When people read a powerful book during their teenage years, its powerful effect can become part of their identity. I was in high school the first time I read The Great Gatsby. I read it again during my years at college, when I understood that this book was more than a love story – it is a sharp criticism of the illusory and materialist nature of the American dream. Although the book always leaves me in anguish of emotions that I cannot define, it is the only piece of literature I love reading over and over again. Many literary critics, including Malcolm Cowley, identified Gatsby as a character with lasting moral values. To me, this is a tragic figure whose contradictory character is not capable of enduring the greatness of love, dreams, and success.
The tragedy of this book starts with the irony of its name… the Great Gatsby – the great illusion of a powerful, strong, wealthy individual who is empty and fragile inside. The first time I read this book, I thought love was his driving force. The second time, I start wondering: is this true love? Are his emotions powerful, egocentric, or controlling? The vision he created in his youth defined his entire life. Maybe he was attracted to Daisy because of her fortune and lifestyle? When he understood he was not worthy enough for her, he decided to invent an entire person that would deserve her. Why did he go through this torturous endeavor? For Daisy or for himself? The author leaves the answers to us.
Fitzgerald did not bother to offer a detailed portrait of this story’s heroine. As a reader, I was given freedom to form my own impressions about Daisy. The only thing the author emphasizes is that in her voice, you hear the sound of money. She is a personification of the symbol of wealth through her beauty, undisturbed happiness, and optimism before she was faced with a torturous love. When Gatsby tries to get her back, she is already dependent upon her husband, whose protection she is not willing to give up. My impression was that Daisy loved both Gatsby and Buchanan. When she is faced with the pressure of choice, she chooses running away as the most painless alternative.
Gatsby, on the other hand, is not willing to give up on the status he achieved. This was the point when I asked myself: does he really love her? Does she love him? The reason I don’t consider Gatsby to be a character of great moral values is that he had to create a fictional “great” version of himself just to hide his deep insecurities. The goal of obtaining wealth, as his driving force, is the impulse that develops this love story. When he has the land, car, fortune, and fame, the only goal that remains is Daisy.Gatsby’s abyss comes as a result of the desolation of his moral principles, which are reduced to wealth and ego. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald painted the American dream through concrete, but irrational images that create a utopia of success and happiness. In reality, this dream is a nightmare of pretending, disguise and dishonesty. True love could not survive in such masquerade.