The Great Gatsby
In this paper, I will talk about Jay Gatsby, as an invention of James Gatz, analyze how this character was created in terms of the influence of Gatsby's relationships with other people throughout his life.
Throughout the book all of Gatsby's actions are guided by one main purpose, the pursuit of happiness expressed in the form of the American Dream. Everything he does, acquires, or strives to acquire is an attempt to reach this pre-conceived notion of success.
This part of Gatsby's personality could be understood by analyzing the background from which he came. In Nick's encounter with Gatsby's father, you could see where Gatsby's idea of success came from. His parents represented an anti-model of success, being "... shiftless and unsuccessful farm people" (pg. 105). Because of them being poor, he "...never really accepted them as his parents at all." The sad part is that his father forgives him for that, as long as he succeeded in being rich, which shows a lot about where Gatsby got his values and priorities in life. Mr. Gatz constantly talks about his son being destined to get ahead, having a great potential, and his pride in Gatsby's achievements indicates that Gatsby's possessions and his accumulated wealth is the peak of success anyone could have. He doesn't ask if Gatsby has married, left any descendants, had a happy life; he seems complacent with Gatsby having a fancy house, whose photograph he proudly exhibits. The photo itself shows that it is a symbol of Gatsby's achievement, a trophy, which Mr. Gatz so often displays that it is "...cracked in the corners and dirty with many hands" (pg. 179). It is juxtaposition with the figure of the old man who makes you look at the photos of his grandchildren, goes on and on about them and seeks your admiration for them. Admiration is exactly what Mr. Gatz seeks from Nick, when he is showing him the photo of Gatsby's house.
These were the principles based on which young James Gatz was raised, which made him "practice elocution, poise and how to attain it" (pg. 180) at a very young age. These principles are also the reason why Dan Cody's yacht represented "... all the beauty and glamour in the world" (pg. 106) to a young boy. The yacht still remains a symbol of status today, and is still pursued by the materialistically driven culture.
The dissatisfaction with reality made young Gatz create the character of Jay Gatsby, which he equipped with all the qualities that he desired in a person. Additional two people in his life had an immense effect on Gatsby, contributing to building this character, and giving him traits with which he furnished his platonic image.
Dan Cody was the first representative of the higher class, which Gatz endeavored to join. From him Gatz was familiarized with the lavish lifestyle, which he envied, and put it in his "to-achieve-list". He also contributed to other qualities the character of Gatsby later possessed, one of which is his reluctance to drink. Although not explicitly mentioned in the book, just as he learned how to leave alcohol alone, Cody's debauchery may have contributed to Gatsby learning to refrain from women, which could explain how he could hold on to being focused only on Daisy for a period of five years.
Wolfshiem on the other hand, gave Gatsby the means to accomplish his lifelong dreams, and made possible for Gatsby to check getting rich in his "to-achieve list".
It could be argued that Daisy, on the other hand, presented an object that Gatsby has to attain to be able to complete his character. Even though some may disagree, there is an aspect where Gatsby too views Daisy as an item. "It excited him too that many men had already loved Daisy - it increased her value in his eyes" (pg. 154). If he obtains her, she will be one of the belongings Gatsby possesses, and then others will desire his possession; just like he desires other people's possessions (e.g. Dan Cody's yacht). In economics we call this the law of demand: the higher the demand for an item, the more the price of this item will increase. A pricey item will fit Jay Gatsby's character so well.
Daisy being wealthy plays a great role on Gatsby's love. We can find this in the part where Gatsby is stunned by her house, "It amazed him - he had never been in such a beautiful house before. But what gave it an air of breathless intensity was that Daisy lived there - it was as casual a thing to her as his tent out at camp was to him" (pg. 154). She is what he endeavors to be. Wealth comes naturally to her, and fits her well. What rich guy doesn't have a wealthy, beautiful woman by his side?
Unfortunately, Daisy belongs to a whole different league, from which Gatsby is excluded by birth. Many like Gatsby have tried to overcome the obstacles of the not-so-early-established American aristocracy, but their conservatism and disdain for the nouveau riche is what protects this society from being polluted. This exclusion makes Gatsby think of Tom as his equivalent in Daisy's world. Tom is the benchmark Gatsby has to achieve, if he wants to obtain Daisy. He has convinced himself that the only thing standing between Daisy and him is his financial status, not being able to comprehend or deliberately denying the other obstacles society has put between them. Gatsby is the symbol of this way of thinking that money can buy everything, even social status.
The difference between the aristocrats and the nouveau riche is that the aristocrats aren't really trying to get into the nouveau riche's circles. On contrary, they are idolized and represent a model that these nouveau riche want to follow. They see East Egg's status as a benchmark, while the east eggers themselves try to preserve their own circles, and not let anyone else in. With that in mind, they still don't live up to the idolization others have for them. Tom Buchannan represents one of the models that Gatsby based his character on. Even though he thinks of himself highly, he is still a very low person, who in order to flatter himself, eagerly demeans others and considers them inferior. He even makes racist remarks like "It's up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out for these other races will have control of things" (pg. 19) which indicates that he is looking to preserve the status quo of classes, especially his own class' dominance.
No matter how superficial Tom's fellow conservatives are, there is superficiality in Gatsby's effort of emulation. As Daisy remarks (pg. 125), Gatsby resembles the advertisement of the man because he actually is a sort of advertisement. His character is created by him, carefully choosing qualities that he likes best, and then portraying them in the best way he can, creating a hyper reality about him. However, by being the person he created, he is not a whole man anymore; in addition to the qualities of his persona, the real Gatz would consist of characteristics he possesses which he would not be aware of. By flashing only the part of him which he wants others to see, he also comes out superficial, incomplete, resembling an advertisement.
Eventually he ends up like he does, dead, with hardly any close people aside; just as Tom had suggested that Gatsby "...had to make (his) house into a pigsty in order to have any friends" (pg. 136).