The Consequences That Arose From Gatsby’s Misconception of Reality
There was a time when James Gatz felt his life was perfect. It was a life he had when he was younger, filled with the promise of a future with the love of his life: Daisy Buchanan. This future turns out to be an unattainable dream of his, because it falls short of the hard knocks of reality. In his effort to retrieve the past, James Gatz reinvents himself as Jay Gatsby, a man who aspires to achieve a position among the rich to win back the heart of his true love. Little does he know, she is already behind him, and his downfall is in the fact that he fails to determine the boundary between what is real over what is fantasy in his life. The reluctance of Gatsby to accept the reality of Daisy, of himself and of time leads to the tragic consequence of his demise in Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby.
In the novel, Gatsby’s entire life is devoted to rekindling his relationship with Daisy. She is the object of his love, and given the lengths of which he has gone to win her back, she seems to be a worthy paramour. In Gatsby’s eyes, Daisy is the paragon perfection, having the aura of charm, wealth, grace, and aristocracy that he has longed for since he was a child. His love for her, however, is so blinding and irrepressible that he cannot see that she is not who he believes her to be. In reality, Daisy falls short of his ideas of perfection. Beneath the surface of her beauty and charm, she is merely a manipulative, selfish, shallow, and fickle person who wants her reputation to remain unscathed. This is why she is not willing to face the scandal of leaving Tom for someone with a low-class background and criminal record—someone like Gatsby, who fails to acknowledge or accept this. Daisy may love him, but she loves her privileged lifestyle and the security that comes with her old-money background. The fact that she “sells out” to Tom for a $350,000 pearl necklace supports her materialistic nature, and together, her and Tom represent cowardice and corruption. “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” (Fitzgerald, pg. 170) When Nick calls Tom and Daisy reckless, it signifies that he understands their true spirits. The immoral values they possess are exceptionally highlighted when Daisy murders Myrtle Wilson and lets Gatsby take the blame for it. This imposes his own demise, which could have been avoided if he was not blinded by the fantasy of his love and saw the truth of who Daisy really is.
Gatsby, himself, is not who he appears to be either. He lies about his background to Daisy and Nick, claiming to be the son of some wealthy people in order to seem as good as the old-money crowd. In actuality, he is a man named James Gatz, who comes from a very poor family and wants all the trappings of the American Dream. James Gatz will never be good enough to be with Daisy, and in reluctance to accept the reality of who he really is, he recreates himself as Gatsby. “Being with her, both someone he loves and a symbol of the East Egg world he covets, would be the ultimate victory.” (Emsteph) The hope that they will be together again is the main motivation behind his acquisition of immense wealth. He believes that the amassed fortune he earned through illegal activity exceeds Tom’s and makes him suitable to be with Daisy, and it seems like they have a chance when they reunite and begin an affair. This, however, only comes crashing down in the story. Gatsby might be able to change his identity to create a new image of himself, but in reality, he cannot change who really is. That person will never be good enough for the old money crowd, nor adequate for Daisy. With her fickle personality, she ends up returning to her husband, and Gatsby’s relentless pursuit gets him killed.
One of the themes highlighted in The Great Gatsby is that the past cannot be repeated, and, caught up in his fantasy, Gatsby refuses to accept this. His belief that you can repeat the past has laid the foundation of his whole life as he acquired fantastic amounts of money through criminal activity. ““Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!… I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before… she’ll see.”” (Fitzgerald, pg.106) When Gatsby replies this to Nick, he is sure of himself and of being able to reclaim the time when he and Daisy first met now that he has the money to prove his worth. This view is very simplistic and impractical, showing how completely he skews reality in his desperation to have the woman of his dreams. She is Gatsby’s sole purpose for living—he has dedicated his life to winning Daisy back, devoting every ounce of his energy and resources into becoming as rich as possible so that he could pick up where they left off all those years ago. His life had been incomplete since he lost her, and he somehow feels that if he could just go back and do it all again the right way, he would find the thing that has been missing. However, no matter how hard Gatsby tries or the lengths he goes to, he cannot relive the past, nor help what has passed during the five years him and Daisy were apart. She fell in love, married, and had a child with Tom, something that cannot be erased. “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” (Fitzgerald, pg. 171) Being so fixated on his life before, Gatsby fails to see the reality of his circumstances and of his future—a future that doesn’t involve Daisy. Accepting this would shatter all of his hopes and dreams, so he remains in his denial until the very end of the story when he is murdered on account of Daisy.
Gatsby’s misconception of reality had damaging effects on him, but he chose to remain in denial because it was better than accepting the reality of his future—one that would never be with Daisy. The Great Gatsby is a novel whose main images and symbols reinforce the idea that his dream of reclaiming his past with her is just not possible. Gatsby’s love for Daisy blinded him from many things—the truth of her, of himself, and of time—and his reluctance to recognize what is illusion versus reality provokes the tragic consequences that end in his downfall—and ultimately, his demise.
- “What Is the Importance of Obsessions in The Great Gatsby?” Enotes.com, Enotes.com, www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-importance-obsessions-great-gatsby-146823.
- SparkNotes, SparkNotes, www.sparknotes.com/lit/gatsby/character/daisy-buchanan/.
- Pac, Michael. “Illusion Vs. Reality in The Great Gatsby.” Prezi.com, 16 Mar. 2015, prezi.com/t8fb22-lqsrd/illusion-vs-reality-in-the-great-gatsby/.