Essay about Jay Gatsby: A Tragic Hero

Essay about Jay Gatsby: A Tragic Hero

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"Tragedy, then, is a process of imitating an action which has serious implications, is complete, and possesses magnitude; by means of language which has been made sensuously attractive, with each of its varieties found separately in the parts; enacted by the persons themselves and not presented through narrative; through a course of pity and fear completing the purification (catharsis) of such emotions." (Aristotle)


The “tragic hero” is an indefatigable staple in all mediums of literature. Although the term’s defining characteristics have morphed since its initial inception by Aristotle those many millennia ago, the main idea has endured. To be a tragic hero, several requirements must be met. The formula begins with a character that possesses noble and admirable qualities. Then come imperfections to make him appear human and believable, and finally the tragic hero is completed when he experiences an equally tragic downfall, that is both partially his fault and disproportionate to his crime (Aristotle). In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald successfully creates main character Jay Gatsby as such a figure. By molding his protagonist in the shadows of such a literary icon, Fitzgerald’s hopes of introducing the classic American novel to the public are realized. Through analysis of the novel, the claim that Jay Gatsby was created as a tragic hero is irrefutable.
Before the reader even considers a probe at the novel’s binding, Gatsby is firmly solidified in his or her mind as having some undefinable, indescribable aura of inherent goodness. By including “great” in the title, Fitzgerald forces a bias onto all who are exposed to the work. Regardless of if one catches a fleeting glance at the cover, or hears of the classic by a re...


... middle of paper ...


...at would be both influential and financially successful. By following such a quintessential formula, Fitzgerald knew he would emerge victorious. And with admirable qualities, sensible imperfections, and an unfortunate downfall, Gatsby epitomizes the tragic hero, and Fitzgerald sees success. Like all great figures of literature, Jay Gatsby teaches an important lesson for all of humanity. We must be practical and realistic in our actions and our lives, for when we waste our lives away chasing pretty lights that peak our interests, we too become tragic heroes, forever lost in the annals of history.

Work Cited

Aristotle. Poetics. Trans. S. H. Butcher. The Internet Classics Archive. Web Atomic and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 13 Sept. 2007.
‹http://classics.mit.edu/›.


Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2004.

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