The Loss of Identity in the Great Gatsby

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In the novel The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald many themes and thoughts are expressed through subtlety and secrecy of characters and objects. With these underlying conceptions Fitzgerald is able to reveal Gatsby, the main character, as someone with a loss of identity which ultimately leads to his attempt to restore the past and failure to grasp the present before it’s overdue.

Gatsby masks his old identity through speculation and contemplation in hope to reinvent his status and rebuild his dignity.

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In the location of West Egg hearing the name Jay Gatsby creates the image of parties, controversies, and stories. He was known for his extravagant celebrations with dancers, acrobats, gypsies, etc. Hundreds of people circled in out gossiping about the history of their host. “Someone told me they thought he killed a man once,” (Fitzgerald 49). “It’s more that he was a German spy during the war,” (Fitzgerald 49). Later in the novel Gatsby expresses to Nick, a main character, that he gained his money from organized crime and illegal activity. He goes into further detail saying that he was a bootlegger and a gambler. Nick was the only character Gatsby convides in saying, “The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.” (Fitzgerald 98).

Gatsby’s past scarred him, which left him wanting change but unwilling to expose himself to do so. His heart was and always would be with a young lady named Daisy Buchanan. They met in 1917, in Louisville, while Gatsby was on war duty. He instantly fell in love with her beauty and glam. Her promise to Gatsby was to wait for him until he had money and a stable living condition, however, her need for attention caused her promise to come up short, with the announcement of her wedding with a different man.””Oh, you want too much!”” she cried to Gatsby. “”I love you now – isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past.”” She began to sob helplessly. “”I did love him once – but I loved you too.” (Fitzgerald 132) Gatsby’s indiscretion continues to withhold him from achieving his dream of Daisy and his insecurities stand in the way of the possibility of true love and true living.

Gatsby’s history has brought him to a desperate state which conclusively leads him to an obsession with the past and no time for the present. Devastation sets in Gatsby’s heart as Daisy gets further and further out of his reach. Through his efforts to gain love he ultimately loses himself and forgets to live his own life. Creating a facade of the lifestyle he craves for, Gatsby’s dream becomes less and less obtainable. Closing out the book he never loses hope for Daisy, however it leads to his demise as he gets a bullet in his back. Thinking his life will only be complete if Daisy is in it, he loses out on truly living.

This novel written by Fitzgerald exposes underlying themes such as, loss of identity, hope to restore the past, and failure to live in the present. Gatsby’s time eventually becomes overdue with his death and inability to be love.

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The Loss of Identity in The Great Gatsby. (2019, Aug 19). Retrieved from