The Great Gatsby Essay (written 18 September 2019)

I wrote this essay as part of summer homework for my ELA II class. We had to read The Great Gatsby and answer the following prompt: To what degree is Gatsby responsible for his own death?  

The 1920s was an era of romanticism, change, and rapid industrialization. This is best exemplified in the novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. The narrator of the story is Nick Carraway, neighbor to the titular Jay Gatsby. He is caught up in Gatsby’s attempts to capture the heart of Nick’s cousin Daisy despite the fact that she is married to Tom Buchanan. Tom also has a mistress, Myrtle, who is married to George Wilson, Tom’s mechanic. After an accident involving Gatsby’s car kills Myrtle, George finds Gatsby and kills him out of revenge. Gatsby is partially responsible for his own death, as he acted dishonestly, refused to accept that Daisy changed, but his interference in Daisy’s marriage indirectly led him to his own death.

Gatsby’s dishonesty partially led him to his unfortunate fate.  Gatsby’s entire personality was built off of dishonesty. He had met Daisy while serving in the army and fooled her into believing that he was a rich man. Daisy was expected to marry into a wealthy family, and Gatsby “... had deliberately given Daisy a sense of security; he let her believe that he was a person from much the same strata as  herself- that he was fully able to take care of her.”(Fitzgerald 149). Gatsby essentially lied to Daisy in order for her to fall in love with him. Because of World War I, Gatsby was forced to fight in Europe and Daisy eventually married Tom. When Gatsby returned, he became rich through potentially illegal means and threw lavish parties in order to win Daisy over once more. All of Gatsby’s parties were another front only to attract Daisy; As Nick later found out, he was one of the few guests who had been invited. Nick mentions that “People were not invited- they went there.” (Fitzgerald 41). No one but Nick and a few other people who were close to Daisy were meant to attend Gatsby’s parties, and so Gatsby’s lifestyle was all meant to convince Daisy to marry him. After Myrtle was killed, Gatsby realized that even though he portrayed himself as the man Daisy believed he was, nothing would change the fact that she still loved Tom. Gatsby’s dishonesty also made it harder for him to accept change, and by the time he had been killed, his dishonesty had caught up to him.

The driving force of the main conflict in the story is Gatsby’s refusal to accept change. He is unable to accept the fact that Daisy has moved on from him. When the group goes to the hotel, Gatsby reveals his inability to accept change when he and Tom get into an argument. Daisy is caught in the middle of it and admits that she does not have strong feelings for Gatsby, who responds with a shocked “‘You loved me too?’” (Fitzgerald 132). Gatsby had expected that Daisy still held her feelings for him. What he did not realize was that Daisy changed after all those years, and so she would now have feelings for Tom as well. Gatsby likely knew this but did not want to admit it, preferring to believe that he was still the only one that Daisy loved. Afterwards, Daisy drives back in Gatsby’s car to her house when she runs over Myrtle. Gatsby confides to Nick that Daisy was the one who killed Myrtle, and Nick realizes that “He was clutching at some last hope and I couldn’t bear to shake him free” (Fitzgerald 148). Even though Gatsby has been directly confronted with harsh reality, he still does not want to let himself move on, even though it would be the safest thing to do. He wants to stay and be with Daisy, which resulted in his downfall.  When George goes to exact revenge, he assumes it was Gatsby that killed his wife and shoots him dead, since no one else knew it was Daisy who killed Myrtle. Gatsby’s inability to move on from Daisy had indirectly led him to his own death, as he sacrificed himself to protect someone who did not love him.

Lastly, Daisy’s marriage had an indirect impact on Gatsby’s death. Daisy and Tom’s relationship is very strained. While Tom was out with Myrtle, Nick learns that neither Tom nor Myrtle loves their respective spouses- “‘Neither of them can stand the person they’re married to.’” (Fitzgerald 33). Tom loves Daisy, but not enough that he will remain faithful to her. Gatsby is very aware of this, and he gets Daisy to divorce Tom and marry him. Gatsby later confronts Tom with his plan and the two began to argue bitterly over who she deserves and whether Gatsby is a good man or not. Daisy intervenes by saying “‘I never loved him,’ she said, with perceptible reluctance” (Fitzgerald 132). Gatsby had prematurely gotten his hopes up after meeting Daisy again, but after Tom confronted him, he had been forced to accept that Daisy does not have strong feelings for him. Tom’s anger towards Gatsby also grew after this, which would manifest itself with Tom telling George that it was Gatsby’s car that killed Myrtle. With this information, George kills Gatsby, mistakenly believing that he was Myrtle’s killer. Gatsby’s own behavior and feelings for Daisy made his eventual demise preventable, but Daisy’s marriage to Tom ended up being what put Gatsby in danger and ultimately, indirectly responsible for his death.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby is a short but complex novel about Jay Gatsby, a man who tries and tragically fails, to fulfill his dream. He is partly responsible for his own downfall because he cannot accept that Daisy is no longer in love with him. His dishonesty to Daisy, as well as not revealing that it was her who killed Myrtle in order to protect her also leads him to his own death. Lastly, Daisy’s strained marriage with Tom also contributed to Gatsby’s death, as Tom was already angry at him for trying to get Daisy to divorce him. Even though Gatsby is partially responsible for his own death, the ending of the novel is still a valuable lesson on being able to accept the harsh realities of life.