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The Great Gatsby - Did He Achieve or Succeed?

Updated on February 25, 2011

The Great Gatsby

Did Jay Gatsby Achieve or Succeed?

According to the actress Helen Hayes, "achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is in you. Success is being praised by others, and that's nice, too, but not as important or satisfying." Success may be treated equally good if not better than achievement, but to the person achieving or succeeding, the one who achieves rather than gains success through easier means, is ultimately more well off. Jay Gatsby, the character in focus in The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a wealthy man who owns a breathtaking mansion on the West Egg of Long Island. His past seems dark and mysterious because no one really knows how he made his fortune, or what he did to become so successful in his life. Throughout the book though, we see Nick Caraway, the narrator, question Gatsby on how he became so rich, and one can speculate to the truth of the answers he gives. He always seems quick to give an answer, and it often seems like a rehearsed lie. Gatsby would be an example of new money, because he was not born into a wealthy family, but somehow built the fortune himself. The means he used to get to this point were quite shady indicating he may not have studied, and worked hard to gain achievements, but may have swindled people and embezzled money to gain reach this position.

I think it is safe to assume that Jay Gatsby was a small town boy with big dreams. In chapter 6 we see that "His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people - his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all." He was a person with drive to achieve whatever he desired. We see bits and pieces of his past scattered throughout the book through the eyes of Nick Caraway, the narrator. Jay seems to be a lonely man, who is constantly throwing parties at his house for company. Nick explains that  he "was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited - they went there." Rumors were flung around like monkey poop in a zoo, at Gatsby's house. One person suggests "He's a bootlegger....One time he killed a man who found out that he was nephew to Von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil." These accusations may have been quite wild, but there is always some bit of truth to every rumor. In Chapter 5 we are introduced to the small nosed Meyer Wolfshiem. It is rumored that he had been the one to fix the 1919 World Series. Wolfshiem is Gatsby’s link to organized crime.

By the end of the book the motives for Gatsby to become wealthy and build a big mansion, and make a name for himself, are revealed. His whole plan and dream, was to win his love, Daisy, even though she was married to Tom Buchanan. When Gatsby wanted something, he tried his best without hesitation, to get what he desired. And we realize that Gatsby really isn't a changing or developing character throughout the story (even though people perceive him differently though the novel) but is one that has one passion, and one goal, to win over Daisy Buchanan for himself. Everything that Gatsby ever did was for Daisy. One could even say he had an obsession for her.

Gatsby's perseverance in the end did not pay off for him, and in the end his money didn't get him what he wanted. The woman he was trying to be with was extremely reckless, carefree, and led him on to thinking there might be a relationship in the future. Gatsby seemed to be ignorant to this, and was blinded by love, which eventually got him killed in a roundabout way. It is also quite shameful to see hardly anyone at his funeral, indicating that people are greedy, self-serving, and mooch off of others, then show no thanks or respect back. The way that Gatsby got to where he was may not have been the most careful and chartered course, but gained him a fortune nonetheless. His path is tainted for sure, indicating success (the act of accomplishing or finishing), not achievement (Something accomplished successfully, especially by means of exertion, skill, practice, or perseverance).


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      Lola 4 years ago

      this is great!