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Gatsby Is Really Great In The Great Gatsby

1181 words - 5 pages

Throughout history, few have achieved so much as to afford the title “the Great”. Catherine the Great of Russia and Alexander the Great of Greece are two significant examples. They attained their positions through immense achievement, placing them far above the average person. According to Google Dictionary, in order to be considered great, one must be “of ability, quality, or eminence considerably above the normal or average”. In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, many characters are described using different key adjectives like 'thrilling' and 'sturdy'. The title character Jay Gatsby is described as 'great'. He is later shown to be a corrupt businessman whose entire life surrounds one purpose. The greatness of Jay Gatsby has often been debated, but evidence continues to show that even through his faults, corrupt ways and elaborate lies, Gatsby is great because his ability to dream and hope for a better future lifts him above the average and empowers the American Dream as an ideal.
Nick believes that Gatsby's saving virtue that places him above the average person is his capacity to hope and his ability to persevere towards his dreams at any cost. In the end, when he describes Gatsby’s dream he says "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther...And one fine morning-" (Fitzgerald 180). It is clear that at least from Nick's perspective Gatsby is above the norm. "Gatsby believed in the green light [...] It eluded us". Gatsby is shown as having the capability to believe in something, in this case the symbolic nature of the green light, but this ability is contrasted by the statement that 'us', the average people were eluded by this ability. This perfectly fits the definition of greatness. Gatsby exhibits a trait that puts him above the average. Gatsby can be clearly seen as a physical embodiment of the American Dream, his story of rags to riches, and moving in order to secure his dreams. Thus, just as Gatsby’s greatest virtue is hope, so to is hope a great virtue of the American Dream.
While Gatsby is at first described as a kind gentleman making his way in America, it is later discovered that he did so through unsavory means, leading us to question his inherent greatness. When Tom becomes vengeful and suspicious of Gatsby, he researches Gatsby's past and presents his findings to the group at their party in New York, saying "’I found out what your ‘drug-stores’ were.’ He turned to us and spoke rapidly. ‘He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn’t far wrong’” (133). In saying this, Tom is driven by his thirst for vengeance. He reveals that Gatsby acquired his riches through illegal means. These...

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