On Nick’s last visit to Gatsby’s house, Nick realises that Gatsby’s belief in life and love resembles the hope and faith of the early Dutch Sailors, arriving in America in search of freedom. “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 Gatsby, it seems his dream is very easily realised, to a certain extent, by virtue of his immense ambition and idealism. Nick describes Gatsby as having an “extraordinary gift for hope”.
It is soon after Gatsby has met Daisy that he realises the life of the high classes’ demands wealth to become a priority. Wealth seems to become his superficial goal, and overshadows his quest for love, despite, ironically, his love being the reason he wants money. “He had certainly taken her under false pretences…he had let her believe that he was a person from much the same strata as herself…he had intended, probably, to take what he could and go.” I believe very firmly that it is this quest that makes Gatsby the ultimate victim of the American Dream; it appears that nothing excites him in quite the same way as Daisy does. We see this idea at its strongest when Nick invites her round to his house for tea with himself and Gatsby. “Gatsby, pale as death…turned sharply as if on a wire...then he sat down rigidly.” This small descriptive part of the novel shows us just what Gatsby appears to be striving for, love. We see a normally bold, strong, gregarious man turn into a shivering wreck. Until this point it seems that Gatsby’s only aim in life is to be wealthy and accepted as wealthy. But at this stage we realise there is a truly tender reason behind his seeming need for wealth. “She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me.”
We see a constant battle between Tom Buchanan and Gatsby. “An Oxford Man! Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit!” Tom, a man from an “enormously wealthy” family, seems to Nick to have lost all sense of morality. Nick describes Tom’s physique in a metaphorical way for his true character. “A hard mouth and a supercilious manner…arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face…always leaning aggressively forward…a cruel body…added to the impression of factitiousness he conveyed.” We see that the wealth Tom has inherited causes him to become arrogant and condescending to others, while losing any morals he has. Rather than becoming immoral through wealth as Tom has, Gatsby engages in criminal activity so to become wealthy. “Young Park’s in trouble…they picked him up when they handed the bonds over.” We see further into Gatsby’s criminalities when we hear that he is lying to Nick about his past in order to cover up any criminal activity. Gatsby claims to others that he has inherited his wealth, but Nick discovers that “his parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people.” Gatsby has entered a world where money takes precedence over moral integrity. Once this idea is set in, members of high social classes focus on immediate indulgences, rather than long term pleasures of life such as love. I think it is at this stage that we see Gatsby as a victim; he has become part of a mad hierarchy because he wants to find love, and because love has driven him here, least of all because he wants material objects and to be part of a high social circle. “I’ve got a man in England who buys me clothes.”
It is his love, Daisy, who is really the centre of all of this. She seems to constantly strive to keep herself busy by means of social interaction. “What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon…and the day after that, and the next thirty years?” In Daisy we see a perfect example of the materialism that her society so requires in her relationship with her daughter. “Your mother wanted to show you off.”
In a society that thrives on, and almost relies on, immediate physical indulgences, Gatsby simply feeds the appetite of the high class he wishes to be in by throwing extravagant parties. Again, in this we can see just how victimised Gatsby is by the dream, he is simply a man who entertains, no one appears to know him except for Nick, and nobody seems to care very much either. “He’s just a man named Gatsby.” Then, as soon as Gatsby has Daisy, all the parties stop. He is no longer bothered with extravagant parties or butlers, or servants or anything that shows him off to be very, very wealthy, he has gained what he wanted to achieve and so it does not matter any longer. “Gatsby had dismissed every servant in the house a week ago.” Despite, this pause in Gatsby’s lifestyle, Nick still describes Gatsby as restless, “Never quite still; there was always a tapping foot somewhere or the impatient opening and closing of a hand.” From this point in the novel, it seems that Gatsby has shaken off the prospects of victimisation, he has gained love with Daisy; he no longer throws parties to fuel the wealthy people’s lifestyle, he gets rid of any servants and even stops seeking friendship in Nick. There is nothing desperate about him any longer, as a reader of the novel there is no reason to pity him or feel sympathy towards him.
Through Nick, as a reader we have ambiguous feelings towards Gatsby because he is a criminal. I believe that at first we feel slightly put out by Gatsby, that we do not want to like him, but through various reasons we cannot help but feel drawn to him. I think that much of this is due to pity and sympathy. This is perfectly described by Lois Tyson in her book of critical theory; “An idealisation is fore grounded in Nick’s narrative through his focus on romantic images of Gatsby: the rebellious boy, the ambitious young roughneck, the idealised dreamer, the devoted lover, the brave soldier, the lavish host. Gatsby’s criminal connections are acknowledged, but because of Nick’s response to them they don’t influence his opinion of the man. For example, Nick’s manner of discussing Gatsby’s criminal life tends to deflect attention away from the moral implications of Gatsby’s underworld activities, as when Nick reports the following conversation he overheard at one of Gatsby’s parties. ““He is a bootlegger”, said one of the ladies, moving somewhere between the cocktails and the flowers.”...This statement focus’s on Gatsby’s generosity and willingness to abuse it of those who gossip about him, therefore sidestepping the fact that “his cocktails and his flowers” weren’t rightfully his at all, but obtained through criminal money.” On this note, we can understand that it is in fact Nick who creates Gatsby in a victimised light. Nick looks up to Gatsby and gets drawn in to his persona; it is because of this that Nick remains loyal to Gatsby, creating a story where it is only possible to feel sympathy and therefore likeness for Gatsby. Nick becomes a sort of mental body guard for Gatsby. When Gatsby admits to Tom that he was only in Oxford because of the war, and therefore only stayed there for a few months, Nick “wanted to get up and slap him on the back” we see that he has “complete faith in him.” This is what makes Gatsby a victim, the reader is forced to see the situation through the eyes of a follower and an admirer.
From the dictionary term of victim we can understand that Gatsby is most definitely a victim, not only of the American dream, but of murder. It is fair to say that Gatsby is a victim of “the cruel hoax” that is the old money classes. Yet, Gatsby is not the only victim in the novel. We see the same class victimisation in Myrtle Wilson. Myrtle, Tom’s mistress, is only seen as a victim at the end of the novel when she is run down, and immediately killed by Daisy. Myrtle’s husband makes the simple mistake in thinking it was Gatsby who was responsible for Myrtle’s death. Tom does not admit to his wife’s wrong doings and, knowing full well the outcome of what is to come for Gatsby, informs Myrtle’s husband of where Gatsby lives. So, although it is Wilson who actually kills Gatsby, it is fair to say that the Buchanans are morally responsible. “They retreat “back into their money, or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them going”, and with Gatsby destroyed with the unspoken responsibility of the “very rich” he has always admired, his dream is shattered, thanks to the quiet agency of the woman he wanted to dwell at its centre, and the story is almost over.”
Yet, after the day spent in New York, and the death of Myrtle, we can see just how desperate Gatsby is. I believe that this is the final point before his death, that we see him as a victim. Nick acknowledges that it is in fact Daisy that was driving and therefore kills Myrtle, yet happily accepts that Gatsby will willingly take the blame. Gatsby stands outside the Buchanans house until four o’clock, in case they have an argument and Daisy may suddenly need the help of Gatsby. “I’m just going to wait here and see if he bothers her about that unpleasantness this afternoon…if he tries any brutality she’s going to turn the light out, and on again…Nothing happened…I waited, and at about four o’clock she came to the window and stood there for a minute and then turned the light out.” It is at this stage that we see that Daisy does in fact feel not a lot for Gatsby, and indeed love her husband as she claimed earlier on in the day. This is reinforced when Nick peers through the window of the Buchanans to find that the last thing to be happening is any brutality on Tom’s behalf. “Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table, with a plate of cold fried chicken between them, and two bottles of ale. He was talking intently across the table at her, and in his earnestness his hand had fallen upon and covered her own. Once in a while she looked up at him and nodded in agreement…they weren’t happy...but they weren’t unhappy either.”
So it is at this point in the novel that we realise Gatsby is a true victim of the American Dream, of love and of innocence.
It is not until Gatsby is dead; that we can see how truly victimised he is by the society he desperately longed to be in. Nick is the only person who makes funeral arrangements, simply because he is the only person who was really ever close to Gatsby. “Daisy hadn’t sent a message or a flower.” It appears that there are only three people to go to the funeral, Nick himself, Gatsby’s father, and a man named “Owl Eyes” who was one of the many party goers. It is at this point that we really do feel sympathy for Gatsby, he was a true victim. Making his money for show, he had no true friends, no true money and no true love. His life revolved around his own scheming, causing him to be a victim of himself.
By the end of the novel, we see Gatsby as a victim, not a great example of the American Dream. It is Nick’s story that we understand, and therefore through the eyes of Nick that we see Gatsby, yet, because of this, there is a large element of us that feels fond of Gatsby, and drawn to him. But, at the back of our minds, we know that a large part of that fondness is due to pity and sympathy felt from Nicks behalf, Gatsby is merely weak, and impressionable, but with that we see naivety and stupidity, he appears love blind, which is the sole reason behind his need for money, class and materiality, thus creating a victim.