The Secrets to Greatness
Great: of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average. This was the word used to describe Jay Gatsby throughout the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This novel explored the world of the 1920’s and explained what certain parts of society was like during this era. It is shown how there were two types of people in the world during this time. There were the Tom Buchanans of the world, and the Jay Gatsbys of the world. By the end of the novel it is evident that you want to be a Jay Gatsby. As the novel progresses, the reader is repeatedly asking himself the same question: Is Jay Gatsby truly great? Despite falling short of his ultimate goal of getting Daisy back, Gatsby shows throughout the novel that he is truly great by chasing his dream and making the ultimate sacrifice for the love of his life.
By the end of the novel I found myself feeling nothing but sympathy for Gatsby. Gatsby did what many people in America fail to do; he chased his dream. Many Americans are too scared to even attempt to chase their dreams. Gatsby showed us that he was not scared, and he was willing to do anything to be with daisy, even if it meant giving his life for her. For this reason Gatsby is truly great. After Gatsby died, Nick was talking about his thoughts towards Gatsby and he proclaimed, “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us” (180). The green light was very important symbolism throughout the novel. It stood for Gatsby’s hopes and dreams for the future. This quote does a great job of expressing how Gatsby truly believed that he would spend the rest of his life with Daisy. Most Americans have hopes and dreams, but very few of them believe they can accomplish them. Relating to this, in Marius Bewley’s article he said “the reader comes to believe, because Gatsby does, that you can have it all: love and money, in a society controlled by the Buchanans of the world” (98). Once again, this shows that Gatsby had confidence and believed he could accomplish his dream. If one has this much belief and confidence in himself, they are a great person and can accomplish big things. A big problem for many people is a lack of confidence. People don’t believe in themselves to accomplish their goals, and this is a huge problem. Once people start to get their confidence they will then be in shape to accomplish their goals. Even though this already makes Gatsby great, there are other reasons for his greatness throughout the novel.
Often times you hear people say they are willing to die for others. However, in most cases this is false. Many people who say this would not literally die to save another person’s life. If it comes down to life or death, most people do whatever it takes to save themselves. Gatsby had this option, but he was not going to rat out the love of his life. He easily could have told George Wilson that he was in the car when Daisy hit and killed Myrtle. Gatsby is not a coward so he chose to do the brave thing and take full responsibility for Myrtle’s death. Gatsby died a very courageous death and “he dies protecting her by his silence” (Donaldson 101). Gatsby had the chance to speak out and tell everyone that it was Daisy who hit Myrtle, but Gatsby dies in silence with everyone believing it was him who killed Myrtle. It takes a special person to give their life for someone they love, and I think this is why Gatsby is great. A great analogy was made by Thomas Dilworth when he said, “Gatsby is ultimately a Jesus figure in that he dies for Daisy’s sin” (120). Gatsby dies because Daisy hit and killed Myrtle. This is not fair at all because Gatsby did nothing wrong at all, yet he still paid the price for Daisy’s actions. Similarly, Jesus died for the sins of the people who followed him. Even though Jesus did not sin he still had to pay the price for others actions. If someone is being compared to Jesus that makes them great. Jesus is one of the greatest figures ever, and this goes to show how great Gatsby was.
Some people argue that to be great one must accomplish their goal. Gatsby did not accomplish his goal, but he is still truly great. Some chose to think of Gatsby as a failure, however this is not the case. The real failures in the world are the people who don’t chase their dreams. Some people choose to sit back well they could be out chasing their dreams. By going out and chasing his dream, I think that shows Gatsby’s true greatness. In Voegeli’s article he states, “Surely he is the only character in the pursuit of something transcendent and worthy of his own submission” (3). I think that this is a very true statement because not one other character in the novel is chasing their dreams. This shows how it is rare for people to actually go out and try to accomplish their dreams. I think that this is a special quality that easily qualifies one as “great”. When Miller is discussing Gatsby’s dream in his article he says, “time will run out on Gatsby, as it has on the American dream-and as it does on all human dreams and desires and aspirations” (86). This statement shows how Gatsby was not a failure despite falling short of his dream. Sooner or later all dreams run out of time. For example, professional athletes only play professionally for a brief period of time before they retire. This does not make them a failure, and I think this goes to show how Gatsby was not a failure. While Gatsby did fall short of his goal, he showed great courage by reaching for his dreams and I think that was one of the qualities that made him great.
Gatsbys is a very determined individual and I think that showed throughout the novel. When Nick is talking about how Gatsby became so successful, he says “The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself” (98). This means that Gatsby became who he wanted to become when he was younger. When he was younger he envisioned himself being successful, and that’s exactly what he became. He was not born into a rich family like Tom. Gatsby was not given his money, he had to work for it. Vogeli proves this when he says, “Gatsby has acquired his wealth for a high motive, a motive that expresses an exceptional sensitivity. Tom Buchanan uses his inherited fortune for low motives that reflect his negligible concern for other people” (3). I agree with this because I think that Gatsby and Tom had very different motives. Gatsby earned his money and he took pride in that. On the other hand, Tom was given his money, and he chose to take advantage of that. I think it is a greater accomplishment to actually earn your money. I know I would feel somewhat guilty if I was just given tons of money by my parents. I also wouldn’t feel any sense of accomplishment. When Nick first meets Gatsby he didn’t realize that he was talking to Gatsby. Nick was kind of in shock and he says “He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in a life” (48). I think that this was a moment when Gatsby realized how successful he was. He saw that Nick was in shock to have finally met Gatsby. Gatsby had worked very hard for this reputation, and he was proud of himself. People who have the reputation that Gatsby has are all looked at as successful, and I think that this made Gatsby great.
All of Gatsby’s great accomplishments are what make him great. Chasing the dream is something few people do, but Gatsby decided to go for it. This is a quality of his that makes him great. He also died protecting the love of his life. Once again, this is another quality that proves Gatsby’s greatness. Another great quality of Gatsby is that he wasn’t scared of failing. In today’s world I think there need to be more people like Gatsby. People shouldn’t be afraid to take some risks in their life to try and accomplish their dream. People of today’s generation often just sit back and live their simple lives. If you don’t at least try to fulfill your dream you will never know if it could have came true. People are so scared of failing that often times they don’t even give themselves a shot of reaching their dream. Also, people should be more willing to make sacrifices for other. Gatsby made the ultimate sacrifice for Daisy and I respect him for that. All in all if people reach for their dreams, make sacrifices for others, and aren’t afraid of failure then they can be great just like Gatsby.
The Secrets to Greatness