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Deception and Illusion in The Great Gatsby

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Published: Mar 6, 2024

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The illusion of wealth, the green light: symbol of deception, the deception of identity, the consequences of deception.

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The Great Gatsby Essay: Lies And Deception

  • The Great Gatsby Essay: Lies…

“Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.” This quotation is said by Nick Caraway, the narrator of Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald depicts Nick as or moral guide through a novel infused with lies and deception.

Fitzgerald utilizes many themes throughout the book one being, truth versus lies, within the novel virtually all main characters are dishonest to others or to themselves which exposes each character’s true self to the reader. Jay Gatsby, the protagonist fabricates a story about his life piecing together facets of information that sound intriguing and somewhat believable. As well he allows rumors to be spread regarding his occupation and his wealth and does not correct or allow much to be known about him.

Daisy Buchanan is a character that often lies to others as well as herself through statements that she makes concerning her child, her marriage, and her love affair with Jay Gatsby. The deception and dishonesty that the characters in the novel demonstrate ultimately reveals the truth about each character’s disposition.

Jay Gatsby is quite an elusive character in this novel , Fitzgerald allows the reader to speculate and to make assumptions about Gatsby only revealing the truth towards the end of the novel. Prior to even being introduced to the great Jay Gatsby it is suggested to the reader about Gatsby that, “…He’s a nephew of Kaiser Wilhelm’s. That’s where all his money comes from” (page 35).

As well, before the character appears rumors circulate about him, “He killed a man once… He was a German spy during the war… He was in the American Army.” Gatsby’s trail of deceit begins with the gossip and rumors about him, he seems very uninterested in controlling the wild rumors being spread about him.

He is aware that not many of the guests at his extravagant parties are even aware of who he is, we see this on page 49 upon the introduction of Gatsby to the narrator, Nick. As well later on again Gatsby says to Nick, “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea of me from all these stories you hear.” As a result of Gatsby’s acknowledgment and unwillingness to confirm or deny the rumors about him, he is lying by way of omission from the truth.

Aside from omitting details, Gatsby extends his deception by fabricating the stories of his life. In chapter four Gatsby has become closer to Nick and tells him of his past, “I am the son of some wealthy people in the Mid West- all dead now.” (Page 64). This small sentence alone is a blatant lie as Gatsby’s father appears at the end of the novel and is clearly not dead. As well when prompted as to where in the midwest he replies San Francisco, which is not a city of the Mid West United States.

As this speech is continued Gatsby goes on to tell Nick that he spent time in Europe, “Collecting jewels, chiefly rubies, hunting big game, painting a little” (Page 64). Gatsby continues to tell stories of the honors bestowed upon him by the country of Montenegro, as well as his days at Oxford. Gatsby merely forgets to include the details of his rise to the top through the world of bootlegging and his obsession with Daisy Buchanan.

Fitzgerald makes clear right away that Gatsby’s stories are less than credible, which all is shown in the latter part of the novel. The manufactured stories are evident to the reader but the question must be posed as to why a rich and powerful man like Jay Gatsby would veer from the path of truth. The answer is shame, although he has wealth and many things to show for it Gatsby is shamed by his methods of attaining it, and because of this he allows rumors to be spread and continues to spread them himself.

In the 1920s although bootleggers were necessary to allow people to continue their valued lifestyles and lavish parties they were not seen as captains of industry they were seen by the upper class as low-life criminals. Gatsby’s lies and deception allow for the reader to see that in reality, Gatsby is ashamed of the means by which he has attained everything he so explicitly shows off.

Daisy Buchanan is the object of Gatsby’s affection in this novel and like Gatsby, she is rather dishonest throughout the novel. Through having her affair with Gatsby she begins lying to her husband. In chapter seven, Gatsby is having drinks at Daisy and Tom’s home, as Tom leaves the room daisy kisses Gatsby and proclaims, “I don’t care!” (page 111). She is saying this of her love for Gatsby and that she does not care who knows.

This is not only a lie she tells the others but a lie she tells to herself. Later on, in chapter seven there is a confrontation involving Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby. Gatsby prompts Daisy to admit that she had never loved Tom which she had most likely lied to Gatsby about earlier. She reluctantly replies, “I never loved him.” (page 126). Rethinking that answer she soon after takes that back saying that she did love both Tom and Gatsby.

Although she has lied to them both, it is more likely that this is a lie she is telling herself. The culmination of her dishonesty to her husband and lover as well as her dishonesty towards herself reveals to the reader that as well Daisy’s deception is rooted in her shame. As a woman of the 1920s, a divorce or an affair would be quite shameful.

However differing from Gatsby it can be said of Daisy that she lied based on her own confusion as well as shame, her marriage was quite messy and as a result, she was led astray and through her affair, her mind became more clouded. She did not only lie out of shame but also because she was so unsure of herself that she was unaware of the things that she really wanted.

The Great Gatsby is a story of the 1920s, Fitzgerald wrote his characters to depict typical people at that point in time, using his characters’ deceptive natures as a literary tool. The wealthy Jay Gatsby appears to be so close to grasping everything he has always wanted but, his means of getting there is a secret he must continue to lie about forever. The true Jay Gatsby can be viewed when you delve into the root of his compulsive storytelling and lying.

He is simply ashamed of his past and to be who he wants to be that past must remain a secret. Daisy however is shamed by what she has done recently, which is committing adultery. Daisy lying is much more complex as a young woman she seems quite lost and her lying is not as deliberate as Gatsby’s. Daisy’s deception allows the reader to see the confused woman behind the enticing siren voice.

The way in which Fitzgerald writes these characters causes many things to be revealed by their actions, their dishonesty, in this case, allows the reader to explore the weaknesses of the characters.

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Author:  William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)

Tutor and Freelance Writer. Science Teacher and Lover of Essays. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

Most of these citations credit page 64 when my digital photo copy of the book have these quotes on page 70 and 71

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The Great Gatsby Theme of Lies and Deceit

the great gatsby lies and deceit

Nick may say that he's one of the few honest people he knows, but we're not so sure about that . The Great Gatsby is built around lies, and why should this be any different? Human beings are inherently dishonest, whether they're male or female, born or made, poor or rich—and they're selfish, hypocritical, and destructive as well. And you may be able to fool your friends, but the eyes of God— or T. J. Eckleburg —are always watching.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  • At one point, Jordan claims that Nick deceived her. Is this true? Or was Jordan deceiving Nick? What kind of dishonesty is she talking about, anyway?
  • Nick briefly mentions that Tom discovered Daisy's deception very close to the time that Wilson discovered that of his own wife. How do these men each deal with the discovery? Does it make them seem more similar, or highlight their differences? Check out what Nick says about it.
  • Nick assures us he is "one of the few honest people" he knows. How does this affect the way we read his story? Do we trust his narration?
  • Are Nick and Gatsby more similar than Nick would like to admit? Is it possible to see Nick and Gatsby as possessing the same fundamental characteristic of deception?
  • In the showdown scene at the Plaza, Daisy Buchanan is ultimately honest with her husband and Gatsby despite what she might lose. Why does she choose honesty?

Chew on This

In The Great Gatsby , Nick Carraway presents himself as the voice of reason and reliability, yet ultimately he proves to be an unreliable narrator.

Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby are two sides of the same coin: each has built a successful façade to fool others, yet they can now no longer distinguish their true selves from the one they have created for the world.

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Mini Essays

Discuss Gatsby’s character as Nick perceives him throughout the novel. What makes Gatsby “great”?

In one sense, the title of the novel is ironic; the title character is neither “great” nor named Gatsby. He is a criminal whose real name is James Gatz, and the life he has created for himself is an illusion. By the same token, the title of the novel refers to the theatrical skill with which Gatsby makes this illusion seem real: the moniker “ the Great Gatsby ” suggests the sort of vaudeville billing that would have been given to an acrobat, an escape artist, or a magician.

Nick is particularly taken with Gatsby and considers him a great figure. He sees both the extraordinary quality of hope that Gatsby possesses and his idealistic dream of loving Daisy in a perfect world. Though Nick recognizes Gatsby’s flaws the first time he meets him, he cannot help but admire Gatsby’s brilliant smile, his romantic idealization of Daisy, and his yearning for the future. The private Gatsby who stretches his arms out toward the green light on Daisy’s dock seems somehow more real than the vulgar, social Gatsby who wears a pink suit to his party and calls everyone “old sport.”

Nick alone among the novel’s characters recognizes that Gatsby’s love for Daisy has less to do with Daisy’s inner qualities than with Gatsby’s own. That is, Gatsby makes Daisy his dream because his heart demands a dream, not because Daisy truly deserves the passion that Gatsby feels for her. Further, Gatsby impresses Nick with his power to make his dreams come true—as a child he dreamed of wealth and luxury, and he has attained them, albeit through criminal means. As a man, he dreams of Daisy, and for a while he wins her, too.

In a world without a moral center, in which attempting to fulfill one’s dreams is like rowing a boat against the current, Gatsby’s power to dream lifts him above the meaningless and amoral pleasure-seeking of New York society. In Nick’s view, Gatsby’s capacity to dream makes him “great” despite his flaws and eventual undoing.

What is Nick like as a narrator? Is he a reliable storyteller, or does his version of events seem suspect? How do his qualities as a character affect his narration?

Nick’s description of himself in the opening chapter holds true throughout the novel: he is tolerant and slow to judge, someone with whom people feel comfortable sharing their secrets. His willingness to describe himself and the contours of his thoughts even when they are inconsistent or incomplete—his conflicted feelings about Gatsby, for instance, or the long musing at the end of the novel—makes him seem trustworthy and thoughtful.

Nick's position in relation to the other characters gives him a perfect vantage point from which to tell the story—he is Daisy’s cousin, Tom’s old college friend, and Gatsby’s neighbor, and all three trust and rely on him. Though Nick participates in this story and its events certainly affect him, The Great Gatsby is not really his story in the sense of being about him. However, it is his story in the sense that it is of crucial importance to him: he defines himself in the process of writing it. Indeed, he struggles with the story’s meaning even as he tells it.

Though Nick professes to admire Gatsby’s passion as a lover and a dreamer, Nick’s own actions in his relationship with Jordan Baker cast an ironic pall over his admiration: with Jordan, Nick is guarded, cautious, and skeptical. Overall, Nick suggests that Gatsby is an exception to his usual ways of understanding and judging the world, and that his attraction to Gatsby creates a conflict within himself.

What are some of The Great Gatsby ’s most important symbols? What does the novel have to say about the role of symbols in life?

Apart from geographic locations, the two most important symbols in the novel are the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock and the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The first is a perfect example of the manner in which characters in The Great Gatsby infuse symbols with meaning—the green light is only a green light, but to Gatsby it becomes the embodiment of his dream for the future, and it beckons to him in the night like a vision of the fulfillment of his desires. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg work in the same fashion, although their meaning is less fixed. Until George Wilson decides that they are the eyes of God, representing a moral imperative on which he must act, the eyes are simply an unsettling, unexplained image, as they stare down over the valley of ashes. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg thus emphasize the lack of a fixed relationship between symbols and what they symbolize: the eyes could mean anything to any observer, but they tend to make observers feel as though they are the ones being scrutinized. They seem to stare down at the world blankly, without the need for meaning that drives the human characters of the novel.

In general, symbols in the novel are intimately connected to dreams: Gatsby’s dream of Daisy causes him to associate her image with everything he values, just as he associates the green light with his dream for the future. In reading and interpreting The Great Gatsby , it is at least as important to consider how characters think about symbols as it is to consider the qualities of the symbols themselves.

How does the geography of the novel dictate its themes and characters? What role does setting play in The Great Gatsby ?

Each of the four important geographical locations in the novel—West Egg, East Egg, the valley of ashes, and New York City—corresponds to a particular theme or type of character encountered in the story. West Egg is like Gatsby, full of garish extravagance, symbolizing the emergence of the new rich alongside the established aristocracy of the 1920s. East Egg is like the Buchanans, wealthy, possessing high social status, and powerful, symbolizing the old upper class that continued to dominate the American social landscape. The valley of ashes is like George Wilson, desolate, desperate, and utterly without hope, symbolizing the moral decay of American society hidden by the glittering surface of upper-class extravagance. New York City is simply chaos, an abundant swell of variety and life, associated with the “quality of distortion” that Nick perceives in the East.

Setting is extremely important to The Great Gatsby , as it reinforces the themes and character traits that drive the novel’s critical events. Even the weather matches the flow of the plot. Gatsby’s reunion with Daisy begins in a ferocious thunderstorm and reaches its happiest moment just as the sun comes out. Tom’s confrontation with Gatsby occurs on the hottest day of the summer. Finally, Gatsby’s death occurs just as autumn creeps into the air. The specificity of the settings in The Great Gatsby contributes greatly to the creation of distinct zones in which the conflicting values of various characters are forced to confront each other.

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Deception In The Great Gatsby

Deception is an act intentionally inflicted upon others in order to, satisfy one's wants and needs. In the novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jay Gatsby deceives others for both his personal gain and love. While Jay Gatsby lives day by day deceiving others, he thinks not much of it. Gatsby sees himself has merely just moving on from the past and onto a new life. However, through his acts of deception he is stirring up a fatal situation. Fitzgerald portrays Jay Gatsby as a man who is wealthy and as some may say “living the life”. Jay Gatsby however, is merely a mask put on by James Gatz, the same man, to live the life he has always desired. Once settled in as Jay Gatsby, he starts to find it difficult to maintain an image expected by others. In this novel, James Gatz lives a false life as Jay Gatsby to satisfy his wants and needs, but has his act of deceiving others comes to an crumble Fitzgerald is able to showcase the struggle and cost of deception. Jay Gatsby also known as James Gatz has always had a dream for his life, and that dream is to be wealthy and well-known. As James Gatz lived a poor and unhappy life he decided to build a new name for himself as Jay Gatsby. Once well known as Jay Gatsby to others, he begins to struggle maintaining his image as Jay Gatsby. Fitzgerald shows one of the struggles of deception through conversations between Gatsby and others, “I think he hardly knew what he was saying, for when I asked him what business he was

Examples Of Deception In The Great Gatsby

    F. Scott Fitzgerald published a Novel known  as the Great Gatsby in the year of 1925. At the time of it’s release it wasn’t very successful it was only after a couple years afterwards that it started to gain success. In modern day it is very well-known to a majority of High School Students, College students, and adults. The era in which this novel takes place in is during the 1920’s a historic time in America’s History which was known as the Roaring Twenties. Businesses and Stock markets were doing so well and it was the highest point of America’s Economy. Fitzgerald introduces a couple of interesting characters that fit together and really sets the tone for the novel. The first character introduced into the storyline is Nick Carraway and throughout the story he follows a character who goes by the name of Jay Gatsby. Throughout the novel Gatsby is very mysterious towards everyone especially towards Nick, no one really knows who is Jay Gatsby or the details of his past or in what manner he was able to gain all the wealth he has. Gatsby is an example of character deception.

Essay on Lies and Deciet in The Great Gatsby

Lying has deadly effects on both the individual who lies and those around them. This concept is demonstrated in The Great Gatsby. Although Gatsby, Tom and Myrtle have different motives for being deceitful, they all lie in order to fulfill their desires and personal needs. Myrtle’s desire to be wealthy is illustrated when she first meets Tom, dressed in his expensive clothing, as her attitude changes when she puts on the luxurious dress and when she encourages Tom to buy her a dog. Tom’s deception is clear when he hides his affair with Myrtle by placing Myrtle in a different train, withholding the truth from Mr. Wilson of the affair and convincing Myrtle and Catherine that he will one day marry Myrtle. Gatsby tries to convince himself and

Lies In The Great Gatsby Essay

Life is often portrayed in a way that one lives it. Gatsby’s father praises him for being wealthy and successful, but he does not know the truth behind his wealth and how he earned it (Fitzgerald 168). As a parent, one is suppose to love their child no matter what. It is easy to love them when all you hear about is how successful they are, but not for what one thinks. It is not easy to trust someone who can not make up their mind about what they want to tell people. Gatsby easily gives himself away because he thinks of a lie, he is going to tell someone, but since he has it planned someone can easily catch him in the lie: ‘“I thought you inherited your money.” “I did, old sport,” he said automatically, “but lost most of it in the big panic-the panic of war.” I think he hardly knew what he was saying, for when I asked him what business he was in he answered, “That’s my affair”, before he

Examples Of Honesty In The Great Gatsby

Nick describes himself as being honest, to what extent does Fitzgerald's portrayal of Nick assess whether the reader is meant to believe he is honest?

The Lying Jay Gatsby of The Great Gatsby Essay

     Throughout the novel, Gatsby’s lies clarifies his personalities in positive and negative aspects. One he tries better off his style of living. The negative aspect is that lying is unfair and can cause various types of problems. Overall F. Scotts Fitzgerald indicates that Gatsby’s is a man searching for the best.

Dishonesty in The Great Gatsby Essay

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Lies are a treacherous thing, yet everyone tells a few lies during their lifetime. Deceit surrounds us all the time; even when one reads classic literature. For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald makes dishonesty a major theme in his novel The Great Gatsby. The falsehoods told by the characters in this novel leads to inevitable tragedy when the truth is revealed.

Telling Lies In The Great Gatsby

Have you ever wondered why it can be so hard to tell the truth, or why it seems better to tell a lie? In both F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Rob Marshall’s Chicago, characters lie because they feel that it is easier. However, lying leads to a downward- spiral. The society we live in can either lead us to a complicated relationship with the truth or easy going. The problem with constantly telling lies is that it starts off with one then leads to another until everything you say is a lie. People know it is easier to tell lies than face the truth because they are either doing it for money, or protection for themselves, people they love, or relationships. Yes, telling lies can help but imagine the damage you’re building up on the way. Nobody likes liars and liars can be found anywhere, even families lie to each other. Relationships are just like thin pieces of paper that make small tears to it every time a lie is told. The paper can be put back together but it will never be the same or be seen the same.

Examples Of Dishonesty In The Great Gatsby

In The Great Gatsby by Francis Scott Fitzgerald there is a narrator named Nick Carraway. There is a debate of whether Nick Carraway is trustworthy. Nick Carraway believes these words, “It’s more that he was a German spy during the war” (Fitzgerald 48). Another example of Nick Carraway being dishonest is when he says these words to Daisy, “No, he’s not… It’s a bona fide deal. I happen to know about it” (Fitzgerald 122). On the other hand, there are other thoughts that Nick Carraway is trustworthy. Nick Carraway is a dishonest character because he believes one of the rumors about Gatsby and when Tom was on the phone, he lied for Tom saying he wasn’t talking to his mistress.

Dishonesty In The Great Gatsby

Money has never meant to make people happy in its nature, and the more of it one possesses the more dependent one will be. The Great Gatsby tells a story of Jay Gatsby, mysterious young man, trying to be wealthy to resume the romantic relationship with Daisy Buchanan, his beautiful but spoiled partner before the war. In the book, Gatsby and Daisy represent “new rich” and “old rich” respectively, and Gatsby tries as hard as possible to win Daisy back despite the fact that their perspectives of society and life are far from the same. At the end, Gatsby chooses to sacrifice himself to protect Daisy after she sits Myrtle Wilson, but he is still unable to change Daisy's mind about leaving her husband. Throughout the novel, the author establishes

Essay On Lies In The Great Gatsby

Lies…. The biggest weapon a person can have. People can warp reality and change the way you see things. Truth might be the noblest of traits, but I do not mean truth you’ve twisted, I mean honest truth. One of my favorite stories was about the expensive price you pay for the truth. It is hard to be completely honest, so all you can do is try. In The Great Gatsby they do not care about the truth, and they only spread lies. The rich prey on those they feel superior to, and with their corruption they go through life like waves of self-centeredness. Gatsby got the worst of everything, and after dealing with it all he didn’t even get his happily ever after. No man was innocent, but Nick Carraway was pretty close. However, Nick’s pragmatic sense of life seemed hopeless in stopping the lies and cruelty, this trait left him ignorant almost the whole story. Nick’s reverence for Gatsby rooted from Gatsby’s childlike hope that led him to love the pretentious Daisy, and it was undeniable how much that affected his and Nick’s friendship, for all the bad qualities Gatsby died being one of the few good people in Nick’s eyes. Furthermore, the biggest liar of all might be Daisy, she lied to Tom, Nick and Gatsby, but while my hatred for her is strong, Tom is who truly started it all. The story is about this demented couple who destroy everything with lies and betrayal, then retreat into their vast money, and they abandon people who they hurt and even murdered. With no regard for anyone else

Theme Of Deception In The Great Gatsby

Jay Gatsby also know as James Gatz has always had a dream for his life and that dream is to be wealthy and well-known. As James Gatz lived a poor and unhappy life; he built a new name for himself, Jay Gatsby. Once Jay Gatsby was well known to the people he found it harder to maintain his image as Jay Gatsby. Fitzgerald shows one of the struggles of deception through conversations between Gatsby and others, “I think he hardly knew what he was saying, for when I asked him what business he was in he answered, ‘That’s my affair,’ before he realized that it wasn’t an appropriate reply”. Through Jay Gatsby’s poor response while talking to Nick Carraway, Fitzgerald is able show the complications while deceiving others. Jay Gatsby is now

The Great Gatsby: Appearance Vs Reality

It is revealed that James Gatz created the persona of Jay Gatsby. As the novel continues it becomes apparent that James Gatz no longer exists and that Gatz has completely internalised Jay Gatsby making it his true identity. This appears to have damaging effects on Gatsby that we find out throughout the novel, however Gatsby appears to be in denial about these

The Great Gatsby- Jay Gatsby V Essay

Jay Gatsby, the title character of The Great Gatsby, is really not all that the title might suggest. First of all, his real name is James Gatz. He changed it in an effort to leave behind his old life as a poor boy and create an entirely new identity. He is also a liar and a criminal, having accumulated his wealth and position by dishonest means. But he is still called ‘great,’ and in a sense he is. Gatsby is made great by his unfaltering hope, and his determination to live in a perfect world with Daisy and their perfect love. Gatsby has many visible flaws—his obvious lies, his mysterious way of avoiding straight answers. But they are shadowed over by his gentle smile and his visible hunger for an ideal future. The coarse and playful Jay

We are all taught at a young age that lying is bad and we should always tell the truth, the truth shall set you free. Certainly characters from the movie Chicago directed by Rob Marshall and the book The Great Gatsby by: F. Scott Fitzgerald had a lot of trouble with the truth. They did not seem to stop lying in particular the female characters. They lie for their own benefit, but also lie because of their fear what society will think of them as a result of their sins.

Who Is Jay Gatsby Archetypal Hero

Gatsby did not always have such a lavish lifestyle. He was born in North Dakota and his parents were farmers. He left his family, full of ambition, and changed his name to Jay Gatsby. His real name was James Gatz, which he did not think suited him because it was average or plain. He created Jay Gatsby as a second persona to be who he really wanted to be, a successful businessman. He did not accept his parents because they “were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people” and “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”(98). He had persistent dreams and did not want to be contained in a life of farming and little success. He left his home to pursue what he felt he was destined to do, a pivotal characteristic of an archetypal


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The Great Gatsby is a tragic love story on the surface, but it's most commonly understood as a pessimistic critique of the American Dream. In the novel, Jay Gatsby overcomes his poor past to gain an incredible amount of money and a limited amount of social cache in 1920s NYC, only to be rejected by the "old money" crowd. He then gets killed after being tangled up with them.

Through Gatsby's life, as well as that of the Wilsons', Fitzgerald critiques the idea that America is a meritocracy where anyone can rise to the top with enough hard work. We will explore how this theme plays out in the plot, briefly analyze some key quotes about it, as well as do some character analysis and broader analysis of topics surrounding the American Dream in The Great Gatsby .

What is the American Dream? The American Dream in the Great Gatsby plot Key American Dream quotes Analyzing characters via the American Dream Common discussion and essay topics

Quick Note on Our Citations

Our citation format in this guide is (chapter.paragraph). We're using this system since there are many editions of Gatsby, so using page numbers would only work for students with our copy of the book.

To find a quotation we cite via chapter and paragraph in your book, you can either eyeball it (Paragraph 1-50: beginning of chapter; 50-100: middle of chapter; 100-on: end of chapter), or use the search function if you're using an online or eReader version of the text.

What Exactly Is "The American Dream"?

The American Dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of race, class, gender, or nationality, can be successful in America (read: rich) if they just work hard enough. The American Dream thus presents a pretty rosy view of American society that ignores problems like systemic racism and misogyny, xenophobia, tax evasion or state tax avoidance, and income inequality. It also presumes a myth of class equality, when the reality is America has a pretty well-developed class hierarchy.

The 1920s in particular was a pretty tumultuous time due to increased immigration (and the accompanying xenophobia), changing women's roles (spurred by the right to vote, which was won in 1919), and extraordinary income inequality.

The country was also in the midst of an economic boom, which fueled the belief that anyone could "strike it rich" on Wall Street. However, this rapid economic growth was built on a bubble which popped in 1929. The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, well before the crash, but through its wry descriptions of the ultra-wealthy, it seems to somehow predict that the fantastic wealth on display in 1920s New York was just as ephemeral as one of Gatsby's parties.

In any case, the novel, just by being set in the 1920s, is unlikely to present an optimistic view of the American Dream, or at least a version of the dream that's inclusive to all genders, ethnicities, and incomes. With that background in mind, let's jump into the plot!

The American Dream in The Great Gatsby

Chapter 1 places us in a particular year—1922—and gives us some background about WWI.  This is relevant, since the 1920s is presented as a time of hollow decadence among the wealthy, as evidenced especially by the parties in Chapters 2 and 3. And as we mentioned above, the 1920s were a particularly tense time in America.

We also meet George and Myrtle Wilson in Chapter 2 , both working class people who are working to improve their lot in life, George through his work, and Myrtle through her affair with Tom Buchanan.

We learn about Gatsby's goal in Chapter 4 : to win Daisy back. Despite everything he owns, including fantastic amounts of money and an over-the-top mansion, for Gatsby, Daisy is the ultimate status symbol. So in Chapter 5 , when Daisy and Gatsby reunite and begin an affair, it seems like Gatsby could, in fact, achieve his goal.

In Chapter 6 , we learn about Gatsby's less-than-wealthy past, which not only makes him look like the star of a rags-to-riches story, it makes Gatsby himself seem like someone in pursuit of the American Dream, and for him the personification of that dream is Daisy.

However, in Chapters 7 and 8 , everything comes crashing down: Daisy refuses to leave Tom, Myrtle is killed, and George breaks down and kills Gatsby and then himself, leaving all of the "strivers" dead and the old money crowd safe. Furthermore, we learn in those last chapters that Gatsby didn't even achieve all his wealth through hard work, like the American Dream would stipulate—instead, he earned his money through crime. (He did work hard and honestly under Dan Cody, but lost Dan Cody's inheritance to his ex-wife.)

In short, things do not turn out well for our dreamers in the novel! Thus, the novel ends with Nick's sad meditation on the lost promise of the American Dream. You can read a detailed analysis of these last lines in our summary of the novel's ending .


Key American Dream Quotes

In this section we analyze some of the most important quotes that relate to the American Dream in the book.

But I didn't call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone--he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward--and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. (1.152)

In our first glimpse of Jay Gatsby, we see him reaching towards something far off, something in sight but definitely out of reach. This famous image of the green light is often understood as part of The Great Gatsby 's meditation on The American Dream—the idea that people are always reaching towards something greater than themselves that is just out of reach . You can read more about this in our post all about the green light .

The fact that this yearning image is our introduction to Gatsby foreshadows his unhappy end and also marks him as a dreamer, rather than people like Tom or Daisy who were born with money and don't need to strive for anything so far off.

Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.

A dead man passed us in a hearse heaped with blooms, followed by two carriages with drawn blinds and by more cheerful carriages for friends. The friends looked out at us with the tragic eyes and short upper lips of south-eastern Europe, and I was glad that the sight of Gatsby's splendid car was included in their somber holiday. As we crossed Blackwell's Island a limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish Negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry.

"Anything can happen now that we've slid over this bridge," I thought; "anything at all. . . ."

Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder. (4.55-8)

Early in the novel, we get this mostly optimistic illustration of the American Dream—we see people of different races and nationalities racing towards NYC, a city of unfathomable possibility. This moment has all the classic elements of the American Dream—economic possibility, racial and religious diversity, a carefree attitude. At this moment, it does feel like "anything can happen," even a happy ending.

However, this rosy view eventually gets undermined by the tragic events later in the novel. And even at this point, Nick's condescension towards the people in the other cars reinforces America's racial hierarchy that disrupts the idea of the American Dream. There is even a little competition at play, a "haughty rivalry" at play between Gatsby's car and the one bearing the "modish Negroes."

Nick "laughs aloud" at this moment, suggesting he thinks it's amusing that the passengers in this other car see them as equals, or even rivals to be bested. In other words, he seems to firmly believe in the racial hierarchy Tom defends in Chapter 1, even if it doesn't admit it honestly.

His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy's white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete. (6.134)

This moment explicitly ties Daisy to all of Gatsby's larger dreams for a better life —to his American Dream. This sets the stage for the novel's tragic ending, since Daisy cannot hold up under the weight of the dream Gatsby projects onto her. Instead, she stays with Tom Buchanan, despite her feelings for Gatsby. Thus when Gatsby fails to win over Daisy, he also fails to achieve his version of the American Dream. This is why so many people read the novel as a somber or pessimistic take on the American Dream, rather than an optimistic one.  

...as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes--a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night." (9.151-152)

The closing pages of the novel reflect at length on the American Dream, in an attitude that seems simultaneously mournful, appreciative, and pessimistic. It also ties back to our first glimpse of Gatsby, reaching out over the water towards the Buchanan's green light. Nick notes that Gatsby's dream was "already behind him" then (or in other words, it was impossible to attain). But still, he finds something to admire in how Gatsby still hoped for a better life, and constantly reached out toward that brighter future.

For a full consideration of these last lines and what they could mean, see our analysis of the novel's ending .

Analyzing Characters Through the American Dream

An analysis of the characters in terms of the American Dream usually leads to a pretty cynical take on the American Dream.

Most character analysis centered on the American Dream will necessarily focus on Gatsby, George, or Myrtle (the true strivers in the novel), though as we'll discuss below, the Buchanans can also provide some interesting layers of discussion. For character analysis that incorporates the American Dream, carefully consider your chosen character's motivations and desires, and how the novel does (or doesn't!) provide glimpses of the dream's fulfillment for them.

Gatsby himself is obviously the best candidate for writing about the American Dream—he comes from humble roots (he's the son of poor farmers from North Dakota) and rises to be notoriously wealthy, only for everything to slip away from him in the end. Many people also incorporate Daisy into their analyses as the physical representation of Gatsby's dream.

However, definitely consider the fact that in the traditional American Dream, people achieve their goals through honest hard work, but in Gatsby's case, he very quickly acquires a large amount of money through crime . Gatsby does attempt the hard work approach, through his years of service to Dan Cody, but that doesn't work out since Cody's ex-wife ends up with the entire inheritance. So instead he turns to crime, and only then does he manage to achieve his desired wealth.

So while Gatsby's story arc resembles a traditional rags-to-riches tale, the fact that he gained his money immorally complicates the idea that he is a perfect avatar for the American Dream . Furthermore, his success obviously doesn't last—he still pines for Daisy and loses everything in his attempt to get her back. In other words, Gatsby's huge dreams, all precariously wedded to Daisy  ("He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God" (6.134)) are as flimsy and flight as Daisy herself.

George and Myrtle Wilson

This couple also represents people aiming at the dream— George owns his own shop and is doing his best to get business, though is increasingly worn down by the harsh demands of his life, while Myrtle chases after wealth and status through an affair with Tom.

Both are disempowered due to the lack of money at their own disposal —Myrtle certainly has access to some of the "finer things" through Tom but has to deal with his abuse, while George is unable to leave his current life and move West since he doesn't have the funds available. He even has to make himself servile to Tom in an attempt to get Tom to sell his car, a fact that could even cause him to overlook the evidence of his wife's affair. So neither character is on the upward trajectory that the American Dream promises, at least during the novel.

In the end, everything goes horribly wrong for both George and Myrtle, suggesting that in this world, it's dangerous to strive for more than you're given.

George and Myrtle's deadly fates, along with Gatsby's, help illustrate the novel's pessimistic attitude toward the American Dream. After all, how unfair is it that the couple working to improve their position in society (George and Myrtle) both end up dead, while Tom, who dragged Myrtle into an increasingly dangerous situation, and Daisy, who killed her, don't face any consequences? And on top of that they are fabulously wealthy? The American Dream certainly is not alive and well for the poor Wilsons.

Tom and Daisy as Antagonists to the American Dream

We've talked quite a bit already about Gatsby, George, and Myrtle—the three characters who come from humble roots and try to climb the ranks in 1920s New York. But what about the other major characters, especially the ones born with money? What is their relationship to the American Dream?

Specifically, Tom and Daisy have old money, and thus they don't need the American Dream, since they were born with America already at their feet.

Perhaps because of this, they seem to directly antagonize the dream—Daisy by refusing Gatsby, and Tom by helping to drag the Wilsons into tragedy .

This is especially interesting because unlike Gatsby, Myrtle, and George, who actively hope and dream of a better life, Daisy and Tom are described as bored and "careless," and end up instigating a large amount of tragedy through their own recklessness.

In other words, income inequality and the vastly different starts in life the characters have strongly affected their outcomes. The way they choose to live their lives, their morality (or lack thereof), and how much they dream doesn't seem to matter. This, of course, is tragic and antithetical to the idea of the American Dream, which claims that class should be irrelevant and anyone can rise to the top.

Daisy as a Personification of the American Dream

As we discuss in our post on money and materialism in The Great Gatsby , Daisy's voice is explicitly tied to money by Gatsby:

"Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.

That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money--that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it. . . . High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl. . . . (7.105-6)

If Daisy's voice promises money, and the American Dream is explicitly linked to wealth, it's not hard to argue that Daisy herself—along with the green light at the end of her dock —stands in for the American Dream. In fact, as Nick goes on to describe Daisy as "High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl," he also seems to literally describe Daisy as a prize, much like the princess at the end of a fairy tale (or even Princess Peach at the end of a Mario game!).

But Daisy, of course, is only human—flawed, flighty, and ultimately unable to embody the huge fantasy Gatsby projects onto her. So this, in turn, means that the American Dream itself is just a fantasy, a concept too flimsy to actually hold weight, especially in the fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world of 1920s America.

Furthermore, you should definitely consider the tension between the fact that Daisy represents Gatsby's ultimate goal, but at the same time (as we discussed above), her actual life is the opposite of the American Dream : she is born with money and privilege, likely dies with it all intact, and there are no consequences to how she chooses to live her life in between.

Can Female Characters Achieve the American Dream?

Finally, it's interesting to compare and contrast some of the female characters using the lens of the American Dream.

Let's start with Daisy, who is unhappy in her marriage and, despite a brief attempt to leave it, remains with Tom, unwilling to give up the status and security their marriage provides. At first, it may seem like Daisy doesn't dream at all, so of course she ends up unhappy. But consider the fact that Daisy was already born into the highest level of American society. The expectation placed on her, as a wealthy woman, was never to pursue something greater, but simply to maintain her status. She did that by marrying Tom, and it's understandable why she wouldn't risk the uncertainty and loss of status that would come through divorce and marriage to a bootlegger. Again, Daisy seems to typify the "anti-American" dream, in that she was born into a kind of aristocracy and simply has to maintain her position, not fight for something better.

In contrast, Myrtle, aside from Gatsby, seems to be the most ambitiously in pursuit of getting more than she was given in life. She parlays her affair with Tom into an apartment, nice clothes, and parties, and seems to revel in her newfound status. But of course, she is knocked down the hardest, killed for her involvement with the Buchanans, and specifically for wrongfully assuming she had value to them. Considering that Gatsby did have a chance to leave New York and distance himself from the unfolding tragedy, but Myrtle was the first to be killed, you could argue the novel presents an even bleaker view of the American Dream where women are concerned.

Even Jordan Baker , who seems to be living out a kind of dream by playing golf and being relatively independent, is tied to her family's money and insulated from consequences by it , making her a pretty poor representation of the dream. And of course, since her end game also seems to be marriage, she doesn't push the boundaries of women's roles as far as she might wish.

So while the women all push the boundaries of society's expectations of them in certain ways, they either fall in line or are killed, which definitely undermines the rosy of idea that anyone, regardless of gender, can make it in America. The American Dream as shown in Gatsby becomes even more pessimistic through the lens of the female characters.  


Common Essay Questions/Discussion Topics

Now let's work through some of the more frequently brought up subjects for discussion.

#1: Was Gatsby's dream worth it? Was all the work, time, and patience worth it for him?

Like me, you might immediately think "of course it wasn't worth it! Gatsby lost everything, not to mention the Wilsons got caught up in the tragedy and ended up dead!" So if you want to make the more obvious "the dream wasn't worth it" argument, you could point to the unraveling that happens at the end of the novel (including the deaths of Myrtle, Gatsby and George) and how all Gatsby's achievements are for nothing, as evidenced by the sparse attendance of his funeral.

However, you could definitely take the less obvious route and argue that Gatsby's dream was worth it, despite the tragic end . First of all, consider Jay's unique characterization in the story: "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" (6.7). In other words, Gatsby has a larger-than-life persona and he never would have been content to remain in North Dakota to be poor farmers like his parents.

Even if he ends up living a shorter life, he certainly lived a full one full of adventure. His dreams of wealth and status took him all over the world on Dan Cody's yacht, to Louisville where he met and fell in love with Daisy, to the battlefields of WWI, to the halls of Oxford University, and then to the fast-paced world of Manhattan in the early 1920s, when he earned a fortune as a bootlegger. In fact, it seems Jay lived several lives in the space of just half a normal lifespan. In short, to argue that Gatsby's dream was worth it, you should point to his larger-than-life conception of himself and the fact that he could have only sought happiness through striving for something greater than himself, even if that ended up being deadly in the end.

#2: In the Langston Hughes poem "A Dream Deferred," Hughes asks questions about what happens to postponed dreams. How does Fitzgerald examine this issue of deferred dreams? What do you think are the effects of postponing our dreams? How can you apply this lesson to your own life?

If you're thinking about "deferred dreams" in The Great Gatsby , the big one is obviously Gatsby's deferred dream for Daisy—nearly five years pass between his initial infatuation and his attempt in the novel to win her back, an attempt that obviously backfires. You can examine various aspects of Gatsby's dream—the flashbacks to his first memories of Daisy in Chapter 8 , the moment when they reunite in Chapter 5 , or the disastrous consequences of the confrontation of Chapter 7 —to illustrate Gatsby's deferred dream.

You could also look at George Wilson's postponed dream of going West, or Myrtle's dream of marrying a wealthy man of "breeding"—George never gets the funds to go West, and is instead mired in the Valley of Ashes, while Myrtle's attempt to achieve her dream after 12 years of marriage through an affair ends in tragedy. Apparently, dreams deferred are dreams doomed to fail.

As Nick Carraway says, "you can't repeat the past"—the novel seems to imply there is a small window for certain dreams, and when the window closes, they can no longer be attained. This is pretty pessimistic, and for the prompt's personal reflection aspect, I wouldn't say you should necessarily "apply this lesson to your own life" straightforwardly. But it is worth noting that certain opportunities are fleeting, and perhaps it's wiser to seek out newer and/or more attainable ones, rather than pining over a lost chance.

Any prompt like this one which has a section of more personal reflection gives you freedom to tie in your own experiences and point of view, so be thoughtful and think of good examples from your own life!

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#3: Explain how the novel does or does not demonstrate the death of the American Dream. Is the main theme of Gatsby indeed "the withering American Dream"? What does the novel offer about American identity?

In this prompt, another one that zeroes in on the dead or dying American Dream, you could discuss how the destruction of three lives (Gatsby, George, Myrtle) and the cynical portrayal of the old money crowd illustrates a dead, or dying American Dream . After all, if the characters who dream end up dead, and the ones who were born into life with money and privilege get to keep it without consequence, is there any room at all for the idea that less-privileged people can work their way up?

In terms of what the novel says about American identity, there are a few threads you could pick up—one is Nick's comment in Chapter 9 about the novel really being a story about (mid)westerners trying (and failing) to go East : "I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all--Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life" (9.125). This observation suggests an American identity that is determined by birthplace, and that within the American identity there are smaller, inescapable points of identification.

Furthermore, for those in the novel not born into money, the American identity seems to be about striving to end up with more wealth and status. But in terms of the portrayal of the old money set, particularly Daisy, Tom, and Jordan, the novel presents a segment of American society that is essentially aristocratic—you have to be born into it. In that regard, too, the novel presents a fractured American identity, with different lives possible based on how much money you are born with.

In short, I think the novel disrupts the idea of a unified American identity or American dream, by instead presenting a tragic, fractured, and rigid American society, one that is divided based on both geographic location and social class.

#4: Most would consider dreams to be positive motivators to achieve success, but the characters in the novel often take their dreams of ideal lives too far. Explain how characters' American Dreams cause them to have pain when they could have been content with more modest ambitions.

Gatsby is an obvious choice here—his pursuit of money and status, particularly through Daisy, leads him to ruin. There were many points when perhaps Gatsby ;could have been happy with what he achieved (especially after his apparently successful endeavors in the war, if he had remained at Oxford, or even after amassing a great amount of wealth as a bootlegger) but instead he kept striving upward, which ultimately lead to his downfall. You can flesh this argument out with the quotations in Chapters 6 and 8 about Gatsby's past, along with his tragic death.

Myrtle would be another good choice for this type of prompt. In a sense, she seems to be living her ideal life in her affair with Tom—she has a fancy NYC apartment, hosts parties, and gets to act sophisticated—but these pleasures end up gravely hurting George, and of course her association with Tom Buchanan gets her killed.

Nick, too, if he had been happy with his family's respectable fortune and his girlfriend out west, might have avoided the pain of knowing Gatsby and the general sense of despair he was left with.

You might be wondering about George—after all, isn't he someone also dreaming of a better life? However, there aren't many instances of George taking his dreams of an ideal life "too far." In fact, he struggles just to make one car sale so that he can finally move out West with Myrtle. Also, given that his current situation in the Valley of Ashes is quite bleak, it's hard to say that striving upward gave him pain.

#5: The Great Gatsby is, among other things, a sobering and even ominous commentary on the dark side of the American dream. Discuss this theme, incorporating the conflicts of East Egg vs. West Egg and old money vs. new money. What does the American dream mean to Gatsby? What did the American Dream mean to Fitzgerald? How does morality fit into achieving the American dream?

This prompt allows you to consider pretty broadly the novel's attitude toward the American Dream, with emphasis on "sobering and even ominous" commentary. Note that Fitzgerald seems to be specifically mocking the stereotypical rags to riches story here—;especially since he draws the Dan Cody narrative almost note for note from the work of someone like Horatio Alger, whose books were almost universally about rich men schooling young, entrepreneurial boys in the ways of the world. In other words, you should discuss how the Great Gatsby seems to turn the idea of the American Dream as described in the quote on its head: Gatsby does achieve a rags-to-riches rise, but it doesn't last.

All of Gatsby's hard work for Dan Cody, after all, didn't pay off since he lost the inheritance. So instead, Gatsby turned to crime after the war to quickly gain a ton of money. Especially since Gatsby finally achieves his great wealth through dubious means, the novel further undermines the classic image of someone working hard and honestly to go from rags to riches.

If you're addressing this prompt or a similar one, make sure to focus on the darker aspects of the American Dream, including the dark conclusion to the novel and Daisy and Tom's protection from any real consequences . (This would also allow you to considering morality, and how morally bankrupt the characters are.)

#6: What is the current state of the American Dream?

This is a more outward-looking prompt, that allows you to consider current events today to either be generally optimistic (the American dream is alive and well) or pessimistic (it's as dead as it is in The Great Gatsby).

You have dozens of potential current events to use as evidence for either argument, but consider especially immigration and immigration reform, mass incarceration, income inequality, education, and health care in America as good potential examples to use as you argue about the current state of the American Dream. Your writing will be especially powerful if you can point to some specific current events to support your argument.

What's Next?

In this post, we discussed how important money is to the novel's version of the American Dream. You can read even more about money and materialism in The Great Gatsby right here .

Want to indulge in a little materialism of your own? Take a look through these 15 must-have items for any Great Gatsby fan .

Get complete guides to Jay Gatsby , George Wilson and Myrtle Wilson to get even more background on the "dreamers" in the novel.

Like we discussed above, the green light is often seen as a stand-in for the idea of the American Dream. Read more about this crucial symbol here .

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Examples Of Deception In The Great Gatsby Essay

Imagine being new in town; everything around is foreign, new and fascinating. The people are all unfamiliar, but as they slowly start to become acquaintances, the realization that many of them live unhappy lives filled with deception and lies becomes evident. It is quickly proven that this is not a life that keeps people satisfied for very long, and more times than not, leads to horrible outcomes. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, lying and deception leads to the ultimate downfall of many characters . The first character encountered in The Great Gatsby that deals with lying is Daisy Buchanan.

Daisy is first seen in chapter one when Nick goes over to her house to catch up with her and her husband, Tom. Daisy is a woman of many emotions, who is never quite satisfied with what she has. She is also someone who tries to make everyone think she has a wonderful life when really she is far from happy with the life she has. “I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool- that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool was Daisy’s response to the doctor telling her that her newborn was a girl” (Fitzgerald 17).

This quote shows just how unhappy Daisy is with her life, and how little self-confidence she has. Daisy saw the life that she was living as a mistake, this mistake was made the day she married Tom. The day of her wedding Daisy received a letter from Jay Gatsby , the man she truly loved and ‘She began to cry- she cried and cried… She wouldn’t let go of the letter’ (Fitzgerald 76). Even before Daisy was married to Tom, she already had regrets about marrying him. She still loved Gatsby, but the pressures from her family to marry someone worthy and rich overbore the idea of her love for Gatsby.

Daisy lied to herself when she tried to believe she loved Tom enough to marry him over Gatsby. In a similar matter, Tom Buchanan’s downfall begins in the very first chapter of The Great Gatsby. This starts when he answers a phone call from his mistress in the middle of dinner, which causes a scene in front of his guests. Answering the phone call from Myrtle not only causes Daisy to rush in after him and become upset, but it also brings the affair to the attention of Jordan and Nick, who then look at Tom in a new and more judgemental way. Tom’s affair also causes him to lose important parts of his character.

This was exemplified by the situation at the party in New York when Tom breaks Myrtles’ nose for bringing up Daisy’s name, “I’ll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dais-” Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand’ (Fitzgerald 37). In trying to keep his two lives separate, his life with Daisy and his life with Myrtle, Tom is losing his integrity through lies and wrongful actions. To quote The Great Gatsby: The Limits of Wonder ‘This is a world of pretense, held together by vain hopes and a sense of self-worth that depends mainly upon a bigotry that can reduce others to a realm of inferiority’ (Lehan 93).

In saying this, he means to make a point that the life Myrtle and Tom try to live in their affair is a world where people only feel good about themselves when someone else is made to feel inferior. This way of living leads people down a terrible path which causes them grief in the end. The third character seen that surrounds themselves with a great deal of lying in The Great Gatsby is Jordan Baker. When first introduced, Jordan is just a friend of Daisy’s who is a golfer, and little else is known about her. As Nick and Jordan start to form a relationship, it is apparent that Jordan has a problem with lying.

Nick realized that she was never up front with him, and ‘She was incurably dishonest. She wasn’t able to be at a disadvantage and, given this unwillingness, I suppose she had started dealing in subterfuges when she was very young.. ‘(Fitzgerald 58). This quote means to say that Jordan lies about anything and everything, simply to put herself at the top, with the repercussions meaning nothing to her. ‘At Jordan’s first big golf tournament there was a row that nearly reached the newspapers- a suggestion that she had moved her ball from a bad lie in the semi-final round…

A caddy retracted his statement and the only other witness admitted he might’ve been mistaken’ (Fitzgerald 57). Jordan lying about moving her ball in a tournament is the prime example of her lying leading to her downfall. If the two men who caught her in her lie not taken their statements back, Jordan would have been ruined. Further in the novel, it is learned that Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men’ and that it was because ‘she felt safer on a plane where divergence from a code would be thought impossible’ (Fitzgerald 57-58).

Nick learns this about Jordan as he spends more time with her, and he starts to understand why she hangs about with people like Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby. She spends time with them because they would not ever question her morals and motives, and would never call her out on them. She feels safe and secure in her world where no one will make her responsible for her actions, her world of lies and deception. Throughout the novel The Great Gatsby, many small lies are encountered along with people who’s entire lives are full of lies. While it is true that other characters lied, no one deceived others to extent that Jay Gatsby did.

Jay Gatsby was a man with little morals, who never felt remorse for leading all of his friends around him to believe he was someone he was not. Gatsby knew who he wanted to be from a very young age, and never cared about what morals he would have to lose to get there. ‘The very vehicle for one who formed his ideals as a teenager and never questioned them again’ (Seiters 82). Jay was deceitful about his entire being, ‘The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island sprang from his platonic conception of himself (Fitzgerald 98).

As this quote states, Jay is a man who is entirely made up of lies in every aspect of his life . Gatsby lives a quiet and secluded life, but throws the largest parties in town, creating the illusion of a successful, happy and content man. Before he even appears in the novel, it is felt as though he known through the rumors that float around the town and through the air at his parties. The rumors that are flung around at his party vary from rumors of him killing a man to him being a graduate of Oxford. None of the rumors are confirmed or denied for any of the gossipers, because the elusive Gatsby never makes his presence known.

That is, until one night, Gatsby comes and befriends Nick. It is assumed this was just because he was being friendly. As the plot of the story develops, we realize this is hardly the case at all. Gatsby is an actor of sorts; he knows how to play people to get exactly what he wants from them. ‘Gatsby is a poseur in the most serious sense of the word, and his entire life was fabricated to bring him back to his past lover, Daisy Buchanan’ (Mitchell 63). In order to understand why Gatsby would go to such lengths to get back to Daisy, where he came from and where he is now must be examined.

To start off, the party goers and townsfolk are suspicious of Gatsby and his background from the very start. This is because no one truly knows where he came from. He tells everyone that he was an “Oxford man”, because it made him look prestigious and smart, when in reality he only stayed five months. He also leads Nick to believe that his family had died, and he came into the money that he possessed because of their passing. “”My family all died and I came into a good deal of money” (Fitzgerald 65). Gatsby would never admit that he met the man who he really inherited his money from while walking along the shore in Lake Superior.

This would mean admitting that the life he came from was not anything like he had said, and was not a life that would make him worthy of Daisy. ‘His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people—his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all’ (Fitzgerald 98). Daisy came from a wealthy family, who had high expectations for the man she would marry. Daisy herself carried these expectations, which led her to marry Tom.

When Gatsby found out about Tom and Daisy’s marriage, he made it his goal to get her back, no matter the cost. Jay’s determination o win back his girl is the choice that leads him to his eventual total self-destruction. First and foremost, Gatsby starts his mission to get Daisy back with buying a house right across the bay from her. A lie straight off that it was ‘coincidence that he lived that close to her. He then befriends Nick at his party, and eventually asks him through Jordan to arrange for tea with Daisy at his mansion. Before Daisy’s arrival, Gatsby hires a man to cut Nick’s grass, because he feels as though it looks shabby and bad. Everything has to look and be as good as it can be for Daisy, even if it’s fake.

After their initial greeting, Gatsby takes Daisy to his house to show off his giant rooms and luxurious wardrobe. Daisy is awestruck and impressed, the reaction Gatsby waited so long for, and he is satisfied. Daisy is wrongfully led to believe that this life is true and secure, not built upon lies and obsessions. ‘Gatsby had deliberately given Daisy a sense of security; he let her believe that he was a person from much the same status as herself (Mitchell 63). Gatsby lied to Daisy about everything he showed her, simply to trick her into thinking he was a man worth loving again.

Worse yet is that ‘Gatsby lies to Daisy without the slightest compunction because she is the idealized object of his projections and therefore not real (Mitchell 64). In this statement, the author means to explain to us that Gatsby does not love Daisy for who she is anymore. He does not even see her as a person, but as his goal and reward for completing his task. Finally, Gatsby has won Daisy back. Both of them ‘in love again, with Daisy giving more of her affection to Jay then her own husband. Tom notices Daisy’s recent taking to Gatsby, and he becomes upset and hurt.

Tom confronts Gatsby about what is going on between the two of them, which only leads to a fight with no resolution and Daisy admitting she never loved Tom. The events from the day out lead Daisy to go rushing back home distraught, but nevertheless, driving. Myrtle sees the car Daisy is driving and recognizes it from her times out with Tom. She rushes towards it, expecting Tom to slow down and stop to talk. It is not Tom driving, but Daisy who is distressed and not giving her full attention to the road. She does not see Myrtle coming, and she kills her.

The events following lead Wilson to finding out about the affair between Myrtle and Tom, and recognizing the car that killed Myrtle. George Wilson then makes a drastic and life altering decision to go murder Tom, who he is sure was the one to kill Myrtle. When Wilson shows up at Tom’s door, he says the car was not his, but Gatsby’s, and points him in the direction of Jay’s house. Wilson goes over, finds Gatsby, and ends both of their lives. Jay’s wonderful life, filled with happiness brought to him by lies and deception, dies at the hand of a man who had his own life destroyed by a lie.

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, lying and deception leads to the ultimate downfall of many characters . Daisy, Tom, Jordan and finally Jay Gatsby himself all live lives of deception and trickery, and none of them are ever happy. Throughout this novel, Fitzgerald made the theme of lying leading to unhappiness and the downfall of the characters one that stuck us all. This theme teaches us all that the way to be genuinely happy with who and what we are is to be truthful with not only those around us, but also with ourselves.

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The Great Gatsby Deception Essay

the great gatsby deception essay

Show More In the award winning novel The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald draws us to each chapter with agony and deception of achieving the American dream. While the American Dream can be achieved by anyone, that doesn 't mean that it will be free of lies, rumors, and corruption. Gatsby, who is the main character, has unknowingly achieved the American Dream. Gatsby was born into poverty which led him to this “dream”; Gatsby fell in love with Daisy Buchanan who loved him as well, but because of his social and wealth status could not be with him emotionally or physically. Gatsby went into war trusting that Daisy would be waiting for him, but soon finding out that she had moved on. Moved on to a wealthier man, a man who could buy her things, take care of her …show more content… Mr. Jay Gatsby is not even Mr. Jay Gatsby, his real name is James Gatz. In chapter seven agony begins to pour after Mrs. Wilson was struck by Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby is seen waiting by the fence of the Buchanan’s house and as Nick goes to pull out he stops and asks Gatsby what he is doing and with a simple rely Gatsby says, “ I’m just going to wait here and see if he tries to bother her about that unpleasantness this afternoon.”(pg.145.) This is a very ironic situation. If Gatsby is so worried about what could happen to Daisy then he should have thought of these possibilities before he tried to achieve this dream, before going off on Tom about Daisy being in love with him. Gatsby is quite selfish in this book, by not thinking of others and not planning out what could or couldn’t go wrong in this plan to win his love back. Gatsby also lacks common sense majorly especially in this chapter by letting Daisy drive while she was having a mental breakdown and obviously distraught. But Gatsby’s mind was elsewhere. His mind was in the long day-dreaming mode that played Daisy and him being together and she leaving Tom. Of course that is why he has been decorating his house in her favorite color, showing off his expensive items, and giving her exactly what she wants. By doing those things he strongly believes that he will gain her love back …show more content… Gatsby does not get close to people during his parties, he does not become over the top friendly toward others, and he is hiding the truth from people who he cares for; Daisy. When around certain people Gatsby puts an act on for the particular person. Like when he is with Daisy he is more caring, selfless, and is gentler. While with Tom he is less gentle and caring, he is confident and acts in an “I’m better than you” attitude, and more aggressive like in some parts. But when he is with Nick he is a mix of confident and kind, treating nick more like he would Daisy. Although he is kind to Nick and Daisy he still does not tell them the truth they rightfully deserve. Gatsby does not understand the concept of honestly in friendship. It is possible that everyone wears a mask; dark or light. But not all have to wear the mask to gain friendship and love form a significant other. “We wear the mask that grins and lies, it hides our cheeks and hides our eyes, - and with torn and bleeding hearts we smile, beneath our feet, and long the mile; but let the world dream otherwise.” (Source L). This poem is a well put demonstration of how Gatsby is acting in the book. Not only is he putting a mask on for the dream, but he is not even doing it the right way. If one shall wear a hiding mask than they must be hiding dark secrets of the past, or holding something deep inside. Not lying because of love, because of

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The Mystery Behind Gatsby’s Fortune

This essay about how Jay Gatsby, the enigmatic protagonist of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” amassed his fortune explores the underlying themes of the American Dream and the dark side of wealth. Gatsby’s wealth is initially shrouded in mystery, with rumors of bootlegging and other illicit activities. Fitzgerald gradually unveils that Gatsby’s fortune was indeed acquired through illegal means, including bootlegging alcohol during the Prohibition era and engaging in other forms of organized crime. This exploration serves as a critique of the American Dream, suggesting that Gatsby’s immoral path to wealth undermines the idealistic values associated with it. The essay delves into Gatsby’s motivations, driven by his love for Daisy Buchanan and his desire to transcend his humble origins, and how these motivations are reflected in the choices he makes. By examining Gatsby’s journey to wealth, the essay sheds light on the novel’s commentary on the American Dream, wealth, and the moral compromises individuals make in pursuit of their goals.

How it works

In the realm of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary magnum opus “The Great Gatsby,” the enigmatic persona of Jay Gatsby emerges as an emblem of the American Dream and its intricacies. Gatsby’s ostentatious lifestyle and seemingly boundless affluence serve as the focal point of much of the novel’s intrigue and speculation. A pivotal inquiry that weaves through the narrative is the genesis of Gatsby’s wealth, with the essay delving into the foundational elements of his prosperity, illuminating the shadowy recesses of the Roaring Twenties and the lengths individuals went to realize their rendition of the American Dream.

Fitzgerald intimates that Gatsby’s opulence did not stem from inheritance or legitimate toil but rather from dubious channels. The novel hints at Gatsby’s involvement in bootlegging, a lucrative yet illicit enterprise during the Prohibition epoch. Prohibition, spanning from 1920 to 1933, proscribed the sale, production, and distribution of alcoholic beverages in the United States, spawning a thriving clandestine market for liquor. Gatsby’s association with Meyer Wolfsheim, a character modeled after real-life figures entrenched in organized crime, solidifies the notion that his wealth was entangled with the criminal underbelly.

Furthermore, Fitzgerald subtly posits that Gatsby’s fortune may have also been acquired through securities fraud and other forms of financial chicanery. The character’s enigmatic allusions to his past and sudden ascent to affluence mirror the speculative fervor of the stock market in the 1920s, leading up to the cataclysmic crash of 1929. This facet of Gatsby’s wealth accumulation mirrors the speculative zeitgeist of the era and the blurred boundary between entrepreneurial zeal and outright deception.

Despite the nebulous origins of his riches, Gatsby’s wealth is singularly driven by the desire to reclaim Daisy Buchanan, the love he forfeited five years prior. This pursuit transmutes Gatsby’s wealth from mere fiscal abundance into a symbol of ardor and desperation. It underscores the novel’s critique of the American Dream, intimating that the quest for wealth, particularly through unethical means, is inherently vacuous and unfulfilling. Gatsby’s opulent mansion, extravagant soirées, and exotic automobiles serve as components of a meticulously crafted facade intended to captivate Daisy’s attention, rendering his wealth a means to an end rather than an end unto itself.

The tragedy of Jay Gatsby lies not solely in his downfall but in the realization that his opulence, irrespective of its grandeur, cannot resurrect the past or procure genuine happiness. Gatsby’s narrative serves as a cautionary tale regarding the pernicious influence of wealth and the illusory nature of the American Dream. It portrays a portrait of a man who, in his quest for affection and validation, loses himself in the mirage of affluence and prestige.

To conclude, Jay Gatsby’s affluence constitutes a labyrinthine tapestry of illicit dealings and high-stakes speculation, emblematic of the epoch’s economic extravagances and moral ambiguities. Fitzgerald employs Gatsby’s enigmatic wealth to critique the moral decay lurking beneath the gilded facade of the American Dream. The novel beckons readers to contemplate the genuine toll of affluence and the hollowness often concealed beneath the allure of material triumph. Through Gatsby’s ascent and descent, “The Great Gatsby” endures as an eternal exploration of aspiration, affection, and the elusive essence of the American Dream.


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Examples Of Disillusionment In The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a story set in 1920s New York City that focuses on the story of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious wealthy man who has his heart set on Daisy Buchanan, a wealthy woman and past lover, but this seemingly rejuvenated flame is complicated by Daisy’s husband Tom Buchanan. This story is told from the viewpoint of the narrator, Nick Carraway, and throughout the summer we see the story of love develop and end in a tragic turn. While many view following their dreams as life’s ultimate purpose, Fitzgerald reveals to readers that they should follow their dreams, but maintain balance and perspective in their lives. The novel reveals that while chasing one's dreams is admirable, becoming consumed by them, as seen in Gatsby's tragic story, can alter one's view and lead to disillusionment. Gatsby is the primary demonstration of what happens when one focuses too much on their …show more content…

When Gatsby is having a conversation with Nick, it is one of the earliest times in the book when we are clearly introduced to Gatsby’s unhealthy idealization of Daisy specifically. In this conversation Nick is trying to talk some sense into Gatsby with regard to Daisy,” I wouldn't ask too much of her. You can’t repeat the past”, to which Gatsby responds, “Can't repeat the past? Why, of course, you can!” (Fitzgerald 110). This belief that he can recreate the past is what leads to Gatsby’s whole life becoming consumed by the past. Gatsby’s whole life had been consumed by the “American dream” and his unending pursuit of Daisy, from buying a mansion across the bay, to throwing extravagant parties hoping one day she might show up. Gatsby nearly planned every detail of his life around his pursuit of Daisy, and this obsession is what prevents him from ever being truly happy with his life. In

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    The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a novel that delves into the themes of deception and illusion. Set in the 1920s, the story follows Jay Gatsby, a mysterious and wealthy man who is infatuated with Daisy Buchanan.Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald explores the idea that appearances can be deceiving and that the pursuit of the American Dream can lead to empty and hollow lives.

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  21. Examples Of Disillusionment In The Great Gatsby

    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a story set in 1920s New York City that focuses on the story of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious wealthy man who has his heart set on Daisy Buchanan, a wealthy woman and past lover, but this seemingly rejuvenated flame is complicated by Daisy's husband Tom Buchanan.

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    Get an answer for 'In The Great Gatsby, do lies and deceit occur more than power? ... Start an essay Ask a ... Nick briefly mentions that Tom discovered Daisy's deception very close to the time ...

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