Love is a very powerful emotion. It is able to consume a person’s mind and control their every thought, every action and every dream. Scott Fitzgerald demonstrates how love can hold a man’s heart and mind hostage through the portrayal of Jay Gatsby’s pursuit of the love of his life. In Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, Gatsby’s heart and mind remain fixed on his past love of Daisy Buchanan as he creates a dream of once again returning to that moment in the past.
Blinded by the illusion of Daisy as a tangible commodity, Gatsby is inspired by passion and love to redefine himself as he risks everything and consequently meets his own demise in his effort to reunite with Daisy and achieve his dreams. After falling in love with Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby fantasizes about their future life together and creates an illusion of her that is far beyond reality. Gatsby is enthralled by his past love, and as a result of his longing desire to restore this moment in time he has created the illusion of a woman synonymous to a goddess.
Nick mentions on the afternoon that Gatsby and Daisy are reunited, “There must have been moments that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of [Gatsby’s] dreams --- not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything,” (95). When Gatsby meets Daisy once again after five years, he is disappointed, not by any action of Daisy, but because Gatsby has blown her up to be in equal comparison of a Greek goddess. Daisy is unable to live up to this supernatural illusion.
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Fitzgerald hints at Gatsby’s impression of Daisy’s superiority through their first kiss. He says, “At [Gatsby’s] lips’ touch she [blossoms] for him like a flower and the incarnation [is] complete,” (111). At this moment, Gatsby is finally able to touch this goddess that he pictures Daisy as being. His pursuit of this seemingly unattainable dream is achieved when Daisy kisses him. She is incarnated so to speak from her elevation as a goddess to a tangible idea in Gatsby’s mind. Her illusion of perfectionism changes to an image of a mere woman; an extravagant woman, but not forbidden from Gatsby’s grasp any longer.
He makes it his life - long dream to return to this moment in time. When he kisses her he “forever [weds] his unutterable visions to her perishable breath,” (110). His mind has been locked in his visions of Daisy and he becomes confident with the idea of being able to be with her. This confidence inspires him to redefine himself in order to achieve a position in society suitable to Daisy’s demands. As a result of Gatsby’s dream, he is motivated to become a man suitable to comfort Daisy, and in doing so he must redefine himself and his image in society.
Daisy is a woman of inherited wealth; a member of the rich elite class in society. Nick mentions that Gatsby “[takes] her under false pretenses. [Nick] [doesn’t] mean that [Gatsby] [has] traded on his phantom millions, but he [has] deliberately given Daisy a sense of security; he [lets] her believe that he [is] a person from much the same stratum as herself--- that he was fully able to take care of her,” (149). Gatsby understands that he is not qualified by the unwritten laws of society to be with Daisy. He knows that such a relationship will be shunned by the laws of social life during this time.
However, the forbidden fruit is the sweetest. Even though a relationship with Daisy is essentially prohibited, Gatsby strives to be of her class and for the time being lies to her about his social status. He makes her believe that he can support her comfortably in order to give himself a chance at winning over her heart. He learns that Daisy is swayed by money just as much as she is swayed by the looks or charm of a man. Therefore he devotes his life, from the moment of his first kiss with Daisy to the present time, to accruing a vast amount of wealth and notoriety.
He purchases a mansion across the bay from Daisy’s residence perhaps in the hopes that one day she may be interested in this grandiose house lit up like a jack-o-lantern across the bay. Nick has an epiphany of Gatsby’s intentions as he says, “[t]hen it had not been merely the stars to which [Gatsby] had aspired on that June night. He came alive to me, delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor…He had waited five years and bought a mansion where he dispensed starlight to casual moths---so that he could ‘come over’ some afternoon to a stranger’s garden,” (78).
It is Gatsby’s sole purpose to attract Daisy back into his daily life. For this reason he throws parties once every two weeks in the hopes that Daisy will be intrigued by the music and the lit up mansion across the bay and wander right into his house. Essentially, Gatsby is hoping that Daisy will be attracted to the lights of his house just as moths are attracted to the light of a lantern in the night.
He dedicates himself toward this dream of reuniting with Daisy and he creates a facade of a wealthy and flamboyant life believing that if Daisy did ever wander into his house, she would feel that Gatsby is now capable of fulfilling her needs and supporting her comfortably. He valued all of his possessions only on the basis that Daisy may enjoy them. When Gatsby gives Daisy a tour of his mansion, Nick says, “I think [Gatsby] revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes,” (91).
At this point it appears as though Gatsby would be ready to rid himself of any of his possessions which Daisy disliked. Everything in his house is methodically purchased for entertaining Daisy and advertising his wealth. He dedicates himself toward a dream and is willing to redefine himself and sacrifice everything in the pursuit of Daisy. As Gatsby’s heart remains fixed in the past, he is in a constant struggle with time as he risks everything in his attempt to erase the past and achieve his dream. Gatsby’s vivid memory of Daisy and her beauty has him constantly dreaming of the past and fantasizing of an idea that is impossible.
He desires to turn back time and erase Daisy’s relationship with Tom completely. Nick realizes that “[Gatsby wants] nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: ‘I never loved you. ’ After she had obliterated four years with that sentence they could decide upon the more practical measures to be taken,” (109). Tom is the only obstacle in between Gatsby and the achievement of his dream. Gatsby desires nothing more than for Daisy to admit that she never loved Tom and had always loved Gatsby. He wants to know that she reciprocated his love during the years they had been distant from each other.
However, Daisy is unable to admit this and Gatsby’s dream is shattered. As he tries to erase the past in her mind, she becomes further distant from him and all hopes of reuniting are failing. Gatsby desperately attempts to revive his dream, “[b]ut with every word [Daisy] was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up, and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room,” (134).
Gatsby puts an immense amount of effort into recreating the past and reviving a dream only to see it all collapse before his very eyes. His whole existence is centered on his love Daisy as he is overwhelmed by his obsession to win her heart. He has lost everything and his life has become meaningless. Up to this point, he allows his heart to rule his mind and he has put every moment of the past five years into accruing a fortune to attract Daisy. Fitzgerald reveals, “No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart,” (96).
Fitzgerald implies the emotions generated from affairs of the heart have an uncanny power to control a man’s actions and his dreams. It is the power of Gatsby’s heart that leads him on his journey and motivates him to create his dream and his illusion of Daisy as a tangible ideal. This illusion initiated by his passion and love leads him to his own downfall and the collapse of his dreams. As a result of his heartfelt love for Daisy, Gatsby’s every moment is controlled by a time-warped illusion of his first moments with Daisy and his unfurling dream to recapture the love of his life.
His pursuit of love is the force behind his attempt to redefine himself and create a new, wealthy Gatsby, suitable to Daisy and capable of achieving his dream of the two reuniting in love. Fitzgerald effectively demonstrates the power love has over a man’s soul and actions through the portrayal of Jay Gatsby in his quest and ultimate failure to win the heart of Daisy in his novel The Great Gatsby. Through his characterization of Gatsby, Fitzgerald illustrates that no matter how much passion or confidence a man may put into his dreams, they may never be achieved and may leave that man with nothing.
Jay Gatsby epitomizes the affects the pursuit of love can have on a man as he passionately throws himself into his dreams of living happily ever after with Daisy and bases his whole existence around her. Consequently, although Gatsby is able to redefine himself into a rich and powerful man in a materialistic sense, the failure to win Daisy’s love renders him powerless as he is left with an empty heart and a dead, meaningless dream.
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