The novel The Great Gatsby is about life in the “upper crust” of society during the nineteen-twenties. This novel gives a startling and vivid description of the life and attitudes of the people living in this type of society. It also shows the different ways people regarded wealth and what they used it for. More notably however, as in many Fitzgerald stories, it shows how a strong undying love for the wrong woman can consume and ruin a man’s life.
This statement is well supported in many of Fitzgerald’s stories but is best supported in the novel The Great Gatsby and the short story “Winter Dreams”. In both stories a young man falls hopelessly in love with a woman who is interested in and only capable of loving one thing-and that thing is not he. In The Great Gatsby Jay Gatsby falls in love with a young woman named Daisy Fay while living in Louisville as a young officer in the army. He courted her for a time until he was called away on an assignment in Europe. After the Armistice of World War One, Gatsby spent some time at Oxford University, but being so in love with Daisy he returned to the States and began developing a plan to win Daisy’s “love”.
Gatsby believes, and is correct, that the only way to get Daisy’s attention is to become fabuosly rich and famous. So he dedicates the rest of his life to amassing wealth and setting up the perfect place to reaquaint himself with Daisy. Gatsby however being from a poor family and not having any real schooling (since he left Oxford before getting a degree) had nowhere to start. Then a man named Meyer Wolfshiem upon seeing Gatsby and conversing with him concluded, “I had discovered a man of fine breedingÃ¢Â?Â¦the kind you’d like to take home and introduce to your mother and sister.” So Meyer took Gatsby into his service, which happened to be bootlegging, which of course is highly illegal, because of the prohibition, and highly dangerous because of the individuals involved. Anyway, Gatsby got involved in this illegal activity for one reason, which was to make money to impress Daisy. Gatsby did amass a large quantity of money that he used for only two purposes, throwing large parties to attract Daisy and to buy a huge house directly across the bay from Daisy.
This is distressing, in the fact that Gatsby, in going to such lengths to attract Daisy, must have known that the only way to her heart was to become lavishly rich. Which leads one to believe that Gatsby also must have known that Daisy only really loved one thing: money. This in turn makes one wonder, “Why then, was he so determined to win the love of someone who he knew could never truly love him back?” The answer is simply that Gatsby was so madly in love with Daisy that his love enclosed, surrounded, and destroyed all logical reasoning or thought.
Fitzgerald very well expresses this destroying of logical thought in “Winter Dreams” when Fitzgerald describes what Dexter is feeling after Judy bears her soul.”
“A million phrases of anger, pride, passion, hatred, tenderness fought on his lips. Then a perfect wave of emotion washed over him, carrying off with it a sediment of wisdom, of convention, of doubt, of honor. This was his girl who was speaking, his own, his beautiful, his pride.”
This passage makes it clearer how even after Daisy says, “Ã¢Â?Â¦rich girls don’t marry poor boysÃ¢Â?Â¦” Gatsby can still love Daisy and feel no malice or anger toward her. This kind of love can be likened to the saying of “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In that, “absolute love consumes absolutely” and in Dexter and Gatsby’s case consumes and completely destroys their lives.
Gatsby is so fanatical in his love and so badly wants to be reassured of Daisy’s love for him that he forces her in to a position which she cannot handle. Daisy, when forced into this position of choosing between Gatsby and Tom reacts in the only way she can which is to run away from it. This flight from Gatsby’s demanding and unyielding love causes her to unwittingly hit Myrtle Wilson while driving in Gatsby’s car. This in turn causes George Wilson, believing that the owner and driver are one in the same, to hunt down the owner of the car and kill him. Therefore, in the way described, Gatsby’s obstinate love caused his own death.
In Dexter’s case his love does not cause his literal death, but it does ruin his engagement and remain forever engrained upon his mind. In the end it even ends up stealing his reason for living, because after he realizes that he will never have Judy’s love he no longer has anything to live for. He has loved her for so long that when he losses that hope of her returning that love, no matter how dilute, he losses everything inside him and his will to survive, which in its own way is death.
It is hard to say who is better off, Dexter who realized that Judy could never love him and in so doing had his will to live completely and utterly crushed, or Gatsby who, according to Wolfsheim seemed to have so many things in his favor, wasted his whole life and died for a love that, although he believed was, was not truly returned. Both had their lives entirely destroyed by an unknowing and uncaring woman. Gatsby I think fared better though, as he at least was spared the crushing realization that his love was in vain and died thinking Daisy loved him.