Aspects of Tragedy in The Great Gatsby
Francis Scott Fitzgeraldâ€™s The Great Gatsby is a novel brimming with various tragic elements: love, ambition, hope and the loss of hope, and, of course, death. But is this American classic a true tragedy? Does Gatsby indeed possess a â€œtragic flawâ€ which leads to his downfall? Or is fate just stacked against him?
Before we can definitively say whether or not The Great Gatsby is a tragedy, we must understand the meaning of tragedy. Tragedy is most commonly defined as a â€œdramatic composition dealing with a serious or somber theme, typically that of a great person destined through a flaw of character or conflict with some overpowering force, as fate or society, to downfall or destructionâ€ (Webster). Many of these defining elements can be found in The Great Gatsby. A â€œgreat person,â€ namely Jay Gatsby, a major conflict, and the eventual destruction of the protagonist are all major parts of the work, and are all easily identified. But what is not so easily identified is what is potentially the most important aspect of any tragic workâ€”tragic flaw. Does Gatsby indeed have a â€œflaw of characterâ€ which leads him to his death?
We first encounter Gatsby at the end of chapter one from a distance, stretching â€œhis arms toward the dark water in a curious way.â€ He is staring intently at a small green light across the water, and the reader gets a distinct feeling that Gatsby is longing for something. But what exactly is Gatsby longing for? Is it something simpleâ€”something materialâ€”or is it something much more elusive?
As the novel progresses, we discover that everything Gatsby doesâ€”the reason he moved out East, the reason he throws elaborate parties, and essentially everything he works forâ€”is an attempt to get back together with Daisy, his girlfriend back before the war. Since that time she has moved