A Comparison of Illusion and Reality in The Great Gatsby

Categories: Illusion vs. Reality

Things are not always what they seem. Constantly in life we can be fooled by the metaphorical masks people wear. The appearance of many of the characters in The Great Gatsby differs greatly from their actual selves. The use of illusion in the novel The Great Gatsby is used effectively to portray the nature of people in the 1920’s, and the artificial life that is lived in this modern age. There are many incidences in which the appearance of characters is far different than what lurks inside them.

Several of these incidences are shown in the appearances of Daisy, Gatsby, and Gatsby’s perception of Daisy.

Fitzgerald tried to portray that in the 1920’s people attempted to maintain the air of purity and innocence, however deep inside themselves they are still materialistic and corrupt. This can be seen with Daisy, as she tries throughout the novel to maintain her innocence and tries to believe that she is not to blame for anything that has happened.

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Daisy’s appearance can be summed up in one color: white. White is symbolic of purity and innocence which is believable for the beginning of the novel. She primarily wears white in the novel and there are several references made to her ‘white childhood’ and her ‘white face’. We believe Daisy to be an innocent victim of her husband Tom who seems racist, violent and unfaithful. However, through further reading it can be seen that she is in fact very materialistic and selfish. When Gatsby was away at war Daisy waited for him for a while however, she then proceeded to marry Tom.

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The night before the wedding she is crying over Gatsby and yet she still marries Tom and his money showing that she knew she would not marry Gatsby because he was poor.

Also, when Gatsby returns and they begin their affair Daisy seems to want to leave Tom for Gatsby and yet she weakly refuses to stand up to her husband. When Gatsby finally confronts Tom about Daisy and she finds out how Gatsby obtained his money illegally. Her relationship with Gatsby deteriorates because she simply was attracted to him because of the idea of a new, carefree, exciting relationship with a wealthy man. While driving home and she runs over Myrtle she refuses to go back and help her because she may be in legal trouble, showing further selfishness. Finally, when George arrives at their house with a gun and talks to Tom, she allows him to believe that it was in fact Gatsby who viciously ran over Myrtle. These things show that in fact, though she gave the illusion of purity and innocence deep inside she is truly guilty and self-serving. This is also what Fitzgerald was attempting to show about life in the 1920’s and how being brought up rich brought emptiness, materialism and selfishness.

People will give up anything in and attempt to obtain what they want. This can be seen with Gatsby and his wealth. In order to change his appearance to please Daisy Gatsby went through a total transformation. Jay changed his name from Gatz to Gatsby, this is symbolic of leaving his past behind him. He gave up his family because he didn’t want to be associated with them; he wanted a clean slate so that no one would trace him back to a poor childhood. Gatsby then compromised his morals and became a bootlegger in order to obtain money and impress Daisy because this was the reason that they couldn’t be together before. Throughout the story Gatsby doesn’t have any real friends aside from Nick and this is because his obsession with Daisy rules his life and thus he has no focus for friends or other activities all of Gatsby’s actions lead to Daisy. It’s a sad life that Gatsby lives because his sole purpose and drive is for a superficial woman who is living a careless lifestyle. Had Gatsby directed his focus towards a more productive future he may have actually become ‘Great’. This shows that Gatsby did in fact give up a life where he may have enjoyed himself more for Daisy, a woman who was already married with a child who was impossible to be with. This shows the nature of people and how far we will strive to get something that we are told we can’t have.

Sometimes in life we can delude ourselves into thinking things are different or better than they truly are. This is seen with Gatsby and his dream of life with Daisy. In the first chapter we see Gatsby staring out across the water at the green light. This light is symbolic of Gatsby’s dream to be with Daisy. It is obvious to me that Gatsby has fooled himself into thinking that somehow if you have enough money you can go back in time and change the past to get what you want as can be seen with the conversation Gatsby has with Nick when he states “Can’t change the past? Of course you can.”. Gatsby constantly tries to deny the truth to himself, this is seen when the reality of Daisy’s daughter hits him.

When Gatsby first sees her he simply stares at her, he is baffled because his mind didn’t want to accept her existence and glazed over the fact that Daisy had a child with Tom. He also tried to convince himself that if Daisy renounces her love for Tom that it will somehow undo all their years of marriage and he can be with her. It’s my opinion that the reason Gatsby kept delaying actually seeing Daisy again is because living the dream of her is so much better, she can’t reject him and in his mind she is exactly who he wants her to be. It had been so long since he last saw Daisy that his mind washed away any imperfections over time so he was also looking upon her memory with rose colored glasses and thus she became a better and better person as his obsession grew. The ironic thing is how much Gatsby has worked and obsessed all these years for someone who didn’t even truly exist. The only place this innocent flower of Daisy exists is in Gatsby’s mind, in reality she is nowhere near the woman whom he has held higher than anyone in his life. Gatsby is obsessed with Daisy and as readers we draw the conclusion that Daisy is certainly not good enough for him as we see her actions in the novel.

In the society we live in there are always illusions present. Where we can be fooled by others or by ourselves. Such is the case in The Great Gatsby where Gatsby and Daisy both fooled each other based on their appearance (Gatsby appearing rich and Daisy appearing innocent). Also in regards to Gatsby denying the truth of the impossibility of him being with Daisy. Their behavior is symbolic of the superficial fleeting nature of the 1920’s where being born rich meant that you were higher in status than actually earning your money. Also it shows the lengths that people would go to in order to be accepted into this high-class society.

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A Comparison of Illusion and Reality in The Great Gatsby. (2022, Feb 04). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/a-comparison-of-illusion-and-reality-in-the-great-gatsby-essay

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