In the novel The Great Gatsby, I believe that Fitzgerald borrows various elements and techniques used in Shakespearean Tragedy, and I believe that famous Shakespearean characters such as Macbeth and Hamlet share many attributes to the character Jay Gatsby in this novel. To understand this approach/interpretation we must understand the basic characteristics of a Tragedy.
There are several stages/characteristics that define a tragic hero, these are as followed:
Being “Universal” and the Fatal Flaw(Hubris): Where the writer shows the main character as person with position, wealth and typically authority, but also has one deep flaw. In relation to Gatsby, although he is not noble in the sense of being of aristocratic origin nor morally pure, it is undeniable that he has wealth and it could be argued that he occupies the same ‘great’ position as a tragic hero, rising to the pinnacle of success and then falling from that position by the end of the novel. His deep flaw from a psychoanalytical interpretation would be his desire, either to be a successful man, which would include money, the lifestyle and of course the beautiful, classy wife, or the desire of just being with Daisy, the motive for him making the money in the first place. The latter draws more parallels to Macbeth, both fatal flaws being blinded by ambition/pride and both characters being enticed by a woman (indirectly and directly).
Complication/Conflict: In medieval tragedy this refers to the wheel of fate being operated by Dame Fortune. In the novel I believe this refers to the fact that Gatsby and Daisy are born into different families/classes, and re-enforces the idea that the novel is Fitzgerald’s attempt to display the fallacy of the American Dream/American Constitution which states that all men are born equal. This, as we know, is not true, as different people are born into different situations, and it is accepted now that we are not the ones who decide what family we are born into, it being fate (people in medieval times would believe it to be Dame Fortune’s decision), which relates to Gatsby as he was born into a ‘working-class’ family and made his money by working and had to learn how to be ‘proper’/classy, while Daisy and Tom were born into ‘old money’ meaning that they inherited their wealth and class. Gatsby doesn’t realise that you can make money, but you can’t make class, you are born with it, which is why Daisy would never leave Tom for him.
Reversal/Crisis and Catastrophe: An ironic reversal that occurs when a hero’s actions cause the opposite of what was intended. I believe this relates to when Gatsby tries to convince Daisy that she never loved Tom, in the city. The outcome of this situation can only be the direct opposite of what Gatsby would have wanted and spirals out of control far beyond what was expected, after his “tell him you never loved him” a conflict between himself and Tom ensues, which ultimately leads to Gatsby and Daisy driving home and on the way accidentally killing Myrtle, some irony being that Daisy actually is the one who kills Myrtle, however she isn’t aware the person she has run down is having an affair with her husband, Tom and also irony in Tom telling Wilson that it was Gatsby when it was, in fact, his wife. This leads to the Catastrophe: when the characters try to deal with the reversal. Gatsby then tries to protect Daisy “no one must know it was her” and him and Daisy both agree to leave West Egg but upon relaxing in the pool the morn of the day they intended to ‘escape’ he is gunned down by Wilson, who is under the impression it was Gatsby who was having an affair with his wife and was the one who killed her.
Recognition/Catharsis: This ends the tragedy, the intention is to send the audience a message as the remaining characters review the tragic hero’s fall from grace. In the novel it is Nick who reviews Gatsby’s story, and is the only one at his funeral, Daisy being absent. I think this is where Nick (therefore the audience) realises that Gatsby was never going to be able to win Daisy from Tom. I believe Fitzgerald does this to show that the classes will stick together and that America has become almost a parody of European Aristocracy.