The Great Gatsby – An American Tragedy

It is important to understand what makes a play a tragedy and what makes a comedy. Whenever a play is a tragedy it is because the theme it follows is either a serious one or a gloomy one. When Shakespeare wrote tragedies, they often spurred from the main character and his very inevitable tragic flaw. This flaw is often the driving force of the play itself and progresses in a manner that the reader cannot entirely hate the protagonist despite all his faults. It can be said that The Great Gatsby entails all the above mentioned features.

Back in the Jazz era one of the most renowned authors known to mankind, Scott Fitzgerald, jotted down his thoughts and provided the world with the best possible piece of literature in the form of the Great Gatsby. Where some readers felt joy in the light heartedness with which the era was presented, a vast majority felt lost and depressed with the tragedy it so eloquently depicted through words. Based on all the notions of easy money, quick money, and most importantly “new money” The Great Gatsby can easily be called an American Tragedy. Here is why:

Gatsby - A Tragic Hero?

A lot of readers and critics have declared Jay Gatsby to be a tragic hero. If compared with William Shakespeare’s notion of tragic hero, Gatsby would probably not make the cut. Though Gatsby possesses a very obvious tragic flaw – his love and excessive trust in Daisy, throughout the novel he is seen as this mysterious man who seems to be trying to work his way into Daisy’s heart. All the way Fitzgerald makes stark remarks on the differences between the people living in East Egg and West Egg. This can be considered another tragic remark on the way the world works. Despite his living, Gatsby fails to make the mark he wishes to as a respected individual. His incentives and methods of earning the money are always questioned and so is his authenticity as the “Rich man” he so casually appears to be.

Fitzgerald plays the story in a very clever yet subtle manner allowing the reader to idealize Gatsby’s character by portraying him through Nick Caraway’s eyes. Though the reader can identify Gatsby’s incentives throughout the story, it is still very difficult to assess what it is he truly feels. This is also because the narrators voice never changes or shifts. Gatsby’s very tragic end despite all his attempts to gain back the love he once lost is not what has the reader sobbing, it is the silence and lack of concern with which he departs. His death seems to have impacted no one and everything that had anything to do with him, fades away with his death – like he never even existed.

These are the reasons why The Great Gatsby can be called an American Tragedy.