The Great Gatsby: Character Profile - Gatsby



The novel focuses on Gatsby’s pursuit of his dream to be reunited with Daisy, a woman he fell in love with in the past but was unable to marry. In the novel, it is revealed that Gatsby attained vast wealth to lure Daisy to his side but ultimately, at the end, he did not fulfill his dream and dies tragically unaware that that dreams are, by their very nature, unattainable.


Quotations & Analysis:





“Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once.” A thrill passed over all of us. The three Mr. Mumbles bent forward and listened eagerly.” I don’t think its so much that,” argued Lucille sceptically; “it’s more that he was a German spy during the war.” One of the men nodded in confirmation.

Gatsby is a mysterious character for people who do not know him well. There are always countless rumours about him and people make wild guesses about his past and his background. Gatsby’s secrecy and the elaborateness of his facades may suggest the intensity of his desire to marry Daisy and perhaps the shallowness of her character as he correctly assumes that she will be attracted to him as a result of his wealth.



“‘Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,’ I thought; ‘anything at all....’ Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder”


Here seems to Gatsby symbolise the infinite possibilities of dreams, and idea that has become associated with America and New York as the land of dreams and opportunity.



“What grass?” he inquired blankly. “Oh, the grass in the yard.” He looked out the window at it, judging from his expression, I don’t believe he saw a thing.

This quotation displays the fact that Gatsby is only thinking about Daisy in this situation, which contributes to the idea that Gatsby’s life is meaningless unless the Daisy that Gatsby once had is present again. The fact that he is so lost and distracted also suggests the strength of his desire for Daisy and his inability to remain composed during his first meeting with her is one the few endearing moments in the novel.



“I think he hardly knew what he was saying, for when I asked him what business he was in he answered “That’s my affair,” before realizing that it wasn’t an appropriate answer”

This quotation displays the fact that Gatsby is only thinking about Daisy in this situation, which contributes to the idea that Gatsby’s life is meaningless unless the Daisy that Gatsby once had is present again. Gatsby’s blunt rudeness here also suggest that much of Gatsby’s charm is just a façade and his secrecy here also implies that there is something illicit about his business activities.



He hadn’t once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well loved eyes.

Fitzgerald shows that Gatsby is living for Daisy, as in this quotation he clearly indicates that “[Gatsby] revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from [Daisy’s] well loved eyes.” This displays the fact that any wealth that Gatsby earns is meaningless without Daisy … again this helps inspire an admiration for Gatsby and the depth of his commitment and also serves to distinguish him from the rest of the wealthy characters in the novel who seem to have no real goal to their acquisition of money.



“His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people ­ his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself”

Gatsby’s past dreams and goals were to become rich. So he despised his poor background and remade everything about himself out of his “conception of himself” which creates the impression that Gatsby likes to fantasize and dream. He will chase his dreams and give up everything in his life to achieve them.


The unattainable nature of these dreams is, however, perhaps implied by the reference to Platonic Forms which are idealized versions of things that can never actually exist or be perceived in the real world. Plato’s uses his famous allegory of the cave to suggest that everything we see in the real world is little more shallow reflection of the ideal things that exist only in the Platonic world of forms.



“But his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the washstand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor”

Gatsby’s original dream before he met Daisy appears to involve becoming rich and living on a yacht like Dan Cody. The ‘grotesqueness’ of his dream is implied by the phrases ‘fantastic conceits’ and ‘ineffable gaudiness’ and in this way Gatsby’s dreams represent the shallow and superficial craving for the trappings of wealth that the seem to plague the poor characters in the novel. It appears that Gatsby’s past dream was shallow (like all dreams of wealth) and so his subsequent dedication to Daisy seems to distinguish him from characters who chase after wealth in a more clearly superficial way.



“‘I wouldn’t ask too much of her,’ I ventured. ‘You can’t repeat the past.’ ‘Can’t repeat the past?’ he cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can!’ He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.”


This quotation reveals the extent of Gatsby’s dedication to his dreams. In contrast to Nick’s pragmatic realism Gatsby’s somewhat naive, hopeful, and faithful belief that the past can be repeated is evokes a sense of admiration for him and the strength of his belief while perhaps at the same time foreshadowing his ultimate disappointment as we know that Nick is right … the past cannot be repeated.



‘He was left with his singularly appropriate education: the vague contour of Jay Gatsby has filled out the substantiality of a man.’

The description of Jay Gatsby as originally little more than a contour suggests that ‘Gatsby’ started off as little more than a creation, a poor boy’s image of what a rich man might be like. However, over the course of time Gatsby fleshes out this image of himself gradually adding more and more detail to the dream.


The tone of mockery or suggestion of irony in the line ‘singularly appropriate education’ may be taken to imply that Gatsby’s education has not really been appropriate for anything other than accentuating his gaudy and tawdry fascination with wealth.



“‘I know your wife,’ continued Gatsby, almost aggressively.”

This suggests Gatsby’s jealousy of Tom and the way in which his determination to win her over may make him oblivious to the way he appears to other characters.



That unfamiliar yet recognizable face look was back again in Gatsby’s face. He looked – and this is said in all contempt for the babbled slander of his garden – as if he had ‘killed a man’. For a moment the set of his face could be described in just that fantastic way.”

Gatsby adopts this look when the conversation touches on his illicit money making ventures, such as boot-legging liquor and the tension between unfamiliar recognizable suggests that although Nick might like to think that Gatsby would not be involved in illegal businesses, he knows that he is. The uncertainty here creates the impression that there is always something about Gatsby that remains hidden from us and this reinforces Nick’s unreliability as a narrator and contributes to the sense of uncertainty about Gatsby that pervades the novel.



“‘I thought so; I told Daisy I thought so. It’s better that the shock should all come at once. She stood it pretty well.’ He spoke as if Daisy’sreaction was the only thing that mattered.”

This quotation comes just after Myrtle is killed by the care that Daisy is driving but it appears that Gatsby is so obsessed with Daisy that he pays little attention to Myrtle’s death and only thinks about Daisy’s well­being. There is something tragic and morally questionable about this which indicates that Gatsby has lost something in his pursuit of Daisy.



“‘I want to wait here till Daisy goes to bed. Good night, old sport.’ He put his hands in his coat pockets and turned back eagerly to his scrutiny of the house and mu presence marred the sacredness of the vigil. So I walked away and left him standing there in the moonlight – watching over nothing.”

This line suggests that Gatsby’s dream of marrying Daisy has taken on such an exaggerated importance in his life that it dominates his whole existence such that he would ‘eagerly’ prefer to stare at her house rather than accompany Nick home.


This line also helps to create a sense of pathos for Gatsby as we know that, while Gatsby is busy staring at Daisy’s bedroom window, Daisy and Tom are actually reconciling their differences downstairs in the kitchen.




The primary role of Gatsby in the novel appears to be to present the tension between the beautiful and redeeming nature of dreams and the reality that they are ultimately unachievable. This tension is shown through Gatsby’s longing to recreate the past with the Daisy that he fell in love with five years ago. While this ambition is clearly romantically appealing it is also unrealistic and ultimately leads to disastrous consequences not the least of which are the deaths of Myrtle and Gatsby. Although he ultimately fails to achieve his goal, Gatsby seems contrasts with the emptiness of the other characters which shows that his ability to dream and his "extraordinary gift for hope" are his  redeeming features and are ultimately the characteristics that make him the only great character in the novel.