The Great Gatsby: To what extent does Fitzgerald present Gatsby as a Shakespearean Tragic hero?


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 CatastropheAn 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.


Connections between Science Fiction and ‘Frankenstein’


Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus, the Gothic novel written by Mary Shelley, has been considered ahead of its time since it was first published in 1818. The novel contains many concepts that were rarely considered before both in literature and in general. The idea of using hypothetical scientific advances and making it a focal point of a novel was unheard of before Shelley, thus a new brand of Fiction was conceived, Science Fiction.

People will argue that the general ideology of Science Fiction has vastly improved since Frankenstein, and when compared to more modern, now deemed classic, examples of science fiction, such as Alien(1979), The Matrix(1999) and 2001: A Space Odyssey(1968), it’s easy to understand why people may think this; as in all examples mentioned, the idea/concepts behind the hypothetical scientific advances are incredibly, and arguably, more detailed than Frankenstein, and they are presented on a much larger scale when compared to Frankenstein. However, all examples share the same basic principles to a Novel born more than 100 years before them: a life threatening entity/event is presented to the population/characters in the story, in which they must find the solution/kill the treat, also, while the concepts can all be deemed bizarre/abnormal/awesome, all somehow escape the realm of implausibility – which, in my opinion, is the most important and fundamental aspect of science fiction, the idea that ‘this might happen’ or the ‘what-if’ factor really makes Science Fiction, well, ‘Science Fiction’.

The definition of the word ‘Science’ states it as: “a systematically organised body of knowledge on a particular subject”, (i.e the universe) while ‘Fiction’: “something that is invented or untrue.” When the words are together, the result is a combination of what we know and what we don’t know, “I know that as a race, our knowledge about the universe we live in is vast and always expanding(i.e scientific advances), so what if we were faced with something unheard of because of this?” Questioning where advances in Science could/could’ve lead us, and what the reciprocations of this would be, or in the case of Frankenstein, “What if it were possible to unnaturally create a living creature with nothing but corpses(due to scientific advances), and how would the world react?” asking the question, and also giving the answer.

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