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With immense wealth and power, tremendous influence is generated within the surrounding society. However, these factors may also create a facade to cover how they do not always lead to greatness. This idea is explored in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1920s American Fiction novel, The Great Gatsby, through the leading character, Jay Gatsby. Gatsby, an incredibly wealthy bootlegger, is widely known to hold extravagant parties with his tremendous amount of money. However, he is also described as having a heavy reliance on hope with the notion that money can buy happiness – an idea that ultimately paints his fame and success as insignificant as he is plagued with undesirable consequences. While Gatsby can be considered great due to his popularity and drive to succeed in his society, Fitzgerald argues against Gatsby’s supposed prominence. He surrounds it with infamy, mocking Gatsby through the use of “great” in the novel’s title to convey the idea that being great does not stem from one’s money and power.

The author builds Gatsby to be disillusioned by his money regarding what he can and cannot do, believing that he can change history. His over-the-top parties are intended to attract Daisy towards him, and at one, Gatsby invites Daisy and Tom Buchanan in hopes that Daisy acknowledges his wealth. After the married couple leave, Gatsby, who contains feelings for Daisy, “wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: ‘I never loved you’” (109). Gatsby dreams of Daisy ending her marriage with Tom, not only by saying that she does not love him anymore but by declaring that she never held true feelings for him. Gatsby’s disillusioned state is seen when Fitzgerald incorporates the word “never” to make the character feel that his significance can alter Daisy’s mind and rewrite her history with Tom. He moves into and hosts grand parties in his house across the bay from the Buchanans all for the sole purpose of impressing Daisy with his wealth and encouraging her to leave Tom. However, his accumulation of this wealth, a factor that paints him as a character deemed “great,” prevents him from accepting that he will never be able to change what occurred in the past. Gatsby is disenchanted over this fact, and the author builds the notion that riches do not grant everything a person may ask for. It instead leaves them, like Gatsby, feeling that they can do anything through prosperity.

Due to this, Gatsby’s character cannot uphold his deemed greatness with his desperate reality, displaying that Fitzgerald’s inclusion of “great” in The Great Gatsby is in place to criticize the protagonist’s unrealistic mentality and show how it deprives him of truly holding the title.

Similarly, when Nick and Gatsby are invited to the Buchanan home, they meet Daisy and Tom’s child, Pammy. After Pammy’s initial introduction, Nick notices that “[Gatsby] kept looking at the child with surprise” (117). Gatsby is written to be in disbelief as he is introduced to the fact that Daisy has a child. The idea that she and Tom possess a daughter does not fit into Gatsby’s fantasy with her in it. Although Daisy is a married woman who lives a life apart from Gatsby, the man’s surprise toward Pammy reveals his disillusionment. He cannot accept a reality where the child will be a constant reminder of the relationship Daisy held with Tom. While Pammy is present, Gatsby realizes that he cannot live a life with Daisy all for himself, depicting him to stray from greatness as he lacks acceptance when he comes to face this idea and that he could not use any amount of wealth to remove the child from the picture. His described emotions in the scene reveal how Fitzgerald utilizes “great” to show the deemed almighty Gatsby in a vulnerable and desperate position where he is blinded by believing that his riches should bring him greatness, a behavior contrasting from the modesty commonly displayed by people considered to be “great”. Gatsby is often seen as disillusioned from reality as he constantly faces obstacles that he believes he can immediately solve with his wealth. This image of his character shows how he fails to live up to greatness, and the word is used by Fitzgerald to mock how he fails to identify and grow past his shortcomings.

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Continuing, Gatsby is only popular for the riches he obtained, so his death leaves little impact on those around him. By the end of the novel, after Gatsby is killed, Nick attempts to call anyone close to the man to stay with Gatsby’s body. However, his attempts fail as people are unreachable or decline the offer. Finally, Nick is able to contact one of Gatsby’s closest friends, Meyer Wolfsheim, who writes a letter to Nick, concluding that he “cannot come down now” because he was “tied up in some very important business” and did not want to “get mixed up in [Gatsby’s death]” (166). Wolfshiem refuses to visit Gatsby, deeming he has more vital matters to attend to. His closest friend has passed, yet he feels that the death is too insignificant to acknowledge. Fitzgerald’s description of Wolfshiem’s business as “very important” paints Gatsby to be of lesser concern. If Gatsby had indeed been great, he would have left an impact on the people in his life instead of simply being a background character in Wolfshiem’s life.

Therefore, it can be concluded that Wolfshiem’s refusal to see Gatsby after his passing encourages the idea that while Gatsby may have been a prominent figure in his society, he failed to personally influence other people to where they would honor him through a simple task, such as visitation. Because of this, Gatsby cannot be considered a great individual, as Fitzgerald mocks the insignificant and lonely protagonist’s greatness. Likewise, as Nick desperately begins to invite people to Gatsby’s funeral, he receives a call from Ewing Klipspringer, a party guest who is often welcome to stay inside Gatsby’s home. At the mention of a funeral, Klipspringer refuses the invitation, revealing that he only “called up about…a pair of shoes [he] left [at Gatsby’s house]” (169). Despite the death of Gatsby, Klipspringer feels the need to collect his belongings from the deceased man’s house rather than attend his funeral. Through Klipspringer’s character, it can be noted that people valued Gatsby for what he could offer them, whether it be his parties or his accommodations, and when he could no longer provide these in death, they cease to appreciate him. Gatsby’s “great” characteristics stem only from his money rather than his legacy, becoming irrelevant as this money can no longer serve any purpose to the deceased man or the people who admire the wealth. Gatsby’s influence is ingenuine as it is his money that brings people close to him. This prevents him from achieving greatness as he is suppressed beneath the exploitation of his wealth for others’ own benefit, like Klipspringer, who utilizes Gatsby’s hospitality to reside in the luxurious mansion. Though Gatsby is seen to be acknowledged well during his life for his riches, the negligible impact he holds in other people’s lives prevents him from receiving respect in death, failing to be considered “great.”

Even after Gatsby’s demise, some may still believe him to be great, having been recognized as an influential figure for his extravagant lifestyle, and thus, the inclusion of the word in the title is used to glorify his fame. Gatsby and his parties are the subjects of widespread rumors, especially regarding the man’s wealth and how he acquired it. Talk about Gatsby grows, and “[his] notoriety, spread about by the hundreds who had accepted his hospitality…had increased all summer until he fell just short of being news” (97). Gatsby’s popularity rapidly grows with every party he organizes, to the point where he is almost considered to be newsworthy. With “hundreds” of people, as Fitzgerald writes, attending the parties and spreading the word about Gatsby, he is seen to be an important figure in the society around him. Gatsby holds an important quality of a person who is considered “great,” which is the ability to awe his party guests, living up to his title given by the novel’s name. But while Gatsby is very popular in his life, the same cannot be said about him in death. Nick invites numerous people to Gatsby’s funeral, with little success in securing attendees other than Gatsby’s own father. At the start of the ceremony, “[Nick] began to look involuntarily out the windows for other cars…[but] nobody came” (174). The only two people to show up to Gatsby’s funeral are his father and Nick – not even his friends. Nick expecting guests to arrive but only having himself and Gatsby’s father present displays that only the two value Gatsby for who he is instead of his money. The other people who associate with him did so due to his immense wealth and fame. However, now that this could no longer be an advantage to them, they do not feel the urge to express their respect to their late friend. Had Gatsby truly been “great,” his friends and party guests would have been impacted by him as an individual, putting an effort to attend the funeral, proving how he fails to uphold his title? Fitzgerald utilizes Gatsby’s shortcomings to identify how one’s greatness derives from their ability to affect the society around them rather than their fame, notoriety, or riches.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald reveals that greatness derives from acceptance of reality and influence among others. The author drives this point through the disillusionment of Jay Gatsby and his popularity from his wealth rather than his disposition. From believing that money could buy his happiness to ultimately having no effect on his society, Gatsby failed to meet the factors of “greatness.” As people race to grasp their portion of power through riches in hopes of achieving success as an individual in the modern world, they are blinded by the fact that greatness in society can be acquired by character, which they, like Gatsby, fail to understand.

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