Jay Gatsby Character Analysis
The character Jay Gatsby, also known as James Gatz, is the key character in The Great Gatsby. He started out as a poor farmer’s son in North Dakota, and dropped out of college in Minnesota. He joined the military and during training meets Daisy, a beautiful rich woman living nearby, whom he falls in love with. Gatsby is soon shipped out for the war. Daisy then marries Tom Buchanan who is a rich aristocrat whose social standing is the same as Daisy’s, her ideal partner.
Gatsby becomes rich from bootlegging after coming back from the war to impress and win back Daisy.
Jay Gatsby carries a dark shroud around his past which makes him very mysterious to other characters in the book as well as to readers. Gatsby is an extremely generous man considering his roots as a poor farmer’s son. He claims to come from money but he was actually the son of a very poor farmer in North Dakota.
Coming from no money he throws around his money frivolously like he always wished he could as a young boy. Gatsby throws parties every weekend, which anyone can attend and have a good time. At his parties there is always plenty of food and much to drink as well as music and dancing.
At one of his parties, a woman named Lucille tore her dress on a chair, Gatsby heard of this and asked her for her name and address. Gatsby then bought her a new dress worth $265 and sent it to her within a week. “When I was here last I tore my gown on a chair… I got a package from Croirier’s with a new evening gown in it” (Fitzgerald 43). Gatsby buys the dress because loves to flaunt his money for people to see how rich he is, and for Daisy to see how rich he’s become. He also offers Nick, Gatsby’s neighbor and Daisy’s cousin, a job in his business knowing he might need a little more money.
Even though Nick didn’t take Gatsby up on his job offer it still shows that Gatsby trusts Nick and is a generous gesture. Gatsby is also generous in taking the blame for the death of Myrtle, Tom’s secret lover. It may not be of any monetary value but he loves Daisy enough to take the murder off her hands and take the blame himself. Gatsby’s generosity is a great attribute to his character, however most know him for the mystique and enigmatic presence. Jay Gatsby is quite the intriguing and mysterious character. Everyone attends his parties yet no one seems to really know anything about him.
He makes grandiose claims of graduating from Oxford but can’t prove it, which adds a bit of mystique to his past, whether its false or real. Since many of the partygoers know little to nothing of Gatsby, many rumors are spread throughout the party. “He’s a bootlegger” and “One time he killed a man who had found out that he was nephew to Von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil” (Fitzgerald 61) were some rumors spread about the second party Nick attended. The rumors differed from person to person but someone always seemed to have a different perspective of Jay Gatsby.
When Nick is introducing Tom, Daisy’s husband, to Gatsby he disappears when Nick isn’t looking, and Nick doesn’t know why he left, or where he went. Gatsby left Nick alone with Tom because he didn’t want to meet with the man who stole Daisy from him. Nick, essentially being Gatsby’s only friend in the novel, is lied to by Gatsby about his past, but eventually after things don’t add up Gatsby lets the truth out. With years of telling lies Gatsby feels relieved to finally be able to tell someone the truth about himself.
His roots of being a farmer’s son to being a rich man living in West Egg is suspicious to begin with. But saying that his money came from “some wealthy people in the middle west” (Fitzgerald 65) isn’t convincing. Gatsby uses his past to make a false social standing and to gain respect. However his facade has too many holes in it and soon his lies begin to catch up with him. His career in bootlegging has him running around with shady characters and disappearing from time to time. If his money wasn’t dirty, which he claims it isn’t then he’d have no reason to associate with gangsters such as Meyer Wolfsheim.
The mystery surrounding Gatsby in the novel pales in comparison to the passion and devotion he carries for Daisy throughout the story. Jay Gatsby becomes devoted to winning the love of Daisy after hearing that she married Tom Buchanan. Even after the war and his shady business with Wolfsheim, Daisy is still the only woman in Gatsby’s heart. Gatsby becomes rich through bootlegging, which he could have gone to jail for just to get Daisy’s attention. Since Daisy is such a shallow woman Gatsby had to use riches and social standing to make her ‘love’ him.
He buys a mansion in West Egg and flaunts his money and makes extravagant stories so he can be held at a high enough level to be with Daisy. Gatsby throws enormous parties every weekend in order to lure Daisy in by chance, however he never gets a reunion with his beloved until he meets Nick, Daisy’s cousin. Gatsby invited Nick to one of his parties to meet and befriend Nick, soon after he asked Nick to arrange the reunion. Nick is more like a stepping stone for Gatsby to get to Daisy than a friend, he takes Nick out as a friend but always seems distant.
After Gatsby and Daisy meet for the first time in 5 years Gatsby shows her around his mansion to impress her, and it works. “That huge place there? ” she cried pointing. (Fitzgerald 90). “I love it” (Fitzgerald 90). Later on after the affair Daisy and Gatsby are having gets a little more serious and Gatsby tries to make Daisy tell Tom that she never loved him. Gatsby’s only dream is for Daisy to leave Tom for him, but it is shattered because Daisy and Tom have a daughter and Daisy won’t leave Tom because he provides her with security.
Tom comes from old money and he has a family with Daisy but Gatsby has new money from bootlegging, and still risks going to jail. His devotion doesn’t end there, when Daisy hits Tom’s lover Myrtle and leaves the scene without stopping, Gatsby takes the blame for the incident trying to protect Daisy. He even waits outside Daisy’s window to ensure that Tom doesn’t try to hurt her. His devotion for Daisy is so deep that he ends up dying for her, when Wilson, Myrtle’s husband, kills him thinking he ran over his wife.
Gatsby’s unrequited love for Daisy eventually blossoms into an affair, but ultimately is the reason for his demise. Jay Gatsby, the main character of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby holds a very large presence in the story. He is very shady in the beginning, always hiding and never being out in the open. He starts to show us a little about himself and becomes a bit understood, until his past doesn’t seem to add up. Once the truth comes out it leaves a bit of mystery around his movement in the story. The clouded past of James Gatz arouses curiosity of what he’s really up to and a mystery of what he’ll do next.
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