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To What Extent is Gatsby a Tragic Hero?

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Daniel McGivern

on 22 May 2014

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Transcript of To What Extent is Gatsby a Tragic Hero?

What Constitutes a Tragic Hero?
To What Extent is Jay Gatsby
a Tragic Hero?

By :
Daniel McGivern
The Great Gatsby
Written by F Scott Fitzgerald and published in 1925,
The Great Gatsby
is considered to be his greatest work
Backround Information:
"One thing's sure and nothing's surer/ The rich get richer and the poor get - children."
P.95 Ch.5
The book takes the perspective of Nick Carraway, an honest and tolerant man, who ends up befriending his next door neighbor, the mysterious Jay Gatsby. The story is told from the eyes of Nick; who's thoughts and perception shape the story.
Written before the Great Depression, this book takes place in an age of prosperity and material excess (Jazz age/ Roaring 20's), where ambitious buisnessmen made fortunes, and the poor were poorer than ever.
"A man cannot become a hero until he can see the root of his downfall"
- Aristotle

Noble Birth:
Character of noble stature
High status
Embodies nobility
Has Potential for greatness
Tragic Flaw- Character not perfect
Involves Hubris- Excessive pride
Cause of eventual downfall
There downfall- usually due to Hamaritia
Brought on by themselves
Reversal of fortune
Moment of realization
Increase of awareness
Gain of self knowledge
Catharsis & Pity:
Hero's fate is not fully deserved
Evokes pity for the Hero
Lessons are learned
So how is
Jay Gatsby a
Tragic Hero?
Noble Birth:
Early on, Gatsby viewed as a man of mystery- Throwing lavish parties every weekend
Viewed as someone to look up to- a symbol of the ideal outcome of the American Dream
Gatsby wasn't always rich- Born Jimmy Gatz, going from Rags to riches becoming the great Jay Gatsby
Self made man- Completely reinvents himself to become successful
"The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. 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."
Corruption of the American Dream:
His wealth gained by bootlegging and other illegal activities
Corrupt work ethic
Tragic flaw: Futile pursit of Daisy
In love with the idea of her rather than Daisy herself
All his wealth and success to impress her
Leads Jay to become increasingly materialistic
Promotes his childlike fantasy
"Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can" (116).
"but now he found that he had committed himself to the following of a grail."
Gatsby's obsession becomes something of a grail to him
He realizes that Daisy is "unattainable"
Like Tom, she will never change no matter what
Gatsby is finally reunited with Daisy
"There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams - not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything."
Daisy doesn't live up to his dreams, but he still clings on
"'I did love him once, but i loved you too..' Gatsby's eyes opened and closed. 'You loved me too..?' he repeated."
In an emotional struggle, Gatsby fails to see how Daisy can love 2 people at once
At this exact point in the text Gatsby has it all - money, power, Daisy - but from this point he also starts to tragically lose everything?
Sacrifices himself for Daisy- Love still one sided
"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made..."
Nick finally see's the Buchanans for who they are.
Catharsis & Pity:
"They're a rotten crowd....Youre worth the whole damn bunch of them put together"
Nick- the narrator of the story represents the audience and Catharsis
Although he stood for everything Nick stood against, he pity's gatsby as his intentions were always good
"Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men"
Gatsby's fate unfair- Victim of moral indecency of others
Gatsby is a Tragic Hero:
Embodies all the characteristics of a tragic hero:
Noble Birth: A rags to riches, self made man.

Hamartia: The Futile pursiut of Daisy, which encourages him to become corrupted by wealth

Peripetia: Going to great means, he achieves his goals, but they don't live up to his expectations. His refusal to accept reality is what leads him to his tragic fate.

Epiphany: He realizes she is "unattainable." Both Nick and Jay see that the Buchanans thrive on the misfortunes of others
Catharsis & Pity: Gatsby's fate is unfair- Nick pitys Gatsby as he is the victim of moral decay of others.
Full transcript