To decide whether Jay Gatsby is a good man or not, one must define what a ‘good man’ really is. Although it is an extremely vague and layered term, a ‘good man’ best fits the description of a man whose intentions are never meant to harm anyone. In addition, readers must remember that the Gatsby in the novel is Nick Carraway’s version, and that is a very biased version. Yet, based off of the events depicted in The Great Gatsby, I believe that Jay Gatsby is a good man.
Gatsby is not formally introduced until chapter three, and due to his initial description, readers hold him in much higher regard than other characters in the novel. Nick introduces Gatsby in an extremely intriguing and flattering manner, saying, “He smiled understandingly – much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you seemed to come across four or five times in life” (Fitzgerald 48). Gatsby’s introduction is completely opposite of Tom Buchanan’s, in which Nick uses words like “physical” and “powerful” to illustrate Tom as a stereotypical dumb jock and bully (6). Yet, despite the biases created within readers by Nick from the beginning of the novel, Gatsby does not purposefully harm anyone, as far as the reader knows, which leads me to believe that he is a ‘good man’.
One may argue that Jay Gatsby is not a ‘good man’ by discussing his illegal profession of bootlegging. This argument is flawed though, because Gatsby began bootlegging for Meyer Wolfsheim after World War One, and as a poor and starving veteran, was offered a free lunch and a job. Any man who is living the poor conditions that Gatsby was at the time would likely never decline a job offer, especially if it was a morally sound one. Yet, one could also argue that Jay Gatsby is not a ‘good man’ due to his numerous lies in the novel. Unfortunately though, it is part of human nature to lie, and all of Gatsby’s lies, like his own name, mean no harm to anyone as far as readers know. Gatsby is very carefully spoken, and is seen as more of a liar than he really is due to the assumptions made by others resulting from his careful language.
Regardless of how one would go about arguing how Jay Gatsby is not a ‘good man’, he is undeniably an embodiment of the American dream. Born James Gatz to two poor farmers in the Midwest, Gatsby’s “imaginations had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby … sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God … to this conception he was faithful to the end” (98). The notion of the self-made man alone is something that is honored within American society, and therefore, Jay Gatsby is an honorable person. Parallel to Benjamin Franklin,...