Gatsby s Greatness
There is much controversy on why F. Scott Fitzgerald chose his masterpiece to be title The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald chose The Great Gatsby as the title to show the duality of how the central character of Jay Gatsby is great in trying determinedly to achieve his goal of Daisy, but how his greatness brings about his own downfall.
Gatsby is, at first glance, truly great, for he pursues his dream of Daisy relentlessly. Jordan Baker, in a conversation with Nick Carraway, lets him know that Gatsby wanted to let Daisy know how rich and powerful was; how he [wanted] her to see his house, which is extravagant. Gatsby wants to impress Daisy with his newfound wealth in order to bring her back to him. Gatsby is also highly optimistic about achieving his goal, and thinks that he is going to fix everything just the way it was before. Gatsby does not want to lose sight of his dream through petty pessimism. Gatsby also has unending loyalty to his goal of pursuing Daisy. When Daisy strikes and hits Myrtle with Gatsby s car, Gatsby takes the blame for it. He believes that lying for her will help him in his quest to get Daisy to love him. Gatsby is great in his unyielding pursuit for Daisy.
Ultimately, however, Gatsby can only be considered great in a sarcastic tone, for the way in which he pursues his noble goal brings results in some one getting hurt. His great optimism that everything will be just the way it was delays and intensifies the effects of the inevitable fact that his encounter with Daisy was nothing but a presumptuous little flirtation to Tom, which Daisy tacitly agrees with. Gatsby also has acquired his great wealth from bootlegging the sale of illegal liquor. Liquor ends up most of the time in helping people such as the ones at the one of the many huge parties get hurt, such as the time in which Tom breaks Myrtle s nose. By helping the distribution of liquor, Gatsby is hurting people, though he cannot see it. Lastly, Gatsby s unending loyalty in taking the blame for Daisy when she kills Myrtle ends up getting Gatsby himself hurt. When Wilson finds out the so-called truth of the car accident, he quickly speeds over to Gatsby s house and kills the man. Gatsby s noble quest results in many people becoming hurt.
By choosing the title of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald chose to highlight Gatsby s greatness, which underneath the surface, is not truly great at all.
For such a short title, The Great Gatsby raises a lot of questions. Is Gatsby great? Or is Fitzgerald being ironic? And why is he "the" great Gatsby? Let's break it down.
The way we see it, there are three ways to read the title. First, there's the surface level of Gatsby's persona. He's one of the wealthiest people on Long Island, and definitely one of the wealthiest in West Egg. He's got a mansion loaded with the nicest, most expensive stuff. And his parties... oh the parties. Any one of them would qualify as a legendary event in itself, and he hosts at least one every weekend. He gives all of his guests first-class treatment, even though he doesn't really know any of them—down to sending some rando girl a new dress after she tears hers at his party.
Gatsby is a local celebrity, and everyone has a theory about how he's gotten to be so wealthy. In short, everyone seems to know his name and is endlessly interested in his life. So in that way, he's, well, "great." He seems to live a dream-like existence; he even briefly wins back the girl of his dreams.
Isn't It Ironic
Then there's the ironic reading: Gatsby's dream-like life is a sham. He rises to the top of society in a dishonest way; he's earned his fortune through illegal activities. The "old money" folks see right through his appearance. He's not "great" to them – he's a phony. And when his house of cards crumbles, all those friends of his turn out to simply be people who take advantage of his generosity and riches.
But then there's a third way of looking at that adjective. Although Nick doesn't quite approve of Gatsby's means, he knows that Gatsby's driven by a noble emotion: love. Also, Nick believes that Gatsby is truly a good person; the man is generous, loyal, and sincere. In this way, Gatsby is great. He's a victim of Tom and Daisy's selfish, shallow addiction to their wealth and lifestyle, and, in the end, Nick sides with him.
A Book by Any Other Name
The Great Gatsby wasn't Fitzgerald's first stab at a title. He came up with a whole list, including:
- Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires
- Gold-Hatted Gatsby
- The High-Bouncing Lover
- On the Road to West Egg
- Trimalchio in West Egg
- Under the Red, White, and Blue
So, did Fitzgerald make the right choice? How would our reading of the book change if he'd gone with one of these other titles? And is Gatsby truly great?