The title character of The Great Gatsby
How far do you agree with Nick’s view that Gatsby is “worth the whole damn bunch put together”?
The title character of The Great Gatsby is a young man, around thirty years old, who rose from an impoverished childhood in rural North Dakota to become fabulously wealthy. Indeed, Gatsby has become famous around New York for the elaborate parties held every weekend at his mansion, ostentatious spectacles to which people long to be invited. And yet, Nick Carraway’s description of the protagonist asserts that Gatsby seems curiously out of place among the ‘whole damn bunch’ which inhabits this lavish, showy world.
Indeed, despite the aura of criminality surrounding his occupation, his love and loyalty to Daisy Buchanan and ultimately his capacity to dream, set him apart from the other inhabitants of East Egg and West Egg.
A key criticism made in Nick’s first person, self-aware and retrospective narration is that the ‘whole damn bunch’ entertained by Gatsby lives in extravagance.
In Chapter Three, comparative adjectives and adverbs imply that the parties they attend grow ever increasingly lavish; the narrator expresses how ‘laughter is easier’, an ‘opera of voices pitches a key higher’ and ‘groups change more quickly’. In fact, the sheer scale of the operation required to keep them excited is emphasised by details that Nick gives, including ‘a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb.’
But the ‘vacuous bursts of laughter’ and the dancing ‘in eternal graceless circles’ lend a degree of artificiality to the proceedings. Indeed, the tone of the narration reveals another major shortcoming, suggesting that this outward show of wealth by the inhabitants of West Egg and East Egg is used to cover up their inner corruption and moral decay. This decadence is first exemplified by the length of the parties held by Gatsby.
Although the statement does hold some truth as the contrast between Gatsby and Tom Buchanan. From chapter one, we begin to understand that the relationship between Tom and Daisy is purely superficial, a relationship that seemed to be based on show and wealth. In this chapter, we learn from Jordan that Tom has been seeing another woman in New York, and Tom’s attitude toward Daisy does not adopt the most loving manner. Instead of allowing his wife to join in on the conversation or take interest in what she talks of, he is more concerned about the extremist book he’s been reading and discussing it’s racist views – ‘The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be – will be utterly submerged.’
This greatly contrasts with Gatsby. He is compassionate toward Daisy unlike Tom who treats her only as a possession, and his determination in refusing to give up on her and this dream world he has created for the two of them. Even in chapter seven when Daisy runs over Myrtle, Gatsby takes the blame himself just to protect her – Nick asks, ‘Was Daisy driving?’ to which Gatsby responds, ‘Yes… but of course I’ll say I was.’ By this time Gatsby has already abandoned his elaborate parties, which only existed as a way to lure in the one he so yearned for, which counteracts the argument that he was purely covetous and materialistic.
He even shouts at Tom in chapter seven, ‘She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me,’ which illustrates how all the effort and his immersion in illegal business was all to build up an Empire big enough and grand enough for Daisy, and also demonstrates how money-orientated and trivial Daisy is. In comparison to Daisy, it may well be said he was worth a lot more than her. Towards the end of the book she and Tom both pack up and move on, recoiling back into all their money and hiding away from the upset and destruction they had both caused.
Another reason Gatsby stands for something greater than the other characters is the fact that he died with love still in his heart and a dream to aspire to. He did not die bitter and anguished over the fact he could not have Daisy, over the fact that his whole life had been created with her at the centre, and all for nothing. Gatsby died only with a taste on his tongue of what life could be like with Daisy, of what it would feel like to have her as his own, but this seemed to console him enough to know he was dying a happier and better man.
He refused to give in until the very end, when Nick suggests that Gatsby ‘ought to go away,’ Gatsby is almost in shock when he responds, ‘Go away now, old sport?’ He could not bear to tear himself away after how far he had come, how far he had gotten to Daisy being his. And despite his love’s own selfishness and shallow ways, he dies still with that green glow of hope in his heart. Gatsby is ‘worth the whole damn bunch put together’ because he died with love.
I agree with this statement completely as despite his involvement in ‘bootlegging’ and how his life was built around lies, Gatsby stands for something in which the other characters lack. I believe he stands for hope, for love and for dreams. This is shows through his adoration of Daisy and his determination to never give up on her.
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