What is so Great about Gatsby? The word great in the title gives the expectation to the reader that Gatsby is going to be a marvellous character with strong morals, great achievements and a desire to change and improve things.

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What is so Great about Gatsby?

The word great in the title gives the expectation to the reader that Gatsby is going to be a marvellous character with strong morals, great achievements and a desire to change and improve things.  This expectation of him is not fulfilled and the character presented is not the one the title suggests.  This is not to say that Gatsby is not great, he is in many ways remarkable in terms of his motivation, determination and ability to succeed.  He has achieved more than most could ever dream of and yet he is still unhappy, and it is this unhappiness which leads to his downfall.  Gatsby is most definitely great and in reading the book this is recognisable but, it is hard to pinpoint why.  In this essay I will look at different aspects of Gatsby’s character and compare him with other characters in an attempt to identify what is great about him.

L. Marx in an essay ‘Pastoralism in America’ noted that it is ‘by comparison with the “rotten crowd” of people who typify society Gatsby is meant to earn our approval’ (59).  This is very much the case, whilst Gatsby does make mistakes during the book it is with great intentions.  Other characters are portrayed as undertaking purely selfish aims, specifically to benefit themselves.  This fact evokes support and sympathy from the reader towards Gatsby as we recognise this.  

It is therefore important that we get to know other characters in the book before we meet Gatsby so we can make comparisons between them and Gatsby. The first person we are introduced to in the book is Nick, the narrator, and it is via him that we obtain all our knowledge about Gatsby.  When Nick first recalls Gatsby it is with fondness, he describes Gatsby as having ‘something gorgeous about him… (a) gift of hope and romantic readiness’.  This tells the reader that Gatsby is going to posses these qualities and we expect that they will be displayed to us.  But shortly after Nick goes on to describe a ‘foul dust… prey(ing)’ on Gatsby.  We are then made aware the story is tragic and know that the hero of the book, Gatsby, is going to meet a sad end before we even meet his character.  The fact that we are told this at the beginning allows us to examine his demise as it happens.  No matter how pleased we are of his achievements we are always aware that he will fail.    

From Nick’s initial description and the title Gatsby is pictured in our minds as heroic and great but we do not know why.  When Nick goes back to the time when he first moves to West Egg neither does he; it is very far into the story that we learn how Gatsby made his fortune and even then we only know very vaguely.  It is therefore clear that it is not wealth that makes Gatsby great but something else, something mysterious and almost magical, he is a symbol of something different that has been able to succeed in a world which was determined to see him not do.  Gatsby was going to change Nick’s perception of the world, he was make Nick go from seeing him as someone who ‘represented everything for which (he had) unaffected scorn’ to seeing him as ‘Great’.  This fact is a huge achievement in itself and we know that Gatsby must have some very special qualities to have influenced such a dramatic change in opinion.

Nick contrasts starkly with Gatsby’s character, he impresses upon the reader a lack of motivation and ambition; coming from a ‘well-to-do’ family it appears he has no desire to make his own stamp in the world and is content joining the ‘bond business’ not to achieve great things but because he ‘supposed it could support one more man’.  Nick is someone who has allowed his life and upbringing to shape him whereas Gatsby is someone who has shaped his own life, despite his upbringing.  This is I believe one of the fundamental factors that makes him ‘great’.  He challenges the concepts of class and status and even though he is ultimately unsuccessful he is a strong character who is prepared to do anything to achieve his unobtainable goal.  

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Gatsby has made himself into a man of wealth and possessions and whilst he has more of these than any other character in the book they have something that he desires.  Not Daisy, although he desires her, but what she stands for and that is family, upbringing and class.  No matter how successful he becomes he can never obtain them, so instead he creates them in him mind.  This is the fundamental factors that ‘makes Gatsby tragic…(he) believes that the past can be wiped out…that a man can create himself anew by the exercise of his own will and ...

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The Quality of Written Communication is very good; only very minor errors are made as a result of perhaps not re-checking as rigorously as is possible, but no matter as the clarity of the essay's analysis is not compromised. The spelling, grammar and punctuation are all acceptable and show a candidate who writes with flair and confidence when analysing literature.

The Level of Analysis is very good. Though not exhaustive, the candidate considers a number of theories as to the title calling Gatsby "Great". It is a common misconception that this is an ironic move and that Fitzgerald is saying there was in fact nothing admirable about Gatsby. But due to this candidate close attention to the methods in which Fitzgerald allows Nick to give us information about Gatsby, it is clear to from the start see this candidate is competent enough that they can identify the true meaning of the title. Everything written is valid generally, though some specific details compromise the overall effectiveness, for instance calling Gatsby "childlike". Whilst yes, this may seem a logical assumption, perhaps the word "naive" would suit the analysis better ("naive" was used earlier in the essay, so whilst I recognise this is probably what you meant, other examiners may not so always be sure that you are saying exactly what you want to say, because Gatsby does not have the characteristics of a child at all - quite possible the one-dimensional simplicity of a child who desperately wants something, yes, but this must be made clearer). One piece of analysis that I've always thought about when considering the title is that the use of the word "Great" recalls many of the stage names for great illusionists of the time. Magic shows and magicians were the dominant breed of live entertainers at the time and were renowned for conjuring grand, elaborate tricks to fool the eyes of thousands of baying onlookers, but were often very unprofessional and cheating behind their extravagant appearance and stage presence. And so is it possible that Fitzgerald is drawing comparison between Gatsby's efforts to reinvent himself as a wealthy socialite wearing a veneer of vulgar ostentation and the same misleading guise worn by magicians and illusionists of the time?

This is an excellently-formed piece of coursework. It's analysis is good, and it draws a nice, concise conclusion from such an extensive length. There is a good understanding of the character and how other characters perceive him - though perhaps not quite as firm a hold how the reader sees Gatsby (after all, we only see him through Nick's eyes, and Nick contradicts himself a lot in the novel as he finds himself repelled by and attracted to Gatsby's opulent life-style). Nonetheless, there is a sensitive appraisal of how the character is formed and a good understanding of his back story, all of which are implemented into analysis that calls to question the apparent irony of labeling Jay Gatsby a "Great" man. It is correctly noted early on that perhaps the title, unlike so many come to fully realise, is not actually ironic. Once Nick leaves West Egg he sobers from his party-intoxicated mind and realises that actually Gatsby was the most real person he ever met there, and that is because Gatsby never originally grew up in the life-style, and so had is moral built on arguably more sturdy foundations. It appears a little understood, the process by which Gatsby acquired his money though, as he participated in bootlegging and illicit alcohol laundering, often having to kill men in the process, so he did actually hurt some people, but this is testament to his undying fervour to seek Daisy Buchanan, and hence why Nick refers to him as "Great". All this is here in this candidate's essay, but some areas are slightly more 'woolly' than otherwise and find it hard to pinpoint want they want to say. To a literature student it is clear, but I would recommend being a little more precise in the future, so that if an examiner is instructed to act as if they are not familiar with the text you can avoid common pitfalls that may cost marks.