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Desire in The Great Gatsby

Francis Scott Fitzgerald is unarguably one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.
Although he was not internationally renowned until the World War I, he was among the
celebrities of his timeframe. He wrote about the mythical Great American Dream and the
American character. Major influences on his work were the love of his life, Zelda Fitzgerald,
the variety of life in 1920s or popularly known the Jazz Age and his unique ability to
connect with the world around him and at the same time the ability to extract the very essence
of his talent and combine everything into a work of art.
His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterflys

(Hemingway, A Moveable Feast)

His work influenced the whole new generation of writers such as T. S. Eliot, J. D.
Salinger, John Keats, Jack Kerouac, more recent Haruki Murakami etcetera. The Great
Gatsby or popularly known as the Great American Novel unquestionably belongs to the top
cream of the American literature. It is the very best of Fitzgeralds work, and according to the
numbers published in USA Today it has been translated into every major language and is a
part of almost every curriculum throughout the globe. As a masterpiece that it is, it has
inspired numerous generations, it is timeless and eternal. It is a story about an everlasting
search and need for reinventing oneself. It is a tale about chasing the dream, sticking to the
past, about dreamers and realists, cynics and positivists. It gives us an insight about the rich,
their extravagant lifestyle and the different rules they abide by.
The wheel that sets everything in motion is one sole emotion, desire. The desire in
The Great Gatsby may be interpreted in various ways. A single definition of the term cannot
be given as it is a puzzle combined of small pieces that Fitzgerald so carefully put together

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that one interpretation of it would be entirely wrong. Similarities between everymans

ordinary world and Gatsbys world will be drawn and the two will be compared in order to
see how even almost one hundred years later, the same things are happening to the society.
Maybe people never succeeded in surpassing the limits they put onto themselves or maybe
they just took the wrong turn and are now trying to get back on track, lost all over again with
all the possibilities arising, with life just waiting on them to dare to live with everything
theyve got. Desire is often intertwined with love, there is no clear cut. This essay will go into
the depths of that emotion to see where it begins and ends, to see where it is pure desire and
where it is bordering with disease.
There are different types of desire depicted in the novel. The focus of the story is on
the yearning of Mr. Jay Gatsby, the main protagonist as seen through the eyes of young
gentleman Nick Carraway. Surely, the desire that moves Mr. Gatsby is not unique. Billions
had and billions still have that same one. He went through his childhood always wanting
more, always feeling that he is meant for something great. He had that burning desire within
him, pushing him through the possible and impossible. It made him fight his way through
life, making his name. The difference between him and the rest is that he never backed out,
he always found a way. Sometimes you only need to want something truly and immensely, to
set it as an ultimate goal and to strive toward it. Somewhere on the way his aspirations
changed into something deeper, more meaningful. One always knows when everything falls
into its place, the way it should have been all along. He found that in Daisy. It is in fact a
vortex not everyone can understand. Only those who opened up to another human being,
laying everything they are, all the feelings, sufferings, every tiny detail that makes a person
whole, only those know. It pulls one in without them even realizing what happened. He got
stuck in that moment with Daisy, right before he left. Stuck in the moment when they were
happy. That love and the desire to be loved by her were everything that he needed in life.

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Everything from that moment was him trying to get back to that. A desire to erase everything
that happened in between, to erase the past. Such love or as some may see it, obsession is
hopeless, it offers no excuse, no explanation. When one is unable to cope with reality, it
borders with disease, there is no clear line between whats right and whats not.
In Daisys case, maybe the only thing she ever yearned for is the feeling of being
taken care of. She cared not about the consequences for her actions, perhaps she only wanted
to be lulled into a false sense of security. Maybe she was the true victim of the society in
those days since she had no other option to succeed in life but marrying a wealthy gentleman.
So she desired everything to be as normal as possible, even though it meant carrying a mask
of false pretense every minute of their false lives.
Nick Carraway had the need to find his place in that terrifying world. He wanted to fit
in somewhere, to see where he belongs. He was participating in that society but never
actually felt as a true part of it. Sometimes one can feel alone even when one is surrounded
by people. One cannot see their faces, just the shadows, the puppets that play their role.
I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others young clerks in the
dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.
(Fitzgerald, p. 57)
People are, even today, still allowing themselves to be tucked into a false idea that
they are doing something meaningful with their lives. Either that or they become satisfied
with all the wrong things, losing true values from their sight, becoming shallow, only shells
of the humans they once were, skinned from their humanity, the core that makes them
Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not
accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human.
(Aristotle, p. 59)

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People need other people in order to be able to lead a normal life. In The Great
Gatsby people only seek distraction from their meaningless lives. Gatsby wished to give them
a place to gather, where they could have both the distraction and the opportunity to interact
with each other, feel something real, and feel life as he was feeling it. He was the only one in
that society that actually had a purpose, something to live for. Although somewhat
inexplicable and hard to grasp, he lives to have his desire fulfilled, however that desire may
seem on the verge of unhealthy obsession.
In todays world, people still have the same difficulties coping with the challenges
that life gives them. Surely, their lives significantly differ when it comes to the style and
scenery but deep in their core, people hardly changed at all. They still have the same
ambitions, somewhat modified, but they still strive toward fulfilling their dreams. They still
have a whole plethora of desires because that is what life is - fulfilling your dreams or getting
as near as possible. Humans need to have their goals set; they need something to fight for.
But they also need to know their limits, to know where to stop, to live in the present and open
their eyes and see clearly the world around them. The world needs dreamers but there is
always a price to pay. Some dreams arent meant to be fulfilled; some desires have to be left
unsatisfied. But again, without yearning and sadness, without broken dreams and lost desires
people wouldnt have known what happiness truly is.


Aristotle, Politics, 4th century

Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby, 1925, Scribners
USA TODAY. The Great Gatsby by the numbers. May 2013

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C-SPAN, American writers Writings of F. Scott Fitzgerald, April 2002

Brucolli, Matthew J. A Brief Life of Fitzgerald, Scribners, 1994
Hemingway, Ernest A. A Moveable Feast, 1960