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Jean Giraudoux

The title character of the novel is young, approximately thirty years of age, and came from a rural North Dakota childhood that was deeply impoverished. He has become wealthy to a point beyond the wildest dreams of most people. Despite his status in society, the goal of becoming wealthy was achieved by engaging in illegal activities. He bootlegged alcohol during the prohibition years, and was also involved in the trading of stolen securities. He despised being poor, and wanted wealth from his earliest memories. He longed for money, status, sophistication, and luxury. He went to college, originally, but was using a janitorial job in order to pay his tuition. He hated the job so much that he could not bear it, and he dropped out of college after only attending for two weeks. Wanting to be rich was something to which he had always aspired, but one of the central reasons for his acquisition of wealth was to win the love of Daisy Buchanan. When he was in the military in Louisville he fell in love with her, and then he left to fight in WWI.

When Gatsby first met Daisy, he started lying to her about his background. He did that to show that he was good enough, because she was so full of charm and grace. It was obvious she was used to luxury. Originally, Daisy promised that she would wait for him when he went off to war. Unfortunately, she changed her mind and married Tom Buchanan. That occurred in 1919, and Gatsby was studying at Oxford during that time. He was trying to get a good education to help back up the claims he had made about his past. From the moment Gatsby found out Daisy had married someone else, he dedicated his entire life to winning her back. By acquiring millions of dollars and purchasing a big, gaudy mansion on West Egg, he is desperately trying to get Daisy's attention. It is one of the main reasons why Gatsby throws wild, lavish parties every Saturday night.

Most of the information about Gatsby's past is delayed until a later point in the story. The reputation Gatsby has precedes him, and he does not even have a word to say in the book in the first two chapters. Initially, Gatsby is represented as being aloof, and the parties he throws are emphasized. Beautiful women and powerful men both want access to him, and the luxury with which he surrounds himself is nearly unparalleled. Those who gossip in New York – and there are many of them – have turned him into a celebrity of sorts, even before the reader gets to know him. Mystery is the name of the game for Fitzgerald, who keeps Gatsby's past under wraps for a long period of time. Chapter six provides information about Gatsby's childhood, and chapter seven addresses proof of his past criminal acts. This adjusts the first impressions that the reader had of Gatsby, and the man who emerges and is understood by the end of the novel does not feel like the same man in the first few chapters.

The technique of delaying the character revelation is used by Fitzgerald to emphasize how theatrical Gatsby is in the way he approaches life. Because this is a significant part of his personality, it must be addressed at some point in the novel. Gatsby has created his own character, and gone so far as to actually change his name so he could "be" someone else. He is playing a role, essentially, in his own life. Because he is so good at making his dreams become real, he is seen by the reader in a specific way – just the way in which he wanted to be seen – at the beginning of the story. The self-invention Gatsby is able to utilize is what makes him "great." It suggests that Gatsby is a master of illusion, and that he has created for himself a role that he will be playing throughout his life. If it were not for his deep desire to get the attention of Daisy once again, he may not have gone to such great lengths to create his life in a specific way or surround himself with opulence. It is indicative of Gatsby's rather tenuous hold on what is real and what is not.

During the progression of the novel, Fitzgerald reveals more of Gatsby's inner conflict, and how he is really just a young man who is hopeful and who is staking everything he is and will be on his dreams. He does not realize that these dreams are not worthy of what he is capable of doing with his life, and he should be dreaming for so much more. Daisy is idealized and perfect in his mind, but she cannot possibly attain that level of perfection in real life. He does not see her imperfections, though. He sees only what he has made Daisy out to be, not what she really is. His passion for her has blinded him to the truth. As his dream of her falls apart, Fitzgerald is showing the reader that the American dream is also falling apart due to the pursuit of wealth above all else. Gatsby is often compared to Nick, as the two characters appear to be sides of Fitzgerald's actual personality.

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