The Great Gatsby as Tragic Hero

7 July 2016

The novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald can be in a sense classified as a tragedy. It tells the story of the protagonist Gatsby and of his sudden rise to wealth, which ends in tragedy as his dream of re-uniting with the love of his life collapses. In the novel, the reader can interpret Gatsby as a tragic hero due to his traits and how the author portrays him throughout the story. The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle developed a profile with three necessary characteristics that would be existent in the ‘perfect’ tragic hero, which the reader can see are all present in Gatsby.

Fitzgerald characterizes him as a tragic hero due to his drastic fall from a great height, his characteristic of Hamartia (having a fatal flaw), and his Hubris (being too proud/challenging own destiny). In the novel, Gatsby has a dream of achieving social status and wealth, in order to be re-united with and accepted by the love of his life, Daisy, a woman from a rich, old money family. He then becomes part of the nouveau riche people category, and throws lavish parties as part of his hopeless search for Daisy.

The Great Gatsby as Tragic Hero Essay Example

Gatsby is shown as a tragic hero because as the story proceeds, Gatsby finds his “dead dream” collapsing and finds himself falling from the great height he had achieved for himself. Even the description “dead dream” shows its futility as it is already over. Towards the end of the novel, the narrator Nick points out that “his (Gatsby) career as Trimalchio was over. ” Fitzgerald’s allusion to the Italian character Trimalchio mocks Gatsby’s unachievable dream and characterizes him as a failure.

The reference characterizes all of Gatsby’s personality as being like a facade, and compares him to a common background character later driven to parties and lavish spending. The word “career” makes it seem to the reader that Gatsby’s whole purpose of existence and job was this futile search for Daisy that would never work. This quotation clearly shows how Gatsby is a tragic hero in his fall from the successful fortune he had obtained, as he realizes that no sum of money could ever buy what he needed to achieve his dream: Daisy.

Another point in the novel where Gatsby’s fall is pointed out is when “only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, despairingly…” The alliteration “dead dream” fuses the two concepts to become one entity, showing how thoroughly Gatsby’s dream has collapsed, contributing to the whole theme of impossibility that permeates the novel. The dream is personified by “fought on” and this exacerbates the pathetic desperation of Gatsby and the futility of his failed dream.

The words “slipped”, “struggling”, “unhappily” and “despairingly” create a semantic field of loss, sorrow and despair, linking back to the theme of impossibility. The quotation as a whole portrays the idea of the fall of Gatsby and his dream, and the erosion of his achievements. Gatsby can also be characterized as tragic hero in the novel due to his Hamartia, which means having a fatal flaw that eventually would contribute to the fall of the character himself.

Gatsby’s hamartia shown in the novel is his obsession with his dream (Daisy), and wanting to re-create the past and his own life. Gatsby “paid a high price for living to long with a single dream”. The phrase “living too long with a single dream” describes Gatsby’s hamartia of dreaming, as if his entire life was founded solely on his dream. The description of the dream being “single” suggests his obsession, as if his only pursue in life was Daisy.

Gatsby “talked a lot about the past”, and that reflects his flaw of obsession with the past and trying to re-create it. His aim to “recover something, some idea of himself perhaps” shows that his reality is not matching his expectations, so Gatsby tries to recover an abstract, intangible “something… that had gone into loving Daisy” the repetition of “some” after the word “something” reflects Gatsby’s uncertainty of what he is looking for and about what he is, showing how he has lost himself in the search for Daisy.

All of the quotations show how fatal Gatsby’s flaws are, and how these eventually take him to his downfall, characterizing him as a tragic hero. Another vital trait in a tragic hero according to Aristotle is Hubris, which means being too proud to accept thing as they are, and challenging your own fate to escape your destiny. Gatsby’s hubris is evident in the novel, as he breaks boundaries to become wealthy and pursue his dreams, believes he is able to relive the past, and “wants too much” in asking Daisy to leave her own husband.

In the novel, Gatsby is not proud of his family’s background and “his imagination never really accepted…his parents” The noun “imagination” shows that Gatsby is confronting reality in trying to imagine something else from the truth which later on led to “his Platonic Conception of himself. ” At some other point in the novel, Gatsby’s hubris is shown when he wants “nothing less of Daisy that she should go to Tom and say ‘I have never loved you’”.

The description “nothing less” shows how naive and unfair his expectation was and the level of his pride, leading to selfishness. The simple structure of the sentence reflects all of Gatsby’s single mindedness and enters in conflict with the strong statement: “I have never loved you” that Gatsby wants Daisy to say. These quotations clearly reflect Gatsby’s hubris, showing how much his pride challenges his reality, and his wish to escape his destiny, characterizing him as a tragic hero.

The novel The Great Gatsby ends in tragedy as the protagonist, Gatsby’s dream of re-uniting with Daisy collapses, and more drastically, as Gatsby dies in the last chapters of the book. He can be characterized as a tragic hero according to Aristotle due to his traits of hamartia and hubris, and his fall from a great height. His unattainable dream of finding Daisy, his neglect of his own reality and obsession with the past all fuse into his hubris and hamartia, to lead into Gatsby’s tragic fall.

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