The White Knight Fighting for the Fair Maiden
Courtly love is a fundamental metaphor of Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby, and, therefore, the elusive Jay Gatsby plays out his role as a courtly lover throughout the novel. Gatsby’s abnormal situation with Daisy reflects the metaphor of courtly love. Many of the characteristics used to define courtly love are reflected in Gatsby’s actions. Every choice that he makes is an attempt to win Daisy’s love, however unworthy of it she proves to be. He and Daisy’s relationship reflects the way that knights had to prove that they were cultivated to win a woman, as well as abiding to the adulterous aspect of courtly love, and being an example of the many times the “white knight” dies for their love.
In order to achieve courtly love, a knight at the bottom of the noble hierarchy has to prove that he is well educated and cultivated as well as a good warrior. As a young man, Gatsby “accepted a commission as first lieutenant”(65). By accepting a position in the army, he shows Daisy that he is a strong warrior. He demonstrates that he is a modern-day knight, who acts as a warrior for a good cause. As well as being a good soldier, Gatsby is an “Oxford man” (49). When he tells people that he is an alumni of Oxford, he is trying to show off the fact that he is well educated. He wants people to know that he is refined, and cultured as well as being intelligent. He longs to prove that he is worthy of Daisy and worthy of her love. Soon, Gatsby moves to West Egg with his newly accumulated wealth and “[buys] that house so that Daisy [will] be just across the bay”(78). Gatsby starts getting involved in business with people like Meyer Wolfsheim, who are not exactly chivalrous, so that he can amass enough wealth to prove that he is well educated. In this instance, Gatsby is not as chivalrous as a knight, but his motives are as good as any that a possible knight would have for his actions. He hopes to prove to Daisy that he has a substantial amount of wealth and that she can have a lavish lifestyle with him. At age, seventeen, when James Gatz becomes Jay Gatsby, he creates a refined, well educated persona that has the potential to live up to a woman like Daisy’s hopes and dreams for the future.
Back in earlier centuries courtly love was usually not between a husband and wife. This adulterous aspect of courtly love is clearly presented by Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship. After Gatsby leaves Daisy to go to war, “she marrie[s] Tom Buchanan”(75) but she “[will not] let go of the letter”(76) that she is clenching in her fist. Thus, she seemingly moves on from Gatsby to Tom Buchanan, but she cannot let go of Gatsby’s letter. The passion that Gatsby and Daisy share cannot be recreated in her new marriage. She cannot give up the love and...