The character was not only a work of fiction by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but he was also a work of fiction by the character himself. Let me explain. Jay Gatsby was born James Gatz in North Dakota. His parents are described by the narrator as having been “[. . .] shiftless and unsuccessful farm people [. . . who Gatz’s] imagination had never really accepted [. . .] as his parents at all.” He had spent a year working up and down the shore of Lake Superior “[. . .] as a clam digger or salmon fisher or any other capacity that brought him food and bed.” He even worked as a janitor, before meeting up with a man named Dan Cody who had made millions in Montana copper. He was the man who would teach James Gatz how the rich lived.
Jay Gatsby’s goal in life is to be a member of the aristocracy to live among the rich and famous. After Cody’s death, Gatsby joins the army, and while stationed in Louisville, he meets Daisy Fay, a young socialite. Daisy becomes his ultimate goal. He feels if he can capture Daisy, he can join the upper echelon of society. He, however, is poor, and she is not going to marry a poor boy. She instead marries Tom Buchanan, a wealthy scion, from Chicago. Gatsby spends the next 5 years trying to put together the money to win Daisy back. He moves across the bay from Daisy who lives in East Egg village.
Jay Gatsby is a member of the Nouveau Riche, the newly rich society that has taken up residence in West Egg. These are the men and women who have had to work (whether legally or illegally) to earn a living. They are a part of the new America of the 1920s. They are flashy, they are loud, and above all, they are fabulously rich. They have built businesses from the ground up, they are starring in and producing Broadway shows, and they are making a killing on Wall Street (or literally killing people on side streets). Gatsby is one of these marvelously wealthy West Eggers who send shivers down the spines of the scions of East Egg. The thing that frightens the East Eggers the most is the fact the West Eggers ultimate goal is to invade their social circle.
Yet, for all their efforts, the West eggers have difficulty breaking into the East Egg society. Why? Even though geographically speaking they are quite near each other and resemble each other they are miles apart. West Egg is a sparkling imitation of East Egg society. They drive the wrong cars. Tom Buchanan describes Gatsby’s cream colored Rolls Royce as a “circus wagon.” They have the wrong last names, like Auerbach, O’ Donavan, Cohen, Hornbeam (many eventually change their names). They overdress. Tom exasperates about Gatsby’s “pink suit.” They live in large ostentatious homes. Gatsby’s home is described as being an “imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy.” They don’t have the right pedigree. Gatsby’s money doesn’t come from his family, but from a chain of drug stores, which may or may not, sells alcohol, which is illegal to buy at the time (Gatsby would be a comparable to a drug dealer in today’s society.).
Ultimately, Gatsby’s want to earn the privilege that comes with having a “name.” He gives these fabulous parties in an effort to gain Daisy’s attention. Instead, it attracts a crowd of hanger-oners. These “friends” take advantage of Gatsby’s generosity. One partier names Klipspringer moves even moves into Gatsby’s home. Gatsby is becoming famous, but with his fame comes a type of notoriety. People are saying his name, but for the wrong reasons. They attend his parties and pass gossip about him being a “bootlegger,” “a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm,” that he “murdered a man.” These of course are not reason enough to reject his invitations.
Gatsby through his connections to Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker, who frequents Gatsby’s parties, reconnects Gatsby to his lost “love” Daisy. This relationship is doomed to fail. Daisy attends one of his “little parties,” but unlike the other revelers, Daisy hates the loud, raucous, and obnoxious crowd. Immediately, Gatsby ends the parties and goes about trying to win Daisy’s hand, but as Tom later states, Gatsby has “misunderstood.”
Money will not by him a place among the Aristocracy. He will always be the new guy. They invite him to dinner, because it’s the polite thing to do, not because they actually want him to come. He will not receive an invitation to the country club, neither will his children. These people prey on Gatsby and take advantage of him and his dream of acceptance. This ultimately leads to Gatsby’s death. Daisy “accidentally” kills Tom’s mistress Myrtle Wilson in Gatsby’s car. Gatsby accepts the blame because he loves Daisy. Daisy’s husband, Tom leads Myrtle’s husband, George to Gatsby. George then murders Gatsby, before he commits suicide. Tom and Daisy leave town. The only people who attends Gatsby funeral are Nick, Gatsby’s father, and one partier, a man Nick calls Owl Eyes who makes the following observation, “Why, my God! They used to go there by the hundreds. . .The poor son-of-a-bitch.”
Like Gatsby, many of today’s athletes and celebrities have made extremely large sums of money. They are the West Eggers. They use this money to buy Channel haut couture dresses, Louboutins shoes, Louis Vuittoun luggage and accessories. They buy ostentatious homes the overlook Hollywood Hills or Central Park. They decorate them with garish designs. They buy huge gaudy pieces of jewelry.
They don’t realize that flashy is not going to gain you entrance into those exclusive clubs. It may get you an invitation to visit, but don’t think you are going to join the country club. They have celebrity, but they haven’t established “the name,” just yet.
These celebrities, like Gatsby, attract a lot of “friends.” Only the partiers from the 1920s have become part of the celebrities “entourage.” They take advantage of the “Gatsby’s” generosity, which nets them free entrance and drinks at the best clubs, comped rooms at the best hotels, bills paid (one athlete even sent part of his entourage to college), and travel all over the world. Yet, like the character, when Gatsby needs them the most, they are nowhere to be found. They are like leeches. They suck the Gatsby dry, and when they have gained all they can from Gatsby, they cast him aside to find another “host.”
They attract Daisys, Myrtles, and Jordans who love them for the fast lifestyle, beautiful cars, homes, clothes, and jewelry. These girls are beautiful, vapid, and just can be just as ostentatious as the “Gatsby” himself. Yet, when life becomes a little difficult (or the money runs out), they are out of there quicker than Carley Bobby. They are looking for security, and that does not include actually “working.” Gatsby is left along to pick up the pieces.
Most Gatsbys don’t realize that those lifestyles are not realistic. Most Gatsbys are following a false ideal of the American dream that often leads to tragedy, whether it’s divorce, bankruptcy, jail, lawsuits, addictions, or death (Evander Holyfield, MC Hammer, Travis Henry, Mike Tyson, Lenny Dykstra, Lindsey Lohan, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, to name a few). Having fame and fortune is a wonderful blessing, but if you live a Gatsby lifestyle it can become a curse. “[. . .] Gatsby turned out all right in the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams [. . .]” that ultimately destroyed him.
Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed my Gatsby complex. I now will go back to asinine babble about sports and pop culture. Hope you join me…
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”- F. Scott Fitzgerald