The Great Gatsby Essay
James Baldwin looked upon reality and illusion through the eyes of a great author.
He saw that all authors live in reality, while everyone else lives in a sense of illusion, or not
knowing the whole truth. He shows us that the author must question everything, breaking
down the illusions that are set up by people and by our society. Baldwin shows that
normal people don't question everything, and therefore are fooled by illusions may times.
In The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald suggests many things about illusion and reality. I think
that the strongest thing Fitzgerald suggests is that you create your own illusion, and with
this illusion, you shape the person that you are. All of the rich people in this book have
some sort of illusion surrounding their persona, but Gatsby has the greatest of all illusions
Gatsby is presented as living the charmed life, with plenty of friends, no problems,
and an honest man. In the end his whole illusion unravels and we find that he has plenty of
problems, is very crooked and dishonest, and has no true friends. He longs for
companionship with Daisy, and still can never have that. Gatsby's illusion surrounding
him is totally shattered in this book, partly through the actions of Tom who feels that he
must discredit his name. Tom, however discredits name to draw Daisy away from him
when he finds that Gatsby has become interested in Daisy. When Tom confronts Gatsby,
and begins to crumble his illusion, Gatsby is as cool and confident as he always is.
Tom's voice, incredulous and insulting: I told you I went there [Oxford]," said Gatsby.
"I heard you, but I would like to know when."
"It was in nineteen-nineteen. I only stayed for five months."
Tom glanced around to see if we mirrored his unbelief. (136)
This passage shows that even Gatsby has bought into the illusion that he has created for
himself. It is as if he has thought out the answer for every question about his past, so that
he can come off as being distinguished and honest.
It would be hard to read The Great Gatsby without analyzing if the narrator, Nick
Carroway falls into the illusion of Gatsby. With little hesitation I would say that Nick
does fall into the illusion set up. From the first few chapters of the book we see how
everyone swoons over Gatsby, and is in utter disbelief that Nick does not know the great
and all powerful Gatsby. Nick reacts to what everyone tells him about Gatsby in a calm
way, as the objective narrator that he is. "Well, they say he's a nephew or a cousin of
Kaiser Wilhelm's. That's where all his money comes from... I'm scared of him. I'd hate to
have to get anything on me."(37) At this point, Nick has seen Gatsby for a total of about
10 seconds, has never spoken to him, or even really seen him. Because of Gatsby's
illusion, people must make up wild stories and guess about his past. Catherine (Myrtle's
Sister) has drawn these conclusions about Gatsby, which I feel is just what He would of
wanted; total mystery and illusion about his past. He wants to keep his past a secret, and
set everyone up to see that he is living a great life, everyone adores him, and has no
problems. This is all well and fine until his illusion crumbles and in turn brings the demise
of Daisy and Toms relationship, and his death. Because Gatsby set up this fallacy, Myrtle
was killed, Wilson was killed, Gatsby was killed, and Myrtle's and Toms relationship was
The reality of the whole Gatsby situation, is that he is a crooked business man, a
no good person, a cheat and a lier. Gatsby made his money in underhanded schemes,
illegal activities, and the hurting of many people. This was all done for one reason, The
love of his life, who could not accept him because he was not rich enough.
Fitzgerald definitely does not condemn illusion, in fact, without the illusion that he
creates around Gatsby, this book would not be half the book it is. Fitzgerald is trying to
tell us through this book that we should not fall for the mirage that people want us to
believe in. I definitely feel that Fitzgerald looks down upon illusions, as if he wants people
to stop pretending what they are not and what they will never be. The author definitely
feels that there is a place in our lives for illusion. Illusion brings us out of the harsh, dry,
despair that we live in on a daily basis. Being a hard-nosed realist may be okay for some
people, but in my life I need a little mystery, illusion, and having things being more than
meets the eye. The Illusions main purpose is to add vitality to the monotonous way of life
we live in.
In my opinion, fantasies are totally different than illusions. Fantasies are something
that you like to see, while illusions are things that fool you that you usually do not like.
The whole persona of Gatsby was an illusion, which may have looked like he was living
the fantasy life, but when his whole illusion crumbled, it was obvious that everyone did not
like to be fooled by him. Daisy has the fantasy that her marriage is doing all right,
although she obviously knows that it is falling apart. Daisy creates this fantasy because
she wants to believe it. When Tom's mistress calls him, Daisy goes out into the yard and
gives a lame speech about "a bird on the lawn that... must be a nightingale come over on
the Canard or White Star Line... It's romantic, isn't it, Tom?"(20) Her fantasy makes it
possible for her to ignore the obvious signs that her marriage is falling apart, and because
she believes in this and created this, it is a fantasy.
Illusions serves a great purpose in this novel, although this is good or bad, it is
hard to decide. Definitely the illusions are looked down upon Gatsby, but they help
present the hubbub and wonder about Gatsby. The illusions are nothing more than
mirages, they make you have a false sense of sufficiency, which can be a very bad thing
when the bottom of your illusion drops out on you, and you are left with nothing but lies.
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