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Conflict in The Great Gatsby

Identifying at eight examples of conflict in The Great Gatsby; displaying the three types of conflict with examples.

Megan Myburgh

on 11 September 2016

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Transcript of Conflict in The Great Gatsby

CONFLICT in The Great Gatsby
This type of conflict typically takes place between characters; usually the protagonist or one of the central characters against the antagonist.
Also, this is represented in most cases as the conflict between the ‘good’ guy and the ‘bad’ guy scenario.

Struggle between a literary character and an external force such as nature or society, which drives the dramatic action of the plot:
Definition: Portrayed within character who suffers from conflicting emotions or desires within themselves that is not shown outwardly through the use of actions.
1. Daisy vs Tom
2. Gatsby vs Daisy:
3. Tom vs Gatsby
4. Daisy vs Myrtle
The immoral actions of Tom Buchanan’s philandering manner around New York forces Daisy to feel externally conflicted about him and their marriage. His public affair with “some woman in New York” (pg. 11), namely Myrtle Wilson, completely bothers Daisy. Thus, her reasoning to have become “pretty cynical about everything” (pg.13) Although she has the ability to leave, she stays even when she gets the chance. Tom claims to have strong emotions towards Daisy; when Myrtle challenged him by calling out her name repeatedly, he punched her in the nose in Chapter 2. However, these claims are completely refuted due to his actions of infidelity.

“Tom’s got some woman in New York.” (pg. 11)
- A blatant statement is made to the narrator to inform the readers immediately that the Buchanan's marriage and life is far from perfect.

“He nodded sagely. “Once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself, but I always come back, and in my heart I love her all the time.” “You’re revolting,” said Daisy.” (pg.100)

Ever since 1917 when Gatsby met Daisy Fay in Louisville, he has formulated this envisioned future of perfection and extravagance with her. The problem is however, Jay Gatsby was born from a different social class and this would have prevented the Fay’s to accept his proposal to take Daisy as his wife. Thus, Gatsby strived towards this vision by accumulating wealth in order to replace his original background and status. However, his mysterious past still manages to prevent his love to please and capture the affections of the upper-class Daisy Buchanan.
"He wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: "I never loved you." After she had obliterated three years with that sentence they could decide upon the more practical measures to be taken…
"And she doesn't understand," he said. "She used to be able to understand. We'd sit for hours----" He broke off and began to walk up and down a desolate path of fruit rinds and discarded favors and crushed flowers." (Pg. 83-84)

The central conflict to the plot is the external conflict between Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby for Daisy’s love and affection. Gatsby is obsessed with Daisy and as a result he is revolted by Tom’s vile and arrogant behavior towards Daisy and their marriage. So, Gatsby is in the organized pursuit to ruin their marriage and steal Daisy from Tom. In chapter 7, Tom’s uneasy feeling about Gatsby is verbalized as is Gatsby’s aim to end Tom and Daisy’s marriage. Fitzgerald uses pathetic fallacy here to show the conflict, the weather that day was particularly hot. Even though it is short-lived, it is Tom’s aggressive feelings for Gatsby that compel Tom to tell Wilson where to find Gatsby, knowing that Wilson wants to kill Gatsby.
“She never loved you, do you hear?” he cried. “She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved any one except me!” (pg. 100)

“She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw … he knew a long time ago.” (pg 75)

1. Daisy vs society
2. Mr Wilson and wealth
1. Gatsby vs. his dreams
2. Nick vs. New York
3. Myrtle vs. Her circumstances
Daisy Buchanan demonstrates the unfair and misogynistic society that she is immersed in. Her world is ruled by wealth, reputation and status, and this has implications on every choice to be made on her future. Even though she loved Jay Gatsby, she reluctantly married the ‘brute’ Tom Buchanan because he met the standards of wealth, fame and high status set by her parents. Five years into their marriage with one daughter, Tom has no respect for her and their family. Instead, he escapades around town, openly having an affair with his mistress, Myrtle Wilson. She had the chance to run away with Gatsby, but this would obliterate her clean reputation, status and the future of her daughter.
"I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool -- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world , a beautiful little fool." (Pg. 13)
- Accepts society greatly unfair to women. Daisy believes daughter should be oblivious to the problems of the world and accept her fate.
- This quotation depicts the gender differences in the 1920s: demonstrating the careless, callous attitude to women as shown by Tom parading a mistress around when Daisy is clearly offended and hurt.
Wilson’s circumstances are rather unfortunate regarding his career success and his marriage. Due to his poorly located garage business between New York and Long Island in the ‘Valley of Ashes’, his business lacks business and so he is rather poor. Due to his lack of wealth, his wife discredits him for this and runs around town having an affair with rich Tom Buchanan. Although the affair is very public, no one in the area would considerately make Wilson aware of this. Circumstances worsen for him once his wife is killed days before they move away. His conflicts become internal when all Wilson desires is revenge on the man that killed his wife.

" The only building in sight was a small block of yellow brick sitting on the edge of the waste land... and contiguous to absolutely nothing...the third was a garage -- Repairs. GEORGE B. WILSON. Cars bought and sold... The interior was unprosperous and bare; the onl car visible was dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched in a dim corner." (Pg. 18)
It is shown throughout the development of the novel that Gatsby possesses this ongoing internal conflict about his wealth and status in present time in comparison to his mighty envisioned dream. Gatsby constantly is driven by this insecurity and obsession to be able to advance further in wealth and status. The purpose of this drive is to have the specific identity and status in order to marry Daisy Buchanan. Further problems arise when Gatsby finally wins her love, her and her company doesn’t live up to his unrealistic expectations and ideals of his envisioned dreams.

"Nobody's coming to tea. Its too late!” He looked at his watch as if there was some pressing demand on his time elsewhere. “I can’t wait all day.” (Pg. 64)

"There must have been moments when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams - Not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion." (Pg. 101)
It becomes progressively clear from the epilogue of the novel that Nick Carraway has a problem with the wealthy residents of Long Island and finds them unbearable. He perceives the attitudes people like Daisy and Tom to be extremely careless and only focus on themselves; they are able to escape from their problems due to their abundant wealth. Their insensitivity and thoughtlessness was a key factor that drove Nick away from the East.
While he hates everything Gatsby represents, he also says: "They're a rotten crowd," I shouted across the lawn. “You're worth the whole damn bunch put together!" (Pg. 118)

"It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people. Tom and Daisy -- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into theur money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made..." (Pg. 139)
Myrtle is consistently conflicted with her own circumstances regarding her choice of husband and her current societal class. From the moment she discovered that he borrowed the suit she was so impressed by, Myrtle's life was in turmoil in nearly every way. In order to convince herself of her higher authority than the one she married into; she acts, dresses and talks with superiority over others. She even convinced Tom Buchanan that she’s is worth spending time and money on.

"I told that boy about the ice." Myrtle raised her eyebrows in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders. "These people! You have to keep after them all the time." (pg. 23)

"I married him because I thought he was a gentleman," she said finally. "I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn't fit to lick my shoe" (pg. 26)
This quotation demonstrates the detrimental state of Wilson's garage and his business. Fitzgerald effectively summarises and describes the run-down and mundane life the Wilson's have to bear with, on a minimal income and empty marriage.
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