantic, but yet a calculating criminal.
I believe that what Pauly says about Gatsby is wrong because the two people, who know him best, Mr. Gatz and Nick Carraway, think of him fondly. Mr. Gatz, Gatsby?s father, describes how he buys his father a house when he becomes wealthy. Mr. Gatz takes pride in his son. Nick understands the man behind Jay Gatsby. It is apparent in his last description:
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that?s no matter-tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms father?And one fine morning?borne back ceaseless into the past? (159).
Through this passage, Nick explains how Gatsby romanticizes his future, his dreams. Another passage which supports Nick?s belief that Gatsby is a great person comes toward the end of the story when he states that ??They?re a rotten crowd,? I shouted across the lawn. ?You?re worth the whole damn bunch put together.?? (Fitzgerald 136).
Gatsby might have attained his wealth dishonestly, but he does not fit a criminal?s description. He is just a dreamer who hopes to reconnect back to his past. He cares for Daisy so much that he takes the blame for Myrtle?s death to protect her from a punishment that he could not allow her to take. The critics, Dalton and Mary Jean Gross write, ?Gatsby?s inability to repeat the past is much more than the failure of an experience in romantic love?the essence of his powerful desire for a vaguely defined, self fulfilling greatness? (Gross 11). It is true that Gatsby is connected to the criminal underworld. Gatsby, however, steals for love, and to me, that does not make him a criminal. He just a romantic following his dream.
2. Eble, Kenneth. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1963.
3. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner?s Sons, 1925.
5. Ornstein, Robert. ?Gatsby Is a Classic Romantic.? Readings on The Great Gatsby. Ed. Bender, David. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998.
6. Pauly, Thomas H. ?Gatsby Is a Sinister Gangster.? Readings on The Great Gatsby. Ed. Bender, David. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998.