Essay: Great Gatsby: A World

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[. . .] We are constantly comparing ourselves to others to see how we "measure up." This is the purpose for Tom Buchanan. He represents all that is dishonest and corrupt. The irony of this character is that he personifies all that is bad in the world. Gatsby is supposed to personify all that is good in the world, at least in his own mind. However, Gatsby's world has every bit as much corruption as that of Tom Buchanan, you just don't see it on the outside. Bewley summarizes Gatsby's dream like this,"his belief that we can have an Earthly Paradise populated by Buchanans" (Beweley in Mizener, p. 140). The relationship between Gatsby and Buchanan is a classic good vs. evil plot. However, the good in Gatsby is a falsehood as it is materialistic in nature and only exists on the outside. On the inside, Gatsby's dealings are every bit as corrupt as Buchanan's is. This creates an interesting irony in the protagonist and adds an element of grey to the character. The line between good and evil is blurred by the illusion. In this way, Gatsby is a type of anti-protagonist, as he does not represent pure good, only the outward appearance of good.

Another characteristic of a mythology is the ability to withstand the test of time. Because the characters in a myth represent ideals instead of real people, the myth will be relevant hundreds of years in the future. It will give us a glimpse of life in the time and place where it was written, but it does more than that, the ideals and lessons that the characters represent are ones that people can identify in any time period. This is the case with the Great Gatsby. As A.E. Dyson points out in the essay "The Great Gatsby: Thirty-Six Years After" we are given a glimpse into the world of Speakeasies, bootlegging, jazz, gangsters, big business and other characteristic features of the roaring twenties. However, the ideals that the Characters embody are relevant in any time period, any setting. Tom Buchanan could just as easily have been a swashbuckling pirate or a robber in Biblical times. Everyone can think of someone they know who reminds them of Gatsby or Tom Buchanan. Myrtle could be considered the personification of the Devil figure in the novel. She is a result of a defeated soul. She has all of the characteristics of Tom Buchanan, but is much less likeably presented.

Daisy cannot break away from her husband Tom, especially after she learns the Gatsby's wealth is the result of a racketeering operation (Burnam in Mizener, p. 104). The book is full of dishonesty, lies, cover-ups and unfaithful marriages. Gatsby runs down Myrtle, and tells her husband that Daisy was driving (Burnam, 1952). On the outside, this same man gives splendid parties and is the envy of all. The saga of the Kennedy family is much the same. Dreams of "Camelot" have often been shattered by tabloid news articles purporting to give us a behind the scenes look at our revered public figures. Time and distance tend to erase these Bad images and we tend to only remember the good things. This is how heroes become the characters of myth.

The Great Gatsby has all of the elements of a classical myth. There is a protagonist, antagonist, and many other characters that help to highlight and exaggerate the qualities of this hero and villain. The characters stand for the ideals that personify the "roaring twenties." They are about the fantasy that we can create heaven on earth with material objects. It has stood the test of time and readers today can relate to it as easily as its contemporary readers. The theme of illusion puts a twist on the classical good vs. evil theme. Because good was only an outer facade, it could not win in the end. In the end, a seemingly larger than life character dies a very ordinary death and all of his money and power could not save him. Like other classical myths, the Great Gatsby has a strong moral: true power and wealth come from things that money cannot buy and in the end, it is only ourselves who must make peace with our creator.

Works Cited

Bewley, Marius. Scott Fitzgerald's Criticism of America. Sewanee Review, LXII., Spring 1954. University of the South.

Burnam, Tom. The Eyes of Dr. Eckleburg: A Re-examination of The Great Gatsby. College English. October 1952. National Council of Teachers of English.

Dyson, A.E., The Great Gatsby: Thirty-Six Years After. Modern Fiction Studies VII, Spring 1961. Purdue Research Foundation.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Mizener, Arthur (Ed.) A Collection of Critical Essays. Prentice-Hall… [END OF PREVIEW]

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