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According to Aristotle, there are a number of characteristics that identify a tragic hero: he must cause his own downfall; his fate is not deserved, and his punishment exceeds the crime; he also must be of noble stature and have greatness. These are all characteristics of Jay Gatsby, the main character of Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby. Jay Gatsby is a tragic hero according to Aristotle's definition. In Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, all the characters are, in one way or another, attempting to become happier with their lives. The characters in the novel are divided into two groups: the rich upper class and the poorer lower class(West egg and East egg) though the main characters only try to make their lives better, the American dream they are all trying to achieve is eventually ruined by the harsh reality or life. The American Dream consists of success, fame, and wealth.
Many Americans have the idea of the white collar life; a job, a house, a loving wife, and kids. This is what Jay Gatsy dreams of having with his Daisy. The American Dream changes people in ways that make them for better or drive them towards their fall. Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald shows how dreams are destroyed, no matter what the dreams consist of, money, material status, or just simply to be happy. Fitzgerald also shows that the failure of the American Dream is unavoidable in a sense that nothing can be as perfect as one could imagine. Without hopes or dreams life would be empty. The American Dream is something every person works for throughout his or her life. Although the American Dream is admirable, it is impossible to achieve eternal satisfaction. The American Dream is just that, a dream.
Jay Gatsby is known as the wealthy man who is trying to move forward to reach The American Dream. His life represents The American Dream in the way that he was corrupted by his love for Daisy while reaching the dream you have to be corrupted by money. Money symbolized by the color green represents wealth which is one of the factors to achieving the American dream. Gatsby is portrayed as the tragic character because for love he was willing to abandon his family and change his lifestyle so he can be finally accepted by Daisy. The shirts symbolize the change in Gatsby from when he was younger to the present. Daisy likes when Tom has shirts because they represent the money they have to buy those shirts and when Gatsby shows her the shirts he had bought for him she is appalled by the difference of what he was in the past that she nearly cries. Gatsby wants a better life and he thinks he can do it if he puts his mind to it, which is also a part of the American Dream. However, Gatsby's dream collapses when he fails to win Daisy and is not accepted by the upper class. All his money cannot help him when old man Wilson fires a gun at him. Gatsby sees himself as a failure when Daisy chooses Tom instead of him. The failure of Gatsby's hoped for life relates to the failure of the American Dream. Without his dream Gatsby has nothing, nothing to keep him going, no direction, and no purpose to live.
Myrtle Wilson is a character who fails to achieve the American Dream. Her desire to reach the upper class brought her to a downfall. Though Myrtle Wilson makes an attempt to escape her own class and pursue happiness with the rich, she ends up gaining nothing and eventually dies. She is basically a victim of the group she wanted to join. Myrtle tries to become like Tom by having an affair with him and taking on his way of living, but in doing so she becomes unsatisfied with her life. Her constant clothing changes show that she is unhappy with her life, she changes personalities every time she changes her dress: "with the influence of the dress her whole personality had also undergone a change. The intense vitality... was converted into impressive hauteur"(pg. 35). "Myrtle raised her eyebrows in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders.'These people! You have to keep after them all the time.'"(pg. 36). . Myrtle tries to create a new life for herself but eventually falls victim to it while trying to be someone she wasn't. Myrtle felt trapped with her husband and her stature and she pushed harder to attain what she felt would benefit her. In the end though, she dies because of a mistake that she made due to her senses of lust and somewhat greed. Myrtle represents the unfulfilled American dream.
Fitzgerald embodied the American experience as success and failure, illusion and disillusion, dream and nightmare. The contradictions he experienced and put into fiction heighten the implications of the dream for individual lives: the promise and possibilities, violations and corruptions of those ideals of nationhood and personality "dreamed into being". Jay Gatsby and Myrtle Wilson have both tried to accomplish The American Dream and that led them to their tragic flaw. The American dream represents corruption and lies. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is the American classic of a tragedy that will have the characters live on forever as an example of the wrong impact the American dream can have.