10 Aug 2011

Sample Essay: Development of Jay Gatsby Character Including His Maturity level and Its Relationship With Society

Deconstructing The Reality Behind The Illusion

In his novel The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald depicts how Gatsby’s desire for acceptance and prestige reflects not only his misconception of self-worth, but also how the society he lives in imposes a false ideal on aspiring minds such as his. Gatsby believes that gaining a luxurious lifestyle will help him to win over the affections of his beloved Daisy. He learns that Daisy is in love with another man, and he attempts to create a new identity that reflects society’s ideals. The novel illustrates that Gatsby’s desire for requited love only blinds him to the real implications of the world around him. He views being wealthy as vital for feeling a sense of fulfillment in a society that enshrines the pursuit of riches; however, he later becomes aware of the false nature of society’s values. Gatsby views wealth as a means of moving beyond the past, but he ultimately realizes that maturity is the only means of finding a new direction in his life.

The novel illustrates that in order for Gatsby to elevate his status, he must create a false identity in order to give the impression that he is wealthy and prestigious. The society he lives is in is based on gaining self-worth through the endless pursuit of wealth and reputation. Gatsby creates a role for himself as he becomes an actor who maintains the appearance of being in perfect conformity to society’s ideal. The false nature of his role as a wealthy man reflects how society is based on a false ideal. Gatsby views society as being full of promise as he believes that he can finally achieve what he desires and thereby become the object of Daisy’s affections. He views Daisy’s life as safeguarding the guarantee of real happiness, but his pursuit of wealth only enslaves him to society. The ideal of this society deprives people of their independence and true self-worth. Gatsby believes that chasing Daisy is based on his own objectives, but his goal of becoming wealthy is actually society’s objective. Gatsby’s view of Daisy reflects society’s view of the American Dream: “[T]here was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life.? [Gatsby had] an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness” (Fitzgerald 1). After becoming wealthy, he is viewed as a celebrity in society due to his lofty reputation and lifestyle; however, the novel illustrates that Gatsby is deprived of self-worth, which is actually based on maturity rather than wealth.

Gatsby creates a persona for himself as he views his true identity as failling to provide a means to overcome the past. He has always desired to have luxury and wealth as he views his old status as being a source of misery. He believes that his new identity allows him to discard his old life and move away from the past. His old life is based on a lack of fulfillment as his existence revolved around a low social and economic status. He views his childhood and parents as an embarassment as his old life never satisfied him: “His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people – his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all” (Fitzgerald 98). Gatsby’s false identity reflects how society creates a false appearance that conceals its true identity. It reflects how society is based on appearance rather than reality as it actually fails to provide the kind of fulfillment that Gatsby is searching for.

Gatsby’s false identity is based on how he exists solely for maintaining society’s false identity. His personal illusions are inseparable from the illusions that society imposes on itself for the sake of creating a false image of self-worth. The following passage illustrates that Gatsby becomes the slave of society’s ideal, which is the American Dream. His enslavement to the American Dream conforms to his narrow view of self-worth as a teenager, and hence he fails to develop a mature understanding of true self worth: “He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end” (Fitzgerald 98). Gatsby’s illusions involve validating society’s illusions through his abandonment of his actual identity and self-worth.

Gatsby’s failed relationships with his friends and family imply that he has never been satisfied with himself. His dissatisfaction with his old life reflects how he lacks the maturity to appreciate who he truly is. Society’s failure to satisfy his desire for acceptance is based on how he fails to accept himself for who he truly is: “When the Jazz History of the World was over, girls where putting their heads on men’s shoulders, swooning backward playfully into men’s arms, but no one swooned backward on Gatsby, and no French bob touched Gatsby’s shoulder, and no singing quartets were formed with Gatsby’s head for one link” (Fitzgerald 50). Gatsby’s friends fail to make him happy as he is never really happy with himself. Gatsby slowly comes to terms with how his life of luxury is merely superificial as it fails to provide the sense of completion he yearns for.

Gatsby later develops a sense of maturity that allows him to identify what he truly desires: a means of actually moving forward with his life. His maturity is based on finding a way to progress in his life that is based on knowing who he truly is rather than his false identity. Gatsby achieves self-discovery by realizing that happiness can only be achieved through maturity and self-awareness. His interaction with Nick illustrates that Gatsby’s life of luxury is merely a reflection of the illusions he embraced as a teenager: “You can’t repeat the past? Can’t repeat the past?”  he cried incredulously.” Why of course you can!”  (Fitzgerald 110). Gatsby’s desire for true happiness is undermined by the illusion that wealth can truly make him happy. Thus, he realizes that the past keeps interfering with his desire to achieve a happy future. Gatsby realizes that he needs to fully overcome his illusions in order to finally be able to move on with his life.

Gatsby desires to achieve maturity by learning from the past, which reflects how his false identity only blinds him to his true-self worth. He feels alienated from his dream of happiness as he has deluded himself all along. His self-discovery is based on finding a means to move forward without clinging to the false ideal of society, which remains obscure and without any real value: “His dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp It. He did not know it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity behind the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night” (Fitzgerald 110). Fitzgerald illustrates that Gatsby is a reflection of a society that fails to recognize its own lack of self-worth. Gatsby becomes a victim of society as he realizes that his false identity implies that he is a servant of society that embraces a false ideal.

The novel illustrates that Gatsby desires to achieve a life of luxury for the sake of moving beyond the past and also to be with Daisy. He creates a persona for himself in order to appear as someone he is truly not. He believes that wealth and reputation can elevate him beyond the misery and unhappiness that he associates with his past. He believes that his identity as a wealthy and prestigious man can bring him maturity, but he realizes that society only deprives him of it. He realizes that his life is merely a reflection of the shallow ideals he embraced as a teenager. His persona only blinds him to the fact that true self-worth is based on maturity, which is a vehicle for effectively overcoming one’s past. The novel demonstrates that the American Dream is based on constantly renewing one’s pursuit of a lofty ideal, which always seems beyond reach. Gatsby realizes that maturity can only be achieved by moving beyond the illusions of the past, and that overcoming the past implies accepting how he has failed to benefit from a society that appears to fulfilling but is not.

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