October 10th, 2012
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Reading Response
The novel The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald is a book that deals with the American Dream: an ideal presented in American literature where the dreamer rises to wealth, very present in the twenties. In this bestseller, Gatsby – the protagonist – embodies the evolution of one to greatness. Beginning his life as a simple, poor farmer’s boy. James Gatz, upon meeting the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan who is wealthy, decides to rise to success and fortune – and carries the name of Jay Gatsby, who “sprang from his Platonic conception of himself”(95). Through this process really achieves the American ...view middle of the document...
Emotionally speaking, however, Daisy is not content in the least – not with the man she married, and neither does she show great enthusiasm for her daughter: “Haven’t you ever seen her?” (Daisy to Nick, 15). Her exaggerated ecstasy throughout the book is very high even for a 1920s young lady, especially when put in contrast to when she cries upon seeing Gatsby’s expensive British dress shirts: “"They're such beautiful shirts," she sobs. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such beautiful shirts before."(89). Through this honest shed of tears, Daisy reveals a very materialistic part of herself. Though she’d left Gatsby for a man better off, she thinks of returning to Gatsby upon seeing the grandeur of his mansion and shirts. When she finds out about the origin of Gatsby’s money, however, she quickly ‘realizes’ she really belongs with Tom. In conclusion, Daisy, though rich and healthy, is unhappy with her marriage and herself – not accomplishing the section of happiness in the American Dream ideal.
The title of this novel, The Great Gatsby, reflects a lot on the theme of the American Dream. Jay Gatsby, James Gatz’s invented identity, embodies the ideal of prosperity and dreaming big. Gatsby was always ‘bound to get ahead’ (164), he abandons the poor Midwestern lifestyle and goes to New York City without “[having eaten] anything for a couple of days” (162), amongst other manners through which Gatsby demonstrated complete devotion to becoming prosperous. Though almost the whole motive behind his need for money was Daisy Buchanan, he hides his past in poverty as a dirty secret, building himself a whole new one: “I am the son of some wealthy people in the Middle West – all dead now. I was brought up in America but educated at Oxford, because all my ancestors have been educated there for many years. It is a family tradition” (64). Though the truth is not discovered until the end of the book, at least to the narrator Nick Carraway, Gatsby proves himself to be really amazing. Nick, as he had told Gatsby before, believed that “[he’s] worth the whole damn bunch put together” (145). By saying this, Nick demonstrates that already before the truth is revealed, Gatsby is more than the average rich American. Though the book does result in Gatsby’s death, Gatsby represented a man who overcame the American Dream and went beyond it (with the exception of his death). By adding ‘The Great’ to Gatsby’s name in the title, Fitzgerald associates his character’s greatness to that of historical figures, such as Alexander the Great.
The Great Gatsby shares the similar thematic idea as Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. In this other American bestseller, Lennie and George are two best friends – George also assumes the role of an...