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“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. This quote voiced by William Shakespeare is a popular idea among many all over the world. Whether this idea is true or not, one thing is certain. Jay Gatsby in the novel The Great Gatsby was truly a great figure.
Greatness is a definite and identifiable quality. Modern-day greatness can be defined in four points. Firstly, having honesty and integrity. More elaborately, having enviable qualities and a strong conviction to stand up for what is right. Furthermore, making the world a better place than you met it. And lastly making a positive impact in your world even when you have passed on.
Gatsby was not an honorable and noble man. His dishonesty about his true identity and background puts his “greatness” in question. “I’ll tell you God’s truth, 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.” He further continues to say, “My family all died and I came into a good deal of money.” The truth concerning his background is exposed later on in the novel, where Nick narrates “James Gatz-that was really, or at least legally, his name. He had changed it at the age of seventeen” “His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people-his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all.” Clearly all of what he claimed to have been has been proved false. Even Nick affirms to Gatsby’s falsehood when he says “Moreover he told it to me at a time of confusion, when I had reached the point of believing everything and nothing about him.” Furthermore, Gatsby cannot be considered noble because he aspired to take another man’s wife. ” I suppose the last thing is to sit back and let Mr Nobody from Nowhere, make love to your wife.”
Gatsby didn’t make the world a better place than he met it. His illegal businesses only helped make others lives worse. “You’re one of that bunches that hangs around Meyer Wolfshiem” A great a man wouldn’t be carrying out illegal business with a criminal. Further evidence that Gatsby had made people’s lives miserable, was when Tom said, “And you left him in the lurch, didn’t you? You let him go to jail for a month over in New Jersey”. Moreover, like Nick said, if Gatsby’s “partnership had included the World’s Series transaction 1919” then that transaction would finally support that Gatsby never made his world a better place.
The last mark of greatness, that Gatsby didn’t possess, was that he didn’t make a positive impact even while he was dead. This was unveiled when no one showed up to his funeral. “The minister glanced several times at his watch, so I took him aside and asked him to wait for half an hour. But it wasn’t any use. Nobody came.” No normal person dies without anybody coming to their funeral, not to talk of a great person. Not even his closest companion, Meyer Wolfshiem, attended his funeral. “Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.” Furthermore, when Gatsby died the world continued as though he never even existed. “Gatsby’s house was still empty when I left – the grass on his lawn had grown as long as mine.”
However, could it be possible that the word “great” in The Great Gatsby could mean something more than the modern meaning of the word? Could it be that Gatsby was truly great in reference to a certain aspect of his existence?
Although he may not fit the present day meaning of the word, Gatsby can be described as great. Gatsby is admired and idolized in the eyes of only one character in the novel-Nick. “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life” Nick has some deep insight into the character of Gatsby. For example when he comments on Gatsby’s smile saying, “It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life.” It is evident, that Nick admired several aspects of Gatsby.
One of such aspects was Gatsby’s ability to make a new identity for himself when he needed to be someone else. “So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to his conception he was faithful to the end.” He did whatever was necessary to attain this new identity. “Practise elocution, poise and how to attain itâ€¦ Read one improving book or magazine per week”.
Another one of such aspects that Nick commended was Gatsby’s romanticism. “it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again”. In a world where moral standards were deteriorating and where true love was lacking, Gatsby was a shining example. For Gatsby, the fulfillment of the American Dream was to possess Daisy Buchanan, a woman whom Gatsby perceived as an ideal wife, the golden girl, the king’s daughter, a grand prize, and a perfect match. “It excited him that many men had already loved Daisy-it increased her value in his eyes” “Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes, and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud” “He found her excitingly desirable.” Gatsby never deviated from his aspiration of winning Daisy, even in the face of opposition and stark reality. Nick admired that along with Gatsby’s steadfast determination.
And lastly, Nick admired Gatsby’s dedication to making his dreams a reality. Gatsby was willing to give everything for this dream. Gatsby knew he would need wealth to get Daisy, so he established a “business” that would give him prosperity. Moreover, he bought a house right across the bay from Daisy, just so he could be close to her. Not to mention how he hosted parties, night after night just so he could find Daisy. His unwavering optimism, even when Daisy had clearly rejected him and chosen Tom, was worthy of praise. “I suppose Daisy’ll call too.” His dreams had always sustained him and increased his perseverance. “â€¦ he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him.” Nick was impressed by Gatsby’s ability to live for and purse one dream, which he didn’t realize was unachievable. “â€¦his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.” Nick overlooks all of Gatsby’s flaws and shortcomings and sees a greatness in Gatsby that no other character recognizes. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.”
Finally, we could say that Gatsby is not a man of honor and integrity. But however, he was the one that decided to take the blame for running over Myrtle, which eventually cost him his life. Gatsby might not have made the world a better place than he met it, however like Gatsby’s father said “If he’d of lived, he’d of been a great man. A man like James J. Hill. He’d helped build up the country”. And although he didn’t make a lasting impact even when he was dead, he did while he was alive, especially on Nick. In conclusion, despite his shortcomings, flaws, and unfortunate outcome, his unfailing love and strong drive for success are what make him, Jay Gatsby of West Egg, great.
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