What Causes Gatsby to Fail in His Quest?
By the end of the novel, The Great Gatsby, we see Gatsby failing in his quest to win over Daisy Buchanan. In fact Gatsby loses his life for this cause. However, the author, Mr. Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s message is not about the literal fall of Gatsby but how his quest symbolizes the failings of the American citizenry around the 1920’s. Furthermore, the author’s intention is not to merely refer to the events of 1920 America but to reflect on the entire concept of the American dream then as much as now. The Great Gatsby does not aim to dissuade men – in the narrative Americans – from being ambitious, rather it seeks to teach us that ambition in itself is not good unless that which we aspire for is morally and socially right. This is best illustrated by the themes in the narrative.
In chapter nine of the book, Nick Carraway describes the American dream as being about discovery and pursuit of happiness. This definition, however, has been discarded by the modern American who perceives the dream to mean merely the pursuit of money and wealth regardless of the moral and social consequences. Gatsby, the personification of a young man who has succeeded in achieving this newly-defined American dream, acquired his wealth through unscrupulous means and is unabashed in flaunting it. The narrative informs us that residents from both the East and West Egg made fortune from bootlegging alcohol and other illegal activities and spent their money on extravagant lifestyles and wild parties.
Like the Americans of the 1920s, we are all driven towards achieving our goals by certain motivations. Francis Scott Fitzgerald seeks to educate the reader on the potency of motivations and why it needs to be morally and socially right for it to yield a noble result. This is in line with the cliché; the end never justifies the means. Daisy was the key motivation behind Gatsby’s acquisition of immense wealth. Gatsby sought wealth to prove to Daisy that he belonged in the same class as she and that he could provide for her. The problem, however, was that Daisy was unworthy of this affection that Gatsby accorded her. In spite of the numerous signs that Daisy was not trustworthy, Gatsby still labored to win Daisy’s transient affection. Daisy promised to marry Gatsby but ended up marrying Tom while Gatsby went to war, and she also allowed Gatsby to take the fall and eventually be killed for the death of Myrtle Wilson. In chapter seven we are informed of how she is indifferent even to her own infant daughter. The author here aims to demonstrate the stubbornness of our (human) nature. We have a tendency to ignore even the glaring signs that warn us against pursuing that which is not proper. In spite of all the wrongs that Daisy has done to him Gatsby still believes that Daisy has genuine love for him.
Like Gatsby, the author wants to show us that we too can be blinded by being dishonest to ourselves. Gatsby knew that Daisy belonged to a different social class but he went through all the trouble to make himself into a different person. This re-invention exceeded to the extent that Gatsby became an illusion to himself. Nick Carraway at the end of the novel realizes that he cannot continue to live the “lie” that East and West Egg communities thrive on. Nick accepts what is morally right and despises what is not. He heads back to the Midwest to escape the emptiness and moral decay of life among the wealthy on the East and West Egg.
Another major misconception that the author seeks to destroy is the magnificence of the lives of the society’s Upper Class. One of man’s major motivations to acquire immense wealth is so that he or she can emulate the lives of the Upper Class. Tom’s has an adulterous relationship with Myrtle Wilson and yet confronts Daisy and Gatsby. With scenes such as these where both couples are involved in affairs, the author aims to bring out the fact that wealth does not solve all the ills in society. If it did then Gatsby would have been a happy man together with his fellow West ‘Eggers’. Secondly we also note at the pretentious relationships or friendships practiced by the Upper Class. This is best illustrated by a juxtaposition of Gatsby’s weekly parties while he was alive and his funeral. While he was alive, Gatsby had many ‘friends’ patron his parties yet when he died, even his close associates such as Tom, Daisy and Meyer Wolfshiem openly refused to honor his funeral. It is apparent from the novel that relationships within the Upper Class are only sustained in good times and are thus shallow and pretentious.
In conclusion, The Great Gatsby could be said to be a novel about the eventual failure that awaits persons that are focused on the wrong ends in life. The author uses Daisy to symbolize those unworthy quests that men set themselves out for blindly. The author also cautions the reader on greed and importance of moral and social uprightness. Gatsby fails in his quest because he has pretended for so long that he can no longer tell the difference between his illusions of himself and of Daisy. This grand illusion makes Gatsby unable to sense and therefore prevent himself from his imminent demise. Though the narrative has been set in America in the 1920s, we can continue to use the lessons raised even today.