The human brain is capable of doing many things, even the unimaginable. Ones actions may seem irrational to others, but that persons motives is the drive that initiates the action. The psychological critical theory is a perspective in biology that looks into someones mind and thoughts to better understand the forces that drive their motivation. In the novel, The Great Gatsby, author F. Scott Fitzgerald utilizes the characters Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, and Nick Carraway to portray why their motivations occur.
Jay Gatsby is motivated by his desire to relive the past. Every decision he makes is to impress the girl of his dream and the girl he first fell in love with. Gatsby is a young man in his thirties who grew up living impoverished. He met and fell in love with the women of his dream as a military officer. Her name was Daisy. He was drawn toward her luxurious lifestyle and he wanted to live a life of extravagance with Daisy forever. However, Gatsby was not wealthy enough to be with the girl of his dreams, so he had to convince Daisy of his worth. Jay left to fight in the war, and Daisy was waiting for him to get back. He knew that he could not satisfy Daisy with the money he had, and needed to gain an education and get rich so that he could impress Daisy. While waiting for Jay, Daisy got impatient and married Tom, a man who has inherited all of his wealth and impressed Daisy.
Gatsby is inspired to do whatever it takes to win the love of his life back. Gatsby’s devotion to secure Daisy’s love again cannot be accomplished without him becoming rich, so he works to get the money needed to win back Daisy. Gatsby achieved this goal through crime such as distributing alcohol illegally. When Tom says that he, “found out” about Gatsby’s, “‘drug-stores’” Gatsby admitted to his mischief and responded “What about it?” (Fitzgerald 110). This portrays the idea that Gatsby was willing to do whatever it takes to get the love of his life back.
Gatsby’s five year success in fortune would be thrown to waste if he couldn’t grab the attention of Daisy. Jay “bought” a colossal mansion in West Egg “so that Daisy would be across the bay” (Fitzgerald 72). He also threw extravagant parties every weekend where uninvited guests were allowed to show up hoping that one day Daisy would show up in his mansion, to knowing that it is his and they could relive their past.
Gatsby and Tom’s feud over the dream girl Daisy disrupts the dream that Jay desires and causes him to lose sight of his dream. Gatsby ends up pressuring Daisy into falling back in love with him, but Daisy is content with Tom and will only play games with gatsby to get what she wants. His unwillingness to let go of the past ultimately gets him killed because he fails to understand that Daisy will not leave Tom because of the comfort that Tom has provided during the five years that Jay and Daisy have been apart.
Fitzgerald demonstrates the traumatic losses of a self-made man through Gatsby. He uses Gatsby’s trauma and psychological loss after losing Daisy as the reason to his motives which is the reason why he fails to leave the illusive world of living in the past. After leaving Daisy to go fight in war, Jay was psychologically damaged as he lost the only thing that mattered to him. It is that “Gatsby encountered his first trauma when he could not keep Daisy in his life” (Bui 43). This caused him to escape from reality and enter a world or a mindset where he was still with Daisy, but this was all an illusion to reality. Five years went on and Gatsby continued to fall in a deeper hole of a fantasy life, thus making it harder to move on and consequently be the cause of his death.
Nick Carraway is motivated by money and success. Nick originally lived in the Midwest and had a guaranteed job in the family business.
However, Nick moves to New York hoping to start a new life filled with money and extravagance. He buys a cottage in West egg and gets a job in bonds. Once in New York, Nick notices that he enjoys the city and the people’s lifestyle around him. He gets a taste of the luxury that Gatsby has and is eager to start his new life. Nick notes that “There was so much to read, for one thing, and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities” (Fitzgerald 23). Nick wants to be like gatsby and learn the ways of his lifestyle, so he joins Gatsby at Gatsby’s weekend parties and is invited to spend time with Jay for lunch many times. However, after being exposed to many of Gatsby’s jobs with Wolfshiem and his drug store business, Nick hesitates on going through with his dream. He also helped cause a battle over a girl between Gatsby and Tom.
When Gatsby dies, Nick is aware that no one really cared about Gatsby and no one attended his funeral. This makes Nick question his whole dream and later realize that his original motivation was an illusion to reality and was quite damaging to the mind of oneself. Nick is able to go back on his dream because he is a calm, level headed man who sets goals for himself and knows when to give up on his dream. After getting tied up in the Gatsby versus Tom drama over Daisy, Nick struggles to escape from it all. While trying to fight and work for his own fortune, Nick finds himself looking after others rather than himself. He gets caught up in the extravagant lifestyle of Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom and puts his future success behind him at times. He is trustworthy, but almost too trustworthy as he keeps a lot of personal secrets to himself, such as Tom and Myrtle’s affair, Gatsby and Daisy’s attempt at love again, and also Gatsby’s ways of making money. This allows Nick to stand out and stay as an outsider to the world around him.
Nick is able to avoid destruction in his motives and mindset because he “does not recognize the world of trauma and loss that Gatsby has encountered in losing his ideal love” (Bui 43). Nick also had the opportunity to reflect and evaluate Jays experiences after being “traumatized by the life of Gatsby” (Bui 43). This allowed him to learn from Jays past and prevent him from falling into a psychological mess.
Tom’s goal is to maintain his power through his riches by being a racist, a sexist and also abusive. Tom is a large man with a cruel body and voice. His power and strength comes from being a college athlete. Tom’s appearance resembles his actions. His strength and hardship gives him the ability to be both aggressive and threatening. There are many instances where Tom feels as if he is losing his authority over someone so he reacts in away that will keep him in power. For examples, when Myrtle repeats the name “Daisy”, Tom feels as if he is loosing his control over her and by “Making a short deft movement,” he “broke her nose with his open hand” (Fitzgerald 44).
Tom gets himself into trouble with Daisy and almost loses her to Gatsby because of his need to have power. He treats Daisy as an object sometimes and leaves her for Myrtle but, he “always” goes “back” (Fitzgerald 108). Tom is fortunate that he kept Daisy comfortable for the five years that they were together before Jay comes back for her. Otherwise he would have lost his power and authority in the relationship and Daisy would feel comfortable in leaving him.
Tom avoids traumatic losses by keeping the love of his life Daisy with him and not with Gatsby. Tom could have easily spiraled down into a dark place if he lost both Myrtle and Daisy. After losing Myrtle, moving away from New York was the best thing for him as he was able to move on without negative effects to his traumatic loss. Tom will stay in power and have authority over people if he has both money and Daisy, and through the novel, he manages to keep both even after a rough patch with Daisy.
Francis Scott Fitzgerald utilizes Gatsby’s motive to repeat the past, Tom’s need of having authority and power, and Nicks will to do whatever it takes to be successful to illustrate how people use their motivations to work for and eventually meet the expectations of their own American Dream. Many people have a drive or a motive in their brain that makes them react the way that they do. The psychological critical theory also helps explain the intentions of others.
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