The Lack of Justice and Karma in The Great Gatsby

Categories: The Great Gatsby

Good people are not always rewarded, and people who commit felonies and do wrong are not always punished. Imagine a man who tries to be nice, honest, and friendly. One night police end up at your door and you are suddenly the suspect for your friends’ murder. This is sadly the case for James Driskell (Howe). In September of 1990 his friend, Perry Harder, was shot in the chest several times. A year later James was convicted to a lifetime in prison.

The evidence the police had for the crime were 3 hairs on Harder’s chest that apparently belonged to Mr. Driskell. Later tests revealed that those 3 hairs did not belong to Mr. Driskell.

A few years later he was released from prison (Howe). This man deserved no punishments, yet he has to go through his friends’ death and go to prison for a crime he never committed. The absence of justice and karma is clear. As J.R.R. Tolkien said “Many that live deserve death.

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And some that die deserve life.” (J.R.R Tolkien, 77) In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, the absence of karma and justice is evident, and alters the punishments the characters should have faced. Jay Gatsby has pure intentions, and even though some things he did are considered wrong, his punishments are too severe and don’t fit the crime because he paid the ultimate consequence and was killed.

George Wilson is a good person. He has been good all his life, yet he is punished severely with the death of his wife, and his own life.

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Tom has the worst personality and morals of any other character in the novel, yet he gets away with minimal consequences. Karma is an idea people thought of to encourage good behaviour, and live peacefully. In reality people have to enforce the law and give deserved punishments because karma is scarce in society and the conclusion to The Great Gatsby.

Sometimes good people do bad things. In the novel Jay Gatsby is a good person, who has pure intentions. Even though he does some bad things like illegally sell bootlegged alcohol to make his fortune, he is doing it to win back Daisy and not for evil means. Gatsby is pure at heart, even though he sold illegal alcohol in his stores he is still a good person. It is proven that Gatsby is pure at heart because he went and fought in the Great War, and won many valour medals. Before he left for the war he was in love with Daisy and vice versa. When he returned she had married Tom and all Gatsby ever wanted was her reciprocated love. Even though he earned his fortune through illegal means, it was for a pure cause. He just wanted Daisy back. Even though Gatsby did some bad things he was still a good person at the end because he wasn’t doing them for evil reasons, he was just trying to win Daisy back from Tom.

Gatsby did not deserve the punishment he received. It was far too harsh a punishment and he paid the ultimate price, his life. Even though Gatsby was a man with pure intentions, he earned his fortune through bootlegging alcohol, which is illegal. When Tom confronts Gatsby about his bootlegging business Gatsby does not deny it. Tom discovered that Gatsby “bought up a lot of side-street drug stores... and sold grain alcohol over the counter” (Fitzgerald, 127). Gatsby’s business had been discovered, yet he never tried to defend himself and was calm throughout the whole ordeal. This is because Gatsby was selling illegal alcohol to win Daisy and not for another evil purpose. The same idea can be portrayed with putting a pet down. The owner of a pet will not feel guilty about putting their pet down, because it is to keep the pet from suffering.

If the owner accidently kills or harms the pet they will feel terrible and guilty because they didn’t have good intentions. Gatsby may have deserved some form of punishment, but the punishment he received was too severe. He paid the ultimate price, his life. When Nick sees Gatsby dead he says “the holocaust was complete” (Fitzgerald 114). Gatsby’s death is the completion of pure people with good intentions dying. Like the holocaust, Gatsby’s death cannot be the product of karma because he never did anything to deserve it, like the victims of the holocaust. Real life lacks karma as much as the conclusion to The Great Gatsby does, and this leads to an unfit ending to the story. Gatsby isn’t the only character who is unjustly punished.

George Wilson is a tertiary character who appears in the novel several times. George was pure at heart, worked hard for his money, and loved his wife unconditionally, yet he still is unjustly punished. Even though he is one of the kindest and purest characters in the novel he is punished several times, each punishment being worse than the last one. The fact that Wilson never gets rewarded, even though he is the best character morally in the novel, proves there is a lack of justice and karma in the conclusion to The Great Gatsby. Wilson is the purest character in the novel. Not only was he hard working and loving, he was also honest, which is a rare trait in the characters of the novel. Wilson clearly loves his wife unconditionally because he falls ill when he learns she is having an affair.

“Karma was the root cause of failure in every aspect of life” (Sha, 231) for Wilson. He believed that if he did good acts, and was a good person he would be rewarded. He was mistaken. Instead of being rewarded Wilson is punished several times for no apparent reason. Firstly he learns that his wife is having an affair with someone. This knowledge makes him physically ill. Wilsons’ neighbour Michaelis “found Wilson sick in his office...Michaelis advised him to go to bed, but Wilson refused, saying that he’d miss a lot of good business” (Fitzgerald 130). Wilson is showing how perseverant he is when he tries to work even though he is physically ill because he wants to make money for his wife. Secondly his wife, who he loves without restraint, is hit by a car and killed.

This sends him into delirium and Wilson goes crazy. He “learns” that it was Gatsby who was driving the car, and in his delirious state he kills Gatsby, then himself. The punishments of losing his wife, then himself, and then finding death are punishments that are far too severe for the type of person Wilson is. Even though Wilson is a hard worker and did everything honestly and through legal means he is still punished. Wilson was pure at heart, honest, loving, and hard working, and yet he is still punished severely in ways that no human should experience. Wilson is proof that justice and karma do not play a part in the conclusion, leading to an unfit ending to the story. This isn’t the only proof that the ending to The Great Gatsby lacks karma and justice, as many people who deserve to be punished are not.

Tom Buchanan is arguably the worst character in The Great Gatsby. He is selfish, morally corrupt, dishonest, and hypocritical. Even though Tom displays all these characteristics throughout the novel he is barely punished. Tom is a terrible person. He is morally atrocious, and does whatever he wants. He is childish and gets what he wants because he is rich, and can buy his way out of punishment. The knowledge that he will not be punished lets Tom do a variety of things that are wrong. He has an affair with the wife of an honest acquaintance and he abuses illegal substances, and he does all these things without the slightest hesitation. While Nick is talking to Tom “he felt suddenly as if [he] was talking to a child” (Fitzgerald, 170). Tom doesn’t understand why Nick is angry with him, he is angry because of all the things Tom has done, he becomes even angrier because Tom is barely punished.

Tom is a terrible person, who deserves severe punishment for the way he acts, and is, yet he doesn’t receive a punishment severe enough. Tom commits a variety of social crimes that go unpunished. The one punishment he does receive isn’t a valid punishment for his crimes, and also affects a good man, Wilson. Tom’s one punishment throughout the entire novel is that his lover, Myrtle, is killed as a result of recklessness and drunk driving. Tom is clearly saddened by this as he loved her. “The god damned coward! ... He didn’t even stop his car” (Fitzgerald, 135). In a few pages he seems perfectly fine with Daisy. He believes that Gatsby killed Myrtle even though it was truly Daisy. He was sad for a few moments but he recovers unreasonably fast for the punishment to be considered large enough for his actions.

Even though he has a punishment for his rotten morality, the punishment also punished Wilson much worse, who has no reason to be punished. Myrtles death affects Wilson much more than Tom, making him sick and throwing him into a delirious state. Even though Tom was punished, his punishment is far too lenient, and he deserves a punishment that is much more severe. What makes his punishment even less severe is the fact that it affects Wilson, a man who should not have been punished at all. The absence of karma and justice in the conclusion of the novel is clear because even though Tom is a childish, irresponsible, horrible adult, his punishment is of too little magnitude for karma to be at play. The absence of karma in society is evident. This is why people like cops and detectives have to take the roll of karma and enforce the law, because karma and justice is not natural and won’t occur by itself.

The conclusion to The Great Gatsby is unfitting because good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. Even though the conclusion portrays how society works, it is still unsavoury and unfair. Some characters in the novel face punishments that are much too severe, while others face almost no punishments at all, when even death may have been a valid consequence. The lack of karma and justice in the novel proves the lack of karma and justice in society. Those who work hard, are honest, and nice people may not get the recognition they deserve, while those who are lazy, corrupt, and evil may get recognition they don’t deserve.

This is evident throughout all the civilizations that humans have had, corrupt kings are seen as heroes, while the good citizens don’t get any recognition. William Shakespeare explores this ideology in his play Macbeth. Macbeth is a tyrant, who kills the king for his own personal gain. People see him as a hero. Banquo who is an honest man is killed by Macbeth, and people forget about him. Macbeth was written in 1606, proving that throughout all of history, justice and karma does not occur naturally and it is almost non-existent in societies. In The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald helps prove that what goes around, may not come back around.

Works Cited
Dugdale, David. "Delirium." PubMed Health. PubMed Health, 16 2012. Web. 16 Dec 2012. <>. Howe, Geoff. "Canada's wrongful convictions." CBC News Canada. CBC, 14 2010. Web. 15 Dec 2012. <>. . "Justice Quotes." BrainyQuote. Brainy Quote. Web. 16 Dec 2012. <>. . "Macbeth Background." Higher Bitesize. BBC. Web. 16 Dec 2012. <>. . "Quotes about Justice." GoodReads. N.p., 098 2012. Web. 16 Dec 2012. <>. . "Tertiary Characters." The Infosphere. The Infosphere, 21 2010. Web. 16 Dec 2012. <>. . " ZHI GANG SHA quotes." Search Quotes. Search Quotes. Web. 16 Dec 2012. <>.

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The Lack of Justice and Karma in The Great Gatsby. (2016, Sep 30). Retrieved from

The Lack of Justice and Karma in The Great Gatsby
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