A Character Profile of Jay Gatsby – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Warning: Long, wordy post ahead. Why, you ask? Because it is time for the Creative Corner!!!

For those who don’t already know, the Creative Corner is where I post a lot of my ready-made pieces of writing from school which are posted onto this blog for everyone to see. I have posted some pieces of writing already which I have made as practice for my IGCSE English as a First Language subject. Now, since I am studying in the International Baccalaureate system, I am taking English A: Language and Literature subject. Throughout the study of this course, I have been tasked with writing many different essays and other forms of writing as part of my class and homework.

Last school term, my class studied The Great Gatsby as part of the Literature component of the course. A novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the book is renowned for its faithful portrayal of the lifestyle of the upper-class American society during the 1920s. I don’t want to bore you with the details of the plot, you could read the book yourself to find out.

I was tasked with creating a characted profile of Gatsby based around the accounts from different characters in the first three chapters of the book. There was a lot of intended vagueness, mystery and contradiction around his character which was deliberately done to reveal the plot in the story. Without further rambling, let us begin the analysis.

Other characters’ impressions of Gatsby

The minor characters in the novel have the vaguest impressions of Gatsby’s true identity. The impression of Gatsby among the party-goers is based on rumours and hearsay from other party-goers.  This was evidenced several times in Chapters 2 and 3, such as “Somebody told me…” and “…they say…” to justify their claims. Stories about Gatsby and his origins are likely to be repeatedly circulated due to his prominence and fame as a wealthy millionaire. Because he is a popular and well-known figure among the circles of the upper-class, his mysterious past became the subject of heated discussions and upmost curiosity of others. Few of them actually had the chance to meet Gatsby himself. Possibly due to lack of interaction between Gatsby and his guests, many wild and bodacious stories of his past was most probably created and propagated among the upper class.

In this novel, different people are presented to have differing views of what Gatsby’s personality is like. For example, Catherine, Myrtle Wilson’s sister, said to Nick Carraway in Chapter 2 that she is “…scared of him.” She was intimidated due to her belief that Gatsby was in fact that “he’s a nephew or cousin of Kaiser Wilhem’s. That’s where all his money comes from. ” She had an impression that Gatsby was a very powerful man of royal lineage, being a relative of the former leader of Germany. Another woman in the fourth chapter mentioned that he was “…the nephew of Von Hindenburg,” a famous German general. In the context of the historical setting of the story, Germany was USA’s enemy during WWI. This is highly intriguing because this piece of information is meant to show a negative connotation to Gatsby – by being linked to the German leadership, he is a sinister and intimidating person and cannot be trusted.

Other characters view Gatsby with suspicion, such as a group of party guests whom Nick and Jordan conversed with in Chapter 3.  One of the girls named Lucille told the story of how Gatsby had unexpectedly bought her an expensive new dress after hers was torn in one of his parties. This surprised her considerably, since the two have never met. Her friend remarked that “There’s something funny about a fellow that’ll do something like that.” This reinforces the idea that Gatsby is very generous as a host, but also a little mistrustful because it’s not something a host would usually do at all. Another important and most recurring comment about Gatsby that made him suspicious was that “he killed a man.” This amplifies the fact that Gatsby could be viewed as a potential criminal by some people; he could have been part of a gang that was controlling the illegal alcohol trade.

Gatsby’s own impression on himself

Gatsby’s impressions of himself are starkly different to those of his party guests, as well as the most convincing.

When Gatsby first met Nick Carraway during the party in Chapter 3, he did not even realise it was Gatsby that he has been talking to because he had been so casually friendly in his manner of speaking. Nick was surprised to find out that it was his host and Gatsby even apologised by saying “I thought you knew, old sport, I’m not a very good host.” This statement gives a sense of humbleness to Gatsby’s character, because he is admitting his mistake to his guest even though he was a man of wealth and class. As far as we know, this is in contrast to Tom Buchanan and his ‘demanding’ and unapologetic attitude in Chapter 2. This down-to-earth and amiable characteristic was further evidenced by his smile, which was “one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it…” which Nick found extremely pleasing and genuine.

Gatsby revealed his supposed past life in Chapter 4, while Nick and Gatsby were driving in his yellow car. Gatsby explained to Nick that he was of upper-class descent, and therefore a member of the ‘old rich’. He said that “I am the son of some wealthy people in the Middle West – all dead now.” He further elaborated his point by saying that he was sent to Oxford to study because “It is a family tradition.” He is giving this impression of himself to Nick because he wanted to clarify who he really was to win his trust, and removing any misconceptions about his past. Later on, Gatsby needed Nick to invite Daisy for tea so that the two could meet each other after five long years. This snippet of information is in stark contrast to popular rumours about him that he was wealthy because of being related to German leaders.

Nick Carraway’s impression of Gatsby

Nic Carraway’s impression of Gatsby was expressed in the very first chapter of the novel, where he reminisced and admired Gatsby’s noble qualities. He believed that Gatsby possessed “…an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness…” which he have never seen in anyone else in his life. Even though this was placed in the very beginning of the whole novel, in actual fact Nick stated this view after all the events in the story had occurred, and that every event in the story is a flashback from Carraway’s point of view.  This demonstration of high regard by Carraway foreshadows the events of the book cleverly, as the whole plot depended on Gatsby’s determination to pursue his ultimate dream. This was further emphasised with the closing statement “…Gatsby turned out all-right in the end…”, indicating that the events over the course of the novel are in the past, and to Carraway, Gatsby is still a good person at heart despite what had happened to him and what he had done.

To get Nick’s first real impressions of Gatsby was seen in Chapter 3, where he expected Gatsby to be a very different person in physical appearance. He expected him to be “a florid and corpulent person in his middle years.” The word ‘corpulent’ is a synonym for rotund, or simply fat, but Gatsby was a lean-bodied man. Also Nick expected him to be ‘in his middle years’, thinking that Gatsby was much older than he was at the age of forty and above. Nick’s imagination of Gatsby was debunked as soon as he learned that he had been conversing with Gatsby during the party.

Nick viewed Gatsby as a very likeable acquaintance, as evidenced when he thought that Gatsby’s smile made “the whole eternal world…concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour.” He felt that way because Gatsby could project a sense of empathy and understanding with what Nick had experienced in the past: both men had fought in World War I and survived it. Because of their shared experiences, Nick felt very comfortable with talking to Gatsby despite his initial false impression. When Gatsby offered him to come along the next day to try out his new hydroplane, Nick gladly accepted the offer as a show of a start of a genuine friendship between the two men.

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