Illusion in The Great Gatsby


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      James Baldwin looked upon reality and illusion through the eyes of

a great author. He saw that all authors live in reality, while everyone

else lives in a sense of illusion, or not knowing the whole truth.  He

shows us that the author must question everything, breaking down the

illusions that are set up by people and by our society.  Baldwin shows that

normal people don't question everything, and therefore are fooled by

illusions may times. In The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald suggests many things

about illusion and reality.  I think that the strongest thing Fitzgerald

suggests is that you create your own illusion, and with this illusion, you

shape the person that you are.  All of the rich people in this book have

some sort of illusion surrounding their persona, but Gatsby has the

greatest of all illusions surrounding him.

 

      Gatsby is presented as living the charmed life, with plenty of

friends, no problems, and an honest man.  In the end his whole illusion

unravels and we find that he has plenty of problems, is very crooked and

dishonest, and has no true friends.  He longs for companionship with Daisy,

and still can never have that.  Gatsby's illusion surrounding him is

totally shattered in this book, partly through the actions of Tom who feels

that he must discredit his name.  Tom, however discredits name to draw

Daisy away from him when he finds that Gatsby has become interested in

Daisy.  When Tom confronts Gatsby, and begins to crumble his illusion,

Gatsby is as cool and confident as he always is.

 

      Tom's voice, incredulous and insulting: I told you I went there

[Oxford]," said Gatsby.

 

      "I heard you, but I would like to know when."

      "It was in nineteen-nineteen.  I only stayed for five months."

      Tom glanced around to see if we mirrored his unbelief. (136)

 

This passage shows that even Gatsby has bought into the illusion that he

has created for himself.  It is as if he has thought out the answer for

every question about his past, so that he can come off as being

distinguished and honest.

 

      It would be hard to read The Great Gatsby without analyzing if the

narrator, Nick Carroway falls into the illusion of Gatsby.

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  With little

hesitation I would say that Nick does fall into the illusion set up.  From

the first few chapters of the book we see how everyone swoons over Gatsby,

and is in utter disbelief that Nick does not know the great and all

powerful Gatsby.  Nick reacts to what everyone tells him about Gatsby in a

calm way, as the objective narrator that he is.  "Well, they say he's a

nephew or a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm's.  That's where all his money comes

from... I'm scared of him.  I'd hate to have to get anything on me."(37)

At this point, Nick has seen Gatsby for a total of about 10 seconds, has

never spoken to him, or even really seen him.  Because of Gatsby's illusion,

people must make up wild stories and guess about his past.  Catherine

(Myrtle's Sister) has drawn these conclusions about Gatsby, which I feel is

just what He would of wanted; total mystery and illusion about his past.

He wants to keep his past a secret, and set everyone up to see that he is

living a great life, everyone adores him, and has no problems.  This is all

well and fine until his illusion crumbles and in turn brings the demise of

Daisy and Toms relationship, and his death.  Because Gatsby set up this

fallacy, Myrtle was killed, Wilson was killed, Gatsby was killed, and

Myrtle's and Toms relationship was killed.

 

      The reality of the whole Gatsby situation, is that he is a crooked

business man, a no good person, a cheat and a lier.  Gatsby made his money

in underhanded schemes, illegal activities, and the hurting of many people.

This was all done for one reason, The love of his life, who could not

accept him because he was not rich enough.

 

      Fitzgerald definitely does not condemn illusion, in fact, without

the illusion that he creates around Gatsby, this book would not be half the

book it is.  Fitzgerald is trying to tell us through this book that we

should not fall for the mirage that people want us to believe in.  I

definitely feel that Fitzgerald looks down upon illusions, as if he wants

people to stop pretending what they are not and what they will never be.

The author definitely feels that there is a place in our lives for illusion.

 Illusion brings us out of the harsh, dry, despair that we live in on a

daily basis.  Being a hard-nosed realist may be okay for some people, but

in my life I need a little mystery, illusion, and having things being more

than meets the eye.  The Illusions main purpose is to add vitality to the

monotonous way of life we live in.

 

      In my opinion, fantasies are totally different than illusions.

Fantasies are something that you like to see, while illusions are things

that fool you that you usually do not like. The whole persona of Gatsby

was an illusion, which may have looked like he was living the fantasy life,

but when his whole illusion crumbled, it was obvious that everyone did not

like to be fooled by him.  Daisy has the fantasy that her marriage is doing

all right, although she obviously knows that it is falling apart.  Daisy

creates this fantasy because she wants to believe it.  When Tom's mistress

calls him, Daisy goes out into the yard and gives a lame speech about "a

bird on the lawn that... must be a nightingale come over on the Canard or

White Star Line... It's romantic, isn't it, Tom?"(20)  Her fantasy makes it

possible for her to ignore the obvious signs that her marriage is falling

apart, and because she believes in this and created this, it is a fantasy.

 

      Illusion serves a great purpose in this novel, although this is

good or bad, it is hard to decide.  Definitely the illusions are looked

down upon Gatsby, but they help present the hubbub and wonder about Gatsby.

The illusions are nothing more than mirages, they make you have a false

sense of sufficiency, which can be a very bad thing when the bottom of your

illusion drops out on you, and you are left with nothing but lies.

 

 


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