Just how great is Jay Gatsby? – Carter Lemons

Everyone has a vision, and each person’s vision is unique. This picture of future success is what many people live for. A vision could be as big as building a rocket and flying to the moon, or as small as earning an A on a test. However, the events of life often seem to diminish the hope that those visions can be made real. The ability to maintain that hope in spite of life’s obstacles is what distinguishes a great man from an ordinary man. Great men achieve their dreams and overcome obstacles through hard work, perseverance, patience and sacrifice. Hope empowers great men to exhibit those same character traits. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby becomes a great man because he has hope that he will realize his visions. He had hope that he could become wealthy, and he had hope that he could make Daisy fall in love with him. As Christians, we should have hope as well, hope that sets us apart from the world.

The first of Gatsby’s visions was to overcome poverty and become a wealthy man. “[Gatsby’s] parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people – his imagination never really accepted them as his parents at all . . . So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year old would invent” (98). His vision of wealth and success was so powerful that it kept Gatsby from seeing his mother and father as his parents. At a young age, Gatsby had a vision to become a successful man of high social status, though based upon his childhood he did not yet have hope for it to become real. It seemed like an impossible dream. One day, Gatsby warned a wealthy copper magnate about dangerous

winds that threatened to destroy the man’s boat. As a result of Gatsby’s actions, the man Dan Cody took Gatsby under his wing and eventually left Gatsby a portion of his money when he died. Though Gatsby was prevented from receiving that inheritance, his childhood vision was no longer just a daydream. Gatsby had a vision and now the hope that he could make that vision real because he had been given a chance by a successful businessman. However, in order to achieve his dream, Gatsby worked hard and persevered, even though he acquired some of his fortune through activities that were illegal at the time. Nonetheless, work ethic and perseverance are two essential qualities of a great man that might not exist without hope.

In addition to wealth, Gatsby desired love. Gatsby’s second vision in the novel was to make Daisy fall in love with him again. Because Daisy had married another, this vision would result in adultery, but it is his vision nonetheless. Earlier in life, Daisy and Gatsby had fallen in love and tried to get married. However, Gatsby was just a soldier, and Daisy’s wealthy family disapproved of the relationship. Gatsby went off to war, but when he returned, Daisy was married to Tom Buchanan, a rich man. Now Gatsby had to overcome an obstacle in order to make Daisy fall in love with him again. Gatsby pursued Daisy in a number of ways. “Gatsby bought this house so Daisy would be just across the bay. He half expected her to wander into one of his parties. He’s read the Chicago paper just to catch a glimpse of Daisy’s name” (78). Everything Gatsby did was for Daisy. Gatsby’s life revolved around Daisy though she did not yet know he still loved her. So Gatsby arranged a meeting with Daisy. Though it was awkward at first, Daisy soon fell in love with Gatsby again. The hope that he could somehow rekindle Daisy’s love for him empowered Gatsby to persevere and be extremely patient, vital qualities of any great man. Unfortunately for Gatsby, his vision was never fully realized. When Daisy killed Myrtle, Gatsby lied and said that he was driving when Tom’s mistress was run over. Gatsby’s resolve to protect Daisy and to take the blame for Myrtle’s death resulted in his own murder. Gatsby’s selfless act of sacrifice for Daisy resembles Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for Christians. Though the book never mentions religious conviction or lack thereof, Gatsby’s self-sacrifice is that of a great man.

Furthermore, Gatsby’s hope parallels the hope that we are to have as Christians. We have hope that all our sins have been forgiven and hope that empowers us to be better people and to overcome the bonds of sin. A Christian’s hope is in Christ’s return to take us to our heavenly home. Our hope should set us apart from the world. As previously stated, the hope Gatsby had empowered him to work hard, persevere, be patient and sacrifice himself for another. Christians should exhibit those qualities as well. Christians should work hard to glorify God, persevere through trials, wait patiently for Christ’s return, and be willing to sacrifice for others.

F. Scott Fitzgerald could have written The Great Gatsby for several reasons, but the most likely one is this: one cannot achieve one’s dreams or overcome life’s obstacles without hope. Gatsby had two main visions in the book. One was to become wealthy and the other to make Daisy fall in love with him a second time. Gatsby became an extremely wealthy man, and though Daisy and Gatsby did not get married, they did fall in love again. Gatsby was only able to achieve his dreams because he believed that he could. Hope enabled Gatsby to work hard, persevere, and be patient. Ultimately, hope allowed Gatsby to become a great man.

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