It is clear that Gatsby is ambitious and driven in his determination to win the love of his life. This can be confused with his perception of him being a hero. He lacks many qualities of a conventional hero, and the qualities he does obtain are questionable. Gatsby is primarily driven by his own will to succeed which seems selfish. His true personality is not evident, even his possessions are imitations. If his personality does not appear as true and just, he can barely be called a hero. The fact that he is only motivated by his selfishness, is evident in his relationships with certain characters.
Gatsby’s relationship with Nick seems pleasant at first, but Gatsby’s motives for this relationship can be questioned. The friendship could be forced, using Nick as a bridge to Daisy. As Nick and Daisy are related, Gatsby was the first one to approach the other. The friendship seems manipulated and controlled while Gatsby almost buys Nick’s loyalty by offering him a job. Nick himself acknowledges Gatsby’s “romantic readiness”, but not his heroism. Nick likes Gatsby for he is wildly optimistic and hopeful.
But these are personality traits that does not prove Gatsby a hero. His crime-based relationship with Meyer Wolfsheim further extends the fact that he is not a typical hero. He pursues a life in crime in order to achieve an ambition; another man’s wife. His relationship with Tom Buchanan highlights his immoral and illegal doings. Tom clearly dislikes Gatsby and he makes this clear by calling him a “bootlegger”. Gatsby is also immoral for attempting to destroy a marriage with a child involved. His actual relationship with and pursual of Daisy does not seem heroic.
In fact, Gatsby can be seen as a little desperate, when Daisy is given the choice of Tom or Gatsby the decision is difficult for her. When Gatsby finally gets the chance to meet the love of his life he acts cowardly; “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”. This doesn’t appear to be an act of a hero. Gatsby’s intentions can be questioned, as it is hard to see the true man behind the parties and money. His artificiality is even symbolised by his replica house, and silk shirts.
His house is only covered in new ivy, a plant that signifies age. The ivy was planted to make the house appear old. Compared to Tom Buchanan’s house (“a Georgian Colonial mansion”), it was just a replica bought with “new money”. His name has also been adjusted from Gatz to Gatsby in order to fit in socially, denying his heritage completely. The reader does question the real Gatsby, and the guests and his parties enhance this with the rumours they have heard. There is a lot of hearsay about his past, and this acknowledges and elevates the reader’s suspicions of him.
The guests at his parties put forward ideas of murder and life of crime. He is never truly accepted in society as a man and especially not as a hero. He desires to be like Tom; a white anglo-saxon protestant. But the fact is that the “new money” he has earned, cannot buy him love. He can be seen as an outlaw rather than a hero, because he lives on his own selfish needs by choosing his own path to get what he wants. Gatsby’s origins were unravelled to reveal a different character; “His parents were shiftless and successful farm people-his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all.
So he is denying his true background, “So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end”. He claims he went to Oxford University, but the reader eventually learns that he wasn’t a proper graduate. Gatsby was not satisfied with just being a soldier and so admired material things to achieve Daisy. He wasn’t satisfied with being in lower-class so aims to be part of something he can never be; the elite “WASPs” of the East. He tries to fit in with the white anglo-saxon and protestant crowd.
He only imitates them and by birth right is not allowed to be there. He is excluded socially. While Gatsby imitates and projects an image of who he wants to be, it reveals that he doesn’t want to show his real personality and that he is insecure. The characteristics that he does display are not those of a true of a hero. He is not a survivor or brave, but does provide inspiration because of his drive to get what he wants. What we do see of Gatsby, is that he is unrealistic; “Gatsby gazed at a single green light, minute and faraway that might have been the end of a dock”.
He is involved in the negative part of the economic boom. Can be associated with greed, corruption, bootlegging and rising divorce rates. He is not part of The Great American Tradition but rather a tragic victim of the American dream. He is admired by Nick in particular, but more for being charismatic and romantic. His death is tragic and his ambitions are flawed. He meets his fate with nobility but not so much with courage. He is “Great” in his ambitions and lifestyle but this must not be confused with him being a hero.