Lying has deadly effects on both the individual who lies and those around them. This concept is demonstrated in The Great Gatsby. Although Gatsby, Tom and Myrtle have different motives for being deceitful, they all lie in order to fulfill their desires and personal needs. Myrtle’s desire to be wealthy is illustrated when she first meets Tom, dressed in his expensive clothing, as her attitude changes when she puts on the luxurious dress and when she encourages Tom to buy her a dog. Tom’s deception is clear when he hides his affair with Myrtle by placing Myrtle in a different train, withholding the truth from Mr. Wilson of the affair and convincing Myrtle and Catherine that he will one day marry Myrtle. Gatsby tries to convince himself and others that he is the son of wealthy people, he creates an appearance that he is a successful, educated man through the books in his library and assures himself that Daisy loves him. Tom’s dishonesty reveals that he is selfish, while Gatsby’s distortions expose his insecurities, and Myrtle’s misrepresentations show that her sole focus in life is to achieve materialistic success. Gatsby and Myrtle both lie in order to obtain the “American dream.” However, Tom, who appears to already have achieved the “American dream”, deceives others out of boredom and because he takes his wealthy lifestyle for granted. F. Scott Fitzgerald demonstrates the human flaw of dishonesty for personal gain and how lies have inevitably tragic consequences in his characterization of Gatsby, Myrtle and Tom.
Jay Gatsby is dishonest to himself to and those around him which ultimately leads to his failure. He lies about his past, his family, and his accomplishments in order to achieve his version of the American dream, which is to win over Daisy. Nick informs the readers that Gatsby’s “parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people— his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all” (Fitzgerald 95). Not only does Gatsby try to convince others that he is the son of wealthy people, but he also tries to convince himself. Because Gatsby knows that Daisy sees success through status, he is willing to misrepresent his parents. He also creates the appearance that he is successful through the extravagance of his home. While at Gatsby’s party, an ‘owl-eyed’ guest discovers Gatsby’s books and declares:
It’s a bona-fide piece of printed matter. It fooled
me. This fella’s a regular Belasco. It’s a triumph.
What thoroughness! What realism! Knew when
to stop, too – didn’t cut the pages. ( Fitzgerald 47)
Gatsby’s books symbolize intelligence and education. This outlines the issue of appearance versus reality which is explored in The Great Gatsby. The truth is the books have never been read; Gatsby just wants to appear as an educated man. Much like anything else in Gatsby’s life, what is important is the façade he projects. Gatsby is willing to distort his past in order to win over Daisy. He deludes himself that Daisy...