Jay Gatsby’s Depression In Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
Jay Gatsby has everything that money can buy, and yet he is still deeply unhappy. He has determined that the one thing he needs in order to find true happiness is to not only have the heart of Daisy but for her to truly belong to him. The fact that she can never truly be his is the root of his depression and anxiety. Gatsby’s depression over this causes him to act in ways that endanger himself and the people around him. Gatsby is unable to move on and is emotionally stuck. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is an allegory on how money can never buy happiness, and for those who attempt this path, their future is doomed to flounder as they remain unhappy and unresolved. Jay tries to push away his depression using a variety of mediums, but the fact is, he is addicted to this pain. Mental health is a timeless theme that manifests in contemporary struggles, romance, and addiction, as long as people crave things that they can not or should not have, they are bound to suffer.
Jay begins his relationship with Daisy when he does not have any money, and it is the time when they are the happiest together. He goes away to war and resolves to make something of himself. When he takes too long to show up, Daisy marries someone else. If Jay would have presented himself as is, and if Daisy had let go of her need to marry rich, the two of them could have been happy together. Instead, Daisy chooses otherwise, a decision that she nor Jay can never really accept. Today people tend to trap themselves in the same ways in which they always have. With old and archaic institutions that they claim have power over them. Other people which they claim have power over them, some of these people do have power. This fear of what would happen if they should rock the boat and take ownership of their emotions, seek out help, and attempt to change the circumstances forces them to remain complacent. Daisy is afraid of Tom, and what might happen if she left, so she chooses to stay, even though Tom is not good to her, and she doesn’t love him.
In Gatsby’s attempt to win Daisy back, he refuses to live in the moment and instead tries to get back what he had. ‘Gatsby, surrounding his memory of his love for Daisy with an elaborate dream, is attempting to recapture the past.’ This kind of thinking is indicative of Gatsby’s mental illness. Gatsby is in denial about the reality of his situation. He even tells his friend that he can go back to the past. This belief is denial; Gatsby does not and can not accept this. ‘Since the love-object never appears in its overt form, however, the consciousness of the fixation is never truly achieved, and the work of mourning must be undertaken endlessly.’ He keeps trying despite everyone’s advice and even his own better judgment to get the past back because he believes this will make him happy; it will fill the void in his life. ‘The lawn and drive had been crowded with the faces of those who guessed at his corruption — and he had stood on those steps, concealing his incorruptible dream, as he waved them good-by’. Jay Gatsby holds onto his beliefs; without them, he can not face reality.
Gatsby refuses to face his issues head-on for what they are, depression and potentially PTSD from his time overseas, and an inferiority complex. ‘I thought you ought to know something about me. I did not want you to think I was just some nobody”. Gatsby tells other people stories about himself to portray himself as different or better, even if the stories are not true. ‘There could be no fulfillment of Gatsby’s tragic dream.’ This is why it is easy for him to create an illusion as even he begins to believe his own stories. Gatsby’s author was of the same ilk, F. Scott notoriously shunned proper treatment for his issues, and he was in denial about his alcoholism and depression. He believed, like many people, that he could fix whatever was wrong with him left to his own devices. ‘Even in 1936, suffering from discouragement and depression, Fitzgerald was arrogant about his intellect and his ability to write.’ Today that myth continues to propagate with self-help books and meditation apps that lead people to undermine or dismiss professional help or rehab programs that could help them.
- Koenigsberg, Richard A. “F. Scott Fitzgerald: Literature and the Work of Mourning.” American Imago, vol. 24, no. 3, 1967, pp. 248–270.
- Samuels, Charles Thomas. “The Greatness of ‘Gatsby.’” The Massachusetts Review, vol. 7, no. 4, 1966, pp. 783–794.
- WEST, JAMES L. W. “F. Scott Fitzgerald and American Psychiatry: A New Letter.” American Imago, vol. 68, no. 1, 2011, pp. 59–65.
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