The novel, ‘The Great Gatsby’ written by F. Scott Fitzgerald centres around the lives of five main character during a single summer in upper-class 1920’s New York. The characters lives are consumed by materialistic objects and their need to hide their true nature from each other. Fitzgerald explores the idea of illusion through his characters and their relationships with each other. The relationships I will be discussing are, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, Tom and Myrtle Wilson, Daisy and Jay Gatsby. In my analysis of these relationships, I will be explaining the facade people display to others to obtain what they desire most.
Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s monotonous relationship once seemed like the best decision they could possibly make but as time moved on, so did their feelings for each other. After Gatsby left for war, Daisy met Tom and together they fell in love, married and moved to East Egg. For a while they were happy, but soon the illusion of there happily ever after fell away in pieces. Daisy tried to keep their image intact but in the process lost all of her energy to feel emotions. “Distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belong”. Tom and Daisy live in a world separate from everyone else, to them the rules do not apply. It is a life they have been born into, they do not fit in anywhere else.
“impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire” Both Tom and Daisy are bored in their current relationship, their want for each other has evaporated leaving them both searching for something new.
– “It’ll show you how I’ve gotten to feel about – things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling”
Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson’s relationship with each other was founded solely on Tom’s want for excitement and Myrtle’s desperate need to climb the social classes.
Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan’s poisonous relationship was destined to fail from the start, and as the lies dug deeper it became apparent that they would not make it out unscathed. After spending a single summer together before Gatsby went off to war, Daisy and Jay fell in love. Although their time spent with each other was fleeting, their emotions stayed with them all the way up to when they were reunited again, 5 years later. In Gatsby’s mind, once they are together again everything can go back to how it was when they first met, what he doesn’t understand that Daisy has moved on. She is married to Tom now and they have a daughter, “They weren’t happy … and yet they weren’t unhappy either”. Daisy knows that Tom is having an affair, yet she does nothing to stop it. She is too afraid that by she leaving him to be with Gatsby she might not get all the materialistic objects that come with a person of Tom’s social standing. The colour gold is a symbol of wealth and social class, Daisy and Tom are associated with gold but Gatsby is fake, a fraud, he lied and cheated his way to the top which is why he is related to yellow. Although Gatsby is associated with yellow, “yellow cocktail music…twin yellow dresses”, when he reunites with Daisy for the first time, everything surrounding him is gold. “gold-colored tie…Pale gold odour…pure dull gold. ” This is because at this point in time Gatsby undoubtedly believes that Daisy will leave Tom for him and that he could finally reach the very top of the social classes and become golden. Then as time moves on, Gatsby is stuck in the past and Daisy has slowly moved out of his grasp, leaving Gatsby to forever stay in his yellow life.
|West Egg||The corrupt American Dream||“the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them.”
“Who is this Gatsby anyhow… Some big bootlegger?… I didn’t hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers.”
|Valley of Ashes||The failed American Dream||“This is a valley of ashes – a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens…”
“…finally, with a transcendent effort, of ash-grey men, who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.”
|East Egg||The false American Dream||“Distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belong”
“Their impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire”
“East Egg condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard against its spectroscopic gayety.”
|Gatsby.||You can not ever reinvent yourself.||“The colossal vitality of his illusion”
“Gatsby looked with vacant eyes”
|Daisy.||Not everyone is who they appear to be.||“Strained counterfeit of perfect ease”
“She vanished into her rich house, into her rich, full life …”
|Nick.||You can never fully hide from your true self.||“I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.”
“I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride.” – Jordan to Nick
|The American Dream||Even by working hard, things don’t always get better||“finally, with a transcendent effort, of ash-grey men, who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air”|
|Illusion||Not everyone is who they say they are|
|Green light||You don’t always get what you want in life, even if you completely devote yourself to it|
|Imagery||The image of Daisy is breaking apart in front of Gatsby’s eyes.||“He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.”|
|Symbolism – White||Daisy is ‘white’ she is blank, boring and a void of emotion.||“She vanished into her rich house, into her rich, full life”|
|Event||Why it impacted the characters||Evidence|
|Gatsby’s Death||Nick was so consumed by his presence and his life, that once Gatsby died he did not know what to do.||“Most of those reports were a nightmare — grotesque, circumstantial, eager, and untrue.”|
|The Hotel Room||Everything was finally brought to the attentions of all the characters, forcing them to see the truth whether they liked it or not.||“… he began to talk excitedly to Daisy, denying everything, defending his … with every word she was drawing further and further into herself,”
“only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room.”
“told it to me because “Jay Gatsby.” had broken up like glass against Tom’s hard malice, and the long secret extravaganza was played out.”
|Nick’s first encounter with Gatsby||It introduced Gatsby to the story and started Nicks fascination with him.||“He stretched out his arms towards the dark water in a curious way … Involuntarily I glanced seaward and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and faraway, that might have been the end of the dock.”
“He smiled understandingly — much more than understandingly. 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.”
“He had passed visibly through two states and was entering upon a third. After his embarrassment and his unreasoning joy, he was consumed with wonder at her presence. He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an over-wound clock.”
– Most people do not react the way Gatsby did, it was over the top and unnecessary.
– Gatsby can not actually believe that Daisy is with him again, he has hoped and dreamed for them to be together for so long. Just from being in the same room as her he is so caught up in her presence he can not think about anything else.
– Gatsby’s dream is to be with Daisy for the rest of their lives, it is all he strives for and is why he completely recreated himself.
– He has worked so hard and ruthlessly to change himself to be the perfect man for Daisy, nothing about him is real anymore, it is all an illusion built to appeal to her lifestyles standards.
“As I went over to say good-by I saw that the expression of bewilderment had come back into Gatsby’s face, as though a faint doubt had occurred to him as to the quality of his present happiness. Almost five years! There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams – not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”
– He is second guessing himself, he is not certain that all he has done was for something important.
– His happiness isn’t real happiness it is all been created in his mind, he doesn’t actually feel happy.
– He has completely rid of anything that actually is true about himself, everything is reliant on his illusion. It has consumed him, nothing can ever fully satisfy him there will always be something else just out of reach.
– He is already dead.
“It’ll show you how I’ve gotten to feel about – things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.’
– Daisy has already begun to accept that this is how her life will be from now on and that if she ever wants to feel content in her own home she will have to ignore certain aspects of Tom’s life.
– Tom often leaves without Daisy knowing where he is going, it has become normal for him to disappear even if his child is being born.
– This is the first sign of Daisy cutting off her emotions, she doesn’t want to feel like that anymore so she decides to not feel anything at all. To save herself the pain.
– In the 1920’s women did not work, it was the man who brought in money for the family. Daisy knows and understands this and wants her daughter to just let it be and enjoy it.
“It was when curiosity about Gatsby was at its highest that the lights in his house failed to go on one Saturday night – and as obscurely as it had begun, his career as Trimalchio was over.”
Trimalchio was a former slave who became wealthy trough ways that others would find disgraceful. He now holds lavish banquets for his guests, and his character is described as being ostentatious. The general meaning of ‘Trinalchio’ is The Greatest King. The illusion Jay Gatsby was designed to impress others to be ‘The Great Gatsby’, he came from a background that held him captive to a particular way of life. Through illegal businesses, Gatsby managed to climb his way to the top, and he celebrated it by hosting extravagant parties for all walks of life. From this, we can understand the links that Fitzgerald was trying to highlight between Trimalchio and Gatsby.
The idea of illusion presented in the novel “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald can be reflected into society today. In the story, each main character put up their own type of illusion to deflect anyone seeing their true personality or intentions. Their individual illusions are present throughout the duration of the text, which shows how hard people will work and strive to keep up their outward appearance just to please others. Society was, and still is, a tough thing to please it will always find new ways to ridicule you and stop you from succeeding in life. A direct reflection of this can be seen in teenagers in today’s society, they use their own variations of illusions to disguises who they really are because they are afraid of being judged by others. Magazines and social media are warping their minds into believing that they must be ‘perfect’ and keep up to date with the latest trends. Every day teenagers are being constantly judged for their actions whether it be something as simple as dying their hair or having a different sexual orientation, which is why it’s understandable that they create illusions. It is a system of defence, to avoid criticism from people that do not accept their personal decisions or understand their way of life. Those who refuse to hide who they really are few and far between, society wants to think that it is welcoming to everyone but in reality, it still has a long way to go.
The green light symbolises Gatsby’s relentless hope for Daisy. “He stretched out his arms towards the dark water in a curious way … Involuntarily I glanced seaward and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and faraway, that might have been the end of the dock.” In the beginning, when Gatsby’s illusion was still intact the light was visible from his house but as Daisy and Gatsby began to see each other again and his illusion started to crack, mist and fog clouded his view of the green light, the hope was getting harder to see, harder to find. The light was being “minute and far away” represents that the even before they met again, the likely hood of their relationship being a success was small. “Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever… Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.” As the story progressed Gatsby realised that no matter how much he tried, he could not force history to repeat itself, and the hope slowly began to fade away. In Gatsby’s final moments he gave up on the green light and began to see everything without the filter of Daisy, “He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky…” It had been so long since Gatsby had ever lived for something other than a future with Daisy that he is seeing the world for the first time again, and would have come to the conclusion in his last few seconds that there is so much he has missed out on, so much he’ll never see. He wasted his life, the green light was an instigator of false hope within Gatsby that enticed him towards his own demise.
Water is an important aspect of this novel and is used throughout the whole story. It represents Gatsby and Daisy’s past and the time they spent apart. “Across the courtesy bay, the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water.” The bay symbolises the 5 years that Gatsby and Daisy spent apart and although neither of them will acknowledge this, the water will always be there, between them. “East Egg condescending to West Egg”, The water also is a representation of the different classes they are in, Daisy lives in East Egg as she has ‘old money’ but Gatsby lives in West Egg with his ‘new money’. Even though both areas are considered part of the upper-class society, there is a divide between the old money and the new money. “If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,” once again the water has come between Gatsby and Daisy, the mist is blocking their view of the green light on Daisy’s dock. As the green light represents Gatsby’s hope for being with Daisy, by them not being able to see it means that for a moment the past is catching up to Gatsby smothering his hope.
Throughout the novel, different colours have been associated with certain characters, alluding to their true personalities. Daisy has been related to the colour white on numerous occasions due to her similarity to the elegant but boring and blank colour. She lives in a “white palace” which, similar to her personality is a void of emotion or anything that holds any real value to a person. All Daisy has is materialistic objects, and is often associated with the colour gold as she is extremely wealthy, “here’s my little gold pencil.” Gatsby, on the other hand, has lied and cheated his way to wealth through illegal business so he can not be associated with gold, instead he is related to yellow, a cheap knockoff version of the real thing. Everything surrounding Gatsby right the way up till his death was yellow, except for a short period of time when he truly believed that all his hope had finally paid off and Daisy was going to be his again did he possess gold objects, “Pale gold odour of kiss-me-at-the-gate.” When Daisy couldn’t admit that she never loved Tom and would be leaving him, Gatsby’s final chance at living a gold life disappeared, symbolising the fact that he never successfully transitioned to the highest social platform possible, so he returned to his fake, yellow level to die “in a moment disappeared among the yellowing trees.”
East Egg is located in Long Island, New York and is across the bay from West Egg. The only distinguishable difference between each peninsula is that East Egg is home to the “old money” upperclassmen and West Egg is for the “new money” upperclassmen. “Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water.” Living in East Egg is a way of the old money families making sure that they are always considered to be the very best, which is another reason why Gatsby was so desperate to be with Daisy, so he could be part of her “secret society”.
West Egg is also located in Long Island, New York across the bay from East Egg. Both Nick and Gatsby live in the “new money” with all other upperclassmen who have made their own money and are living the “American Dream.” The people there have clawed their way through the social ladder, not caring who got clawed in the process and came out on top of the dog pile. After all their hard work, the people of West Egg just want to relax and party, relishing in their new found freedom. However, for Gatsby, that’s not enough, for he knows the truth. It’s not just water separating East and West Egg, its class.
The Valley of Ashes is located between West Egg, East Egg and New York which forces the characters to drive through “a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke…” The Valley of Ashes is a direct comparison to West Egg, which can be considered the success of the “American Dream” as the Valley of Ashes showcases the truth of society. People work all day, every single day of the year and never do they get rewarded for it. “…ash-grey men, who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.” For them, life is already over they will never be able to climb there way from the bottom of the dog pile others call social classes to the top.
New York is an escape for the characters, it is a place for secret affairs and illegal businesses. Each character uses New York for a different reason, for Tom, New York is a place for him to spend time with Myrtle in their apartment. The apartment gives off the illusion that Tom and Myrtle could be happy, that what they are doing isn’t wrong. Gatsby uses New York as a cover for his illegal businesses that he exploited to rise through the social classes. For Nick, New York is a place where he doesn’t have to keep secrets, in New York Nick can be free.
“Across the courtesy bay, the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water.” East Egg gives off the facade of being the perfect place to live with its enormous mansions oozing class and sophistication but behind the manicured hedges and trimmed lawns, white palaces stand bland and lifeless. East Egg is an illusion because it is perceived to be an extravagant place where the wealthy live luxurious lives, but behind their money, there are people who are unhappy and empty. They have nothing to really live for, they have boring lives that hold no meaning.
The Valley of Ashes helps the reader understand illusion in the novel, as it provides the honest situation of most people’s lives in New York. It shows how the “American Dream” failed the real people, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” This is not true, the only ones who received opportunities are those that lied and tricked their way through the social classes into West Egg, those who work hard received nothing for their sacrifices.