Pathetic is a term used to describe someone who is pitifully unsuccessful. Success is not necessarily measured in wealth or fame, but it is measured by how much one has accomplished in life. A successful person is one who has set many goals for himself and then goes out in life and accomplishes some of them, but goes on living even if failing on others.
In the novel The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby is a pathetic character because he wasted his whole life chasing an unrealistic dream. Gatsby’s dream is unrealistic because “it depends for its success upon Daisy’s discontent with her marriage and her willingness to exchange it for a life of love. But Daisy’s discontent, like her sophistication, is a pose.”(Aldridge 36) The fact is, Daisy has almost all of the things that a woman could want out of a marriage.
She is very wealthy, she has a beautiful daughter, and her relationship with her husband is of a comfortable nature. It is true that her life is not very exciting, but it is unreasonable to think that she would trade all that she had in her marriage to Tom Buchanan for Jay Gatsby. At that time, divorce was very uncommon, and it was very unlikely that any woman would leave her husband for any reason at all. Everything that Gatsby ever did in his whole life was based upon his pursuit of the dream.
He moved to New York and bought his very expensive mansion because of Daisy. Jordan Baker said, “Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.”(Fitzgerald 83) He held many expensive parties in the hope that Daisy might show up at one of them. Jordan said, “I think he half expected her to wander into one of his parties, some night, but she never did.”(Fitzgerald 84) His daily life was also controlled by the dream. Jordan said, “he says he’s read a Chicago paper for years just on the chance of catching a glimpse of Daisy’s name.”(Fitzgerald 84) Gatsby put so much effort into his dream that his dream became his life, and losing control of your life is saddening. Gatsby is pathetic because he behaves like a child and he cannot handle adult situations like an adult. His childish demands show that he is a pathetic and immature human being. Jordan says, “I immediately suggested a luncheon in New York – and I thought he’d go mad: “””I don’t want to do anything out of the way!”” he kept saying. “”I want to see her right next door.”””(Fitzgerald 84) At Gatsby’s reunion with Daisy at Nick’s house, his nervousness shows his inability to handle adult situations. “Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes.”(Fitzgerald 91) A mature adult would be able to handle this situation without running around the outside of the house in the rain and then arriving at the front door as if it was just a coincidence. Even in the situation of the reunion with the long lost lover, a mature adult would be able to stay in the house and greet her at the door and not try to lie that he did not know that she was coming. Gatsby had calculated in his plan that he would make his grand entrance at the front door and sweep Daisy off of her feet. Gatsby’s immaturity comes from the fact that he had to stick to the plan unconditionally and that he didn’t have the ability to adapt to the situation and decide that it would be better to stay inside than to go out into the rain and get soaked. As Nick and Gatsby left Daisy to go into the kitchen, Gatsby said, “Oh, God! This is a terrible mistake, a terrible, terrible mistake.”(Fitzgerald 92) Nick replied, “You’re acting like a little boy.”(Fitzgerald 93) Gatsby does act like a little boy by overreacting and exaggerating the situation. He overreacts and becomes terrified in such a way because the reunion is not going according to his plan, and in his immaturity, he has absolutely no idea how to cope with the situation. A chess grandmaster once said that a good player should have to be defeated several times over the course of the game to actually lose the game. As life is like chess, when we are defeated once, we go on living. We don’t stop because we have many more things and dreams to live for. When Gatsby failed once, however, he had nothing left to live for. Gatsby made the fatal mistake of putting all his eggs in one basket. He constructed his life around the dream of having Daisy so much that this dream became his whole life, and when he failed, his life failed with him. This is why Fitzgerald killed him in the end of the book, because his life was over anyway. “But with every word she 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.”(Fitzgerald 142) The lost voice across the room is Daisy, and as the quote indicates, she is no longer tangible. The dream is dead. Jay Gatsby is dead. Gatsby was defeated once and once only, and from this one defeat, he lost the entire game. Jay Gatsby was a bad player in the game of life and a pitiful human being. In conclusion, Jay Gatsby is a pathetic character because he wasted his whole life chasing an unrealistic dream. The dream was unrealistic because it was unlikely that Daisy would leave her comfortable marriage because she really was not discontent with her life as Gatsby had thought that she was. Gatsby lost control of his life by letting his dream become his life. The house on West Egg and the many parties were all in hopes of achieving the dream. Gatsby behaves like a child and shows throughout the book that he is not capable of handling adult situations like an adult. Finally, when Gatsby’s dream was crushed, his life ended because he let his dream become his life. He was pathetic because one defeat was able to kill him. A normal person would be able to cope with failing at one thing in their life and then be able to move on, but when Gatsby failed just this once, his life was over. Gatsby was a failure because he tried to live his life according to a plan that he considered to be flawless. In life, however, it is more important to be able to adapt to and handle new situations than it is to have a flawless plan, because the truth is, there is no such thing as a flawless plan. A successful person would achieve their goals by meeting their needs in life by using what was given to them. Gatsby tried to do the opposite, and failed. “Gatsby’s story it is a story of failure – the prolongation of the adolescent incapacity to distinguish between dream and reality, between the terms demanded of life and the terms offered.”(Troy 21-22) Works Cited Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Macmillan, 1992. Twentieth Century Interpretations of the Great Gatsby. Ed. Ernest H. Lockridge. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968. Troy, William. “Scott Fitzgerald – The Authority of Failure.” F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Arthur Mizener. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963. 21-22.