The great skill of Fitzgerald is to create a character which is as much a figment of his own imagination as he is the readers. How far does this reflect the authors presentation of Jay Gatsby?

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“The great skill of Fitzgerald is to create a character which is as much a figment of his own imagination as he is the readers”. How far does this reflect the author’s presentation of Jay Gatsby?

Throughout the opening five chapters of the novel, Fitzgerald, through the narration of Nick Carraway, introduces us to the protagonist- Jay Gatsby. It is through Nick’s description of him that we are able to evaluate and make judgements about Gatsby’s personality and characteristics. However, what Fitzgerald particularly succeeds in is creating a certain image of Gatsby from the very offset of the novel, and utilising this image and perception to form the main basis, or essentially plot, of the story.  The aforementioned image of Gatsby is one of enigma and mystery, and as the novel develops we are able to see how the actions of Gatsby, and other characters’ perceptions of his character, generate the sense that Gatsby is a figment of what he imagines himself to be.

As mentioned, enigma and the inherent ‘battle’ of the play in terms of actualities vs. desires/illusions play an important role in uncovering the ‘hidden’ true identity of Jay Gatsby.  The mystery of Gatsby is epitomised through what other characters see him as. As it turns out, evidenced by the second chapter, it seems people’s knowledge of Gatsby’s character is largely unknown. Mr Mckee states “Well, they say he’s a nephew or cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm’s”, the phrase “they say” highlighting the fact the whole community partake in rumours about him, and are equally clueless, as to the true nature of Gatsby.  Gatsby’s party too displays the constant enigma surrounding him- casual rumours are flung round “that he was a Germany spy during the war” or that “he killed a man”. Jordan is sceptical about Gatsby’s true identity, stating “I don’t think he went there” when questioned about Gatsby’s Oxford education. Not only is his identity uncertain in the eyes of Nick and other characters, but his actions at the party all contribute to the idea that something ‘isn’t quite right’. Nick describes him as “standing alone on the marble steps”; he clearly separates himself from the common partygoer, his life is not ‘pointless’ and meandering unlike that of the average wealthy American in the 1920’s- the so-called Jazz age. Indeed, if Gatsby is host to a party, we would surely expect him to have an extravert character. Instead, his quiet, introverted character throughout the party, and the first half of the play, is an apotheosis of this mysterious and enigmatic person.

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Fitzgerald evokes a particular question from the reader; a longing to find out who Gatsby really is, and this highlights Fitzgerald’s success in masking the real identity of Gatsby, only allowing the reader a small insight into his personal and past life, using rumours and uncertain perceptions to obscure the reader’s view of Gatsby. Fitzgerald does eventually display the motives, or ‘point of existence’ of Gatsby, and in the uncovering of Gatsby’s motives the reader is able to see how Gatsby bases his reality in terms of his desires, thus being able to define him as somebody  ‘a figment of ...

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