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The Great Gatsby: A Full Spectrum Of Characters


Throughout Fitzgerald's " The Great Gatsby," there seems to
be a broad spectrum of moral and social views demonstrated
by various characters. At one end, is Tom, a man who
attacks Gatsby's sense of propriety and legitimacy, while
thinking nothing of running roughshod over the lives of
those around him. A direct opposite of Tom's nature is
Gatsby, who displays great generosity and caring, yet will
stop at nothing to achieve his dream of running off with
Daisy. Also, in the middle of this, are various characters
who seem to sway back and forth in their stands as
convenient. This range of personalities lends itself well
to a uniquely subtle interplay between their characters
At first glance, The Great Gatsby is merely a classic
American tragedy, portraying the story of a man's obsession
with a fantasy, and his resulting downfall. However,
Fitzgerald seems to weave much more than that into the
intricate web of emotional interactions he creates for the
reader. One interesting element is the concepts of
greatness each has. For Daisy, it lies in material wealth,
and in the comfort and security associated with it. Daisy
seems to be easily impressed by material success, as when
she is touring Gatsby's mansion and seems deeply moved by
his collection of fine, tailored shirts. It would seem that
Tom's relative wealth, also, had at one time impressed her
enough to win her in marriage. In contrast to that, Gatsby
seems to not care a bit about money itself, but rather only
about the possibility that it can win over Daisy. In fact,
Gatsby's extreme generosity gives the reader the impression
that Gatsby would otherwise have never even worked at
attaining wealth had it not been for Daisy. For Gatsby, the
only thing of real importance was his pursuit of Daisy. It
would seem that these elements are combined, too in the
character, Myrtle. Myrtle is, as Daisy, impressed with
Tom's wealth and appearance, but, like Jay Gatsby, is stuck
in a fantastic, idealized perception of her object of
affection. Even when abused and trampled over by Tom,
Myrtle continues to adore him, just as Gatsby continues to
dote upon Daisy after being obviously rejected by her. As
far as ethical considerations, Gatsby tends to prove
himself a sincere and caring person, while Daisy and Tom
just destroy the lives of two people and then leave town to
escape the consequences of their actions. Between the cold
ruthlessness of Tom, and the tenderness of Gatsby, there
are also characters who appear to fit somewhere in between
on this scale. Jordan, while appearing to be a nice,
respectable lady, is seen in several instances as having
cheated and bent the rules when it suits her, such as
during a game, or during her relationship with Nick. Jordan
seems to be a standard of semi-corruption, of naked
self-interest, that the other characters on the extremes of
the scale of moral and social considerations can be
measured. Thus, The Great Gatsby presents an extremely
interesting set of moral imagery.
It can be said, then, that one of Fitzgerald's main
talents, as shown in the novel, is in showing various
levels of moral and emotional development in characters,
and juxtaposing them. Perhaps it is this element that
distinguishes The Great Gatsby from many other novels with
similar elements. 


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