Fantasies and Rebellion in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald shows how strong the ideals and fantasies of men can be, and how these delusions make the women of the story adapt or rebel. Gatsby’s fantasy is by far the most evident and the strongest of them all. He spends the entirety of the novel idealizing one woman, Daisy, as his one and only goal in life. Without Daisy, Gatsby himself would be a hollow and empty character. “There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short his dreams—not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion” (103). And as such, he fantasizes so much about her that the idealism itself seems to be the driving force for Gatsby, not Daisy herself. If Gatsby were to finally be with Daisy he wouldn’t have his fantasy anymore and there is no way she could satisfy the dream he has constructed around just the idea of her.

But what of Daisy? She ends up submitting herself to both Tom Buchanan and Gatsby’s fantasies for her by claiming to love them both; she can’t make a stand against the ideals of men and won’t make her own decision regarding the men. As Kelly Durkin says “Unlike Gatsby, who relishes the actual dreaming itself, Daisy prefers not to allow her hopes and fantasies to grow.” This could be attributed to the fact her fantasies are suppressed by the more demanding desires of men. She seems to want to go back to the old days when Gatsby was young and wealth-less, before she succumbed to her insecurities and married Tom for his stature. She is locked between two dreams that weren’t created while resting on her own pillow and in fact aren’t even hers. So she submits to both of the two men’s fantasies via a strange duality.

Then we have George Wilson, Gatsby’s contrast, who doesn’t seem to have any dreams to chase after and as such is content. But because of that his wife Myrtle is bored with him. She claims he lied about his wealth with the example of him borrowing a suit for their wedding. She can’t respect him for his lack of wealth but also his lack of progress. He does not move towards a goal but rather just moves through his life blissfully unaware of his wife’s infidelity. This seems the saddest story of all as “he’s one of the few characters without staggering flaws” (Shmoop Editorial Team). Although his lack of conflict and need to fulfill a goal in itself does pose a conflict as his dreamless existence doesn’t satisfy his wife. This causes her to rebel against not his dreams, but his void of dreams. Which shows how important the dreamers are throughout the book and how the women of the story view them.

So then Myrtle starts an affair with Tom in an attempt to escape her husband’s dreamlessness but falls victim to Tom’s cruelty and need to satisfy his own desires. But it would seem she enjoys the passionate ambition that motivates Tom, even when he is motivated to break her nose. She stays with him and accepts his façade that the two can’t get married since Daisy is Catholic, and as such will not partake in a divorce. Her failure to see Tom’s selfishness overlaps whatever dreams that may motivate her and becomes an act of submission in itself. So while she may rebel against her unwanted marriage with George she succumbs to Tom’s objectives.

This leads us to Tom himself. With his selfishness already stated, Tom is also a hypocrite as he is having an affair with Myrtle but when Daisy has an affair it is the most inconceivable thing. This shows his inability to accept others’ wants and desires, illustrating the double standard of fantasy that is prevalent in the story. Everyone else’s dreams are steppingstones to his own or mere obstacles to him. His sociopathic nature entangles Daisy as she can’t refuse him his desires.

Jordan, however, is the rebel in the book as she chooses to ignore the shackles of others’ dreams and will even manipulate to make her own dreams a reality. She shows this when in the book she is said to have cheated to win her tournament. This not only shows how she views her own goals as important but that she sees them more important than others. Jordan’s contrast to the female archetype in the book only highlights the other character’s lack of dreams. She appears a glass fuller than Daisy only to show Daisy isn’t full at all.

Returning to Gatsby, he personifies the Dreamer and the ever continuing quest to desire something intangible and untouchable, as a dream so mystifying and all-consuming it can’t have a real root in reality. All of the other characters follow the fantastical path he carved out in their own pursuits of fancy, but he exemplified it the most. In a sense, that makes this book a story about desires, the pursuit of those desires, and those that surrender to others’ desires. As the book itself says of this premise “A phrase began to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: ‘There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired’” (86).

—Work Cited—

Durkin, Kelly. “The Ghostly Heart of The Great Gatsby.” Cornell. Cornell University, 2006. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.

Fitzgerald, Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925. Print.

Shmoop Editorial Team. “George Wilson in The Great GatsbyShmmo.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.