By Aristotle’s definition, a tragic hero is a literary character who makes a judgment error that inevitably leads to his/her own destruction. In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, the main character, Prince Hamlet illustrates the tragedy of a young prince’s pursuit to obtain revenge for a corrupt act, the murder of his father. As the play unfolds, the reader finds Prince Hamlet struggling with internal conflict over who and what was behind his father’s death. Similarly enough to Aristotle’s definition is author Fitzgerald who once said Give me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy. which is exactly what he did in his novel The Great Gatsby. The main character, Gatsby, is depicted as the tragic hero of the story, displays the fundamental characteristics of the modern tragic hero. He was once, and in his heart still is, a common man, he contains the characteristics of a tragic flaw, and he eventually faces his tragic fall.
Gatsby at first glance not seeming to be the everyday man, actually is (AbP). In the novel during chapter five, Gatsby’s past is being closely examined, his parents are described as shiftless and unsuccessful farm people which shows the readers that he comes not from extreme riches and unbelievable wealth but from humble roots and born just like most everyone else (Fitzgerald 98). He isn’t born into wealth and privilege and doesn’t have any special background that gave him an advantage over others. When Gatsby is discussing with the narrator, Nick Carraway, about his past, he tells Nick he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent(Fitzgerald 98).
Portraying that the persona that Gatsby has created for himself is that of what any average, immature boy would want for himself. As the novel progresses further, Nick is found recounting Gatsby’s past and describing him as being a penniless young man which shows the reader once again that Gatsby is really just a common man with a big dream (Fitzgerald 149). This allows the reader to take away some of the disguises of wealth and overwhelming power from Gatsby’s image and brings him into a more human perspective.
Gatsby’s tragic flaw being that his view of the world is obstructed by his own naive idealism. It is very clear to the reader that Gatsby is very credulous of Daisy’s perfection. While Nick is over at Gatsby’s house, he reflects on Daisy’s and Gatsby’s relationship and sees that There have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams because of the colossal vitality of his illusion(Fitzgerald 95). Displaying that even Nick, his best friend and the one that sticks up for Gatsby the most, sees that Gatsby perceives Daisy to be ideal and perfect when she is far from it. Gatsby does not see things as they truly are and expects everything to play out exactly as they do in his own head. An example of this is when Nick is talking to Gatsby after a party and he tells Gatsby that he can’t repeat the past, and Gatsby completely disagrees, Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can! (Fitzgerald 110).
This delusion, that he can repeat the past and redo everything, blinds Gatsby as to what is going on right in front of him which only hurts him and continues to hurt him mentally. It seems as though he does not realize how absurd the idea of obtaining Daisy’s love is, it is basically impossible. Gatsby’s idealism also blinds him to how Daisy really acts and what her true personality really is. An example of this can be seen in the imagery within the book. Throughout the novel, white a color and used as imagery for pure and innocent, while yellow represents corruption. A daisy flower has white petals of which surround a yellow center.
This imagery relates because it shows how Gatsby perceives Daisy and all he sees is what’s on the outside thus he views her as Perfect. All he sees is a beautiful, loving woman who loves him back and he cannot see past his own idealistic view of the perfect Daisy to the shallow, corrupt, money-loving, gold-digging Daisy. Another example of Gatsby’s overwhelming idealism is his own self-perception. Gatsby thinks as long as he surrounds himself with riches and the wealth, that people will accept him for who he truly is and he can erase his former self; Gatsby the poor farm boy from a small town in minnesota. This shows how he is idealistic because no matter what a person does, the former self will always be there thus his past will always follow him. Later in the novel when Nick is reflecting on how Gatsby is coveting Daisy, Nick knows He wanted nothing less of Daisy (NSC) than that she should go to Tom and say: ‘?I never loved you.’ (Fitzgerald 109). This idea is not a realistic expectation due to the fact Daisy is already married and has a family of her own to take care of. All these are obstacles preventing Gatsby from obtaining hissort of utopia with Daisy, but he seems to be oblivious to these facts and is completely inconsiderate of those around him and what or who he will impact by taking Daisy away.
Although Gatsby’s physical fall begins towards the end of the novel (AdjSC), his spiritual fall arguably begins before the reader gets the chance to even meet him. In the middle of the novel, you hear about Gatsby’s past and how he was a poor average young man and the only way he wasn’t noticed as poor was because of the invisible cloak of his uniform, but he was honest and worked hard (Fitzgerald 149). As the novel progresses you hear about his relationship with Daisy and how it ended because he was not wealthy enough and because he had to go to war. He knew he needed to become wealthy in order to marry Daisy. To obtain this wealth Gatsby started to participate in dishonest and illegal deeds such as bootlegging. This shows a fall spiritually because he goes against his morals and values. Nearing the end of the novel, after Daisy kills Myrtle in a car accident, the reader learns that Gatsby takes the blame for Myrtle’s death.
Although this is a show of love for Daisy and he spoke as if Daisy’s reaction was the only thing that mattered, it is eventually what leads him to his physical downfall and death (Fitzgerald 141). Throughout the novel, you are shown images of Gatsby surrounded by all kinds of wealthy and high-class people, and it seems as though he has many friends, however, at Gatsby’s funeral at the very end of the novel when Gatsby is shot and killed, there is no one there except for a select few including old owl eyes, a few servants, Henry C. Gatz. Gatsby’s father and really his only friend, Nick Carraway (Fitzgerald 167). This image is used very well because it shows how the mighty has fallen. The one person everyone thought had it all, in reality, has nothing; no money, no love, and no friends.
Fitzgerald truly did give the reader a tragedy in his novel The Great Gatsby. Gatsby is a perfect example of a modern tragic hero because he has an eventual tragic fall Just like Hamlet did, he displays certain characteristic that shows that he has tragic flaw and if you look beyond his wealth, you will see that he is just common man with a big dream.
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