“Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.” This quotation is said by Nick Caraway, the narrator of Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald depicts Nick as or moral guide through a novel infused with lies and deception. Fitzgerald utilizes many themes throughout the book one being, truth versus lies, within the novel virtually all main characters are dishonest to others or to themselves which exposes each character’s true self to the reader. Jay Gatsby, the protagonist fabricates a story about his life piecing together facets of information that sound intriguing and somewhat believable. As well he allows rumors to be spread regarding his occupation and his wealth and does not correct or allow much to be known about him. Daisy Buchanan is a character that often lies to others as well as herself through statements that she makes concerning her child, her marriage and her love affair with Jay Gatsby. The deception and dishonesty that the characters in the novel demonstrate ultimately reveals the truth about each character’s disposition.
Jay Gatsby is quite an illusive character in this novel, Fitzgerald allows the reader to speculate and to make assumptions about Gatsby only revealing the truth towards the end of the novel. Prior to even being introduced to the great Jay Gatsby it is suggested to the reader about Gatsby that, “…He’s a nephew of Kaiser Wilhelm’s. That’s where all his money comes from” (page 35). As well, before the character appears rumors circulate about him, “He killed a man once… He was a German spy during the war… He was in the American Army.” Gatsby’s trail of deceit begins with the gossip and rumors about him, he seems very uninterested in controlling the wild rumors being spread about him. He is aware that not many of the guests at his extravagant parties are even aware of who he is, we see this on page 49 upon the introduction of Gatsby to the narrator, Nick. As well later on again Gatsby says to Nick, “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea of me from all these stories you hear.” As a result of Gatsby’s acknowledgement and unwillingness to confirm or deny the rumors about him, he is lying by way of omission from the truth.
Aside from omitting details Gatsby extends his deception by fabricating the stories of his life. In chapter four Gatsby has become closer to Nick and tells him of his past, “I am the son of some wealthy people in the Mid West- all dead now.” (Page 64). This small sentence alone is a blatant lie as Gatsby’s father appears at the end of the novel and is clearly not dead. As well when prompted as to where in the mid west he replies San Francisco, which is not a city of the Mid West United States. As this speech is continued Gatsby goes on to tell Nick that he spent time in Europe, “Collecting jewels, chiefly rubies, hunting big game, painting a little” (Page 64). Gatsby continues to tell stories of the honors bestowed upon him by the country of Montenegro, as well as his days at Oxford. Gatsby merely forgets to include the details of his rise to the top through the world of bootlegging and his obsession with Daisy Buchanan. Fitzgerald makes clear right away that Gatsby’s stories are less than credible, which all is shown in the latter part of the novel. The manufactured stories are evident to the reader but the question must be posed as to why a rich and powerful man like Jay Gatsby would vear from the path of truth. The answer is shame, although he has wealth and many things to show for it Gatsby is shamed by his methods of attaining it and because of this he allows rumors to be spread and continues to spread them himself. In the 1920’s although bootleggers were necessary to allow people to continue their valued lifestyles and lavish parties they were not seen as captains of industry they were seen by the upper class as low life criminals. Gatsby’s lies and deception allow for the reader to see that in reality Gatsby is ashamed of the means by which he has attained everything he so explicitly shows off.
Daisy Buchanan is the object of Gatsby’s affection in this novel and like Gatsby she is rather dishonest through out the novel. Through having her affair with Gatsby she begins lying to her husband. In chapter seven, Gatsby is having drinks at Daisy and Tom’s home, as Tom leaves the room daisy kisses Gatsby and proclaims, “I don’t care!” (page 111). She is saying this of her love for Gatsby and that she does not care who knows. This is not only a lie she tells the others but a lie she tells to herself. Later on in chapter seven there is a confrontation involving Tom, Daisy and Gatsby. Gatsby prompts Daisy to admit that she had never loved Tom which she had most likely lied to Gatsby about earlier. She reluctantly replies, “I never loved him.” (page 126). Rethinking that answer she soon after takes that back saying that she did love both Tom and Gatsby. Although she has lied to them both, it is more likely that this is a lie she is telling herself. The culmination of her dishonesty to her husband and lover as well as her dishonesty towards herself reveals to the reader that as well Daisy’s deception is rooted from her shame. As a woman of the 1920’s a divorce or an affair would be quite shameful. However differing from Gatsby it can be said of Daisy that she lied based on her own confusion as well as shame, her marriage was quite messy and as a result she was led astray and through her affair her mind became more clouded. She did not only lie out of shame but also because she was so unsure of herself that she was unaware of the things that she really wanted.
The Great Gatsby is a story of the 1920s, Fitzgerald wrote his characters to depict typical people at that point in time, using his characters’ deceptive natures as a literary tool. The wealthy Jay Gatsby appears to be so close to grasping everything he has always wanted but, his means of getting there is a secret he must continue to lie about forever. The true Jay Gatsby can be viewed when you delve into the root of his compulsive storytelling and lying. He is simply ashamed of his past and to be who he wants to be that past must remain a secret. Daisy however is shamed by what she has done recently, which is commit adultery. Daisy lying is much more complex as a young woman she seems quite lost and her lying is not as deliberate as Gatsby’s. Daisy’s deception allows the reader to see the confused woman behind the enticing siren voice. The way in which Fitzgerald writes these characters causes many things to be revealed by their actions, their dishonesty in this case, allows the reader to explore the weaknesses of the characters.
Lies And Deceit In "The Great Gatsby"
Lying has deadly effects on both the individual who lies and those around them. This concept is
demonstrated in The Great Gatsby. Although Gatsby, Tom and Myrtle have different motives for being
deceitful, they all lie in order to fulfill their desires and personal needs. Myrtle's desire to be wealthy is
illustrated when she first meets Tom, dressed in his expensive clothing, as her attitude changes when
she puts on the luxurious dress and when she encourages Tom to buy her a dog. Tom's deception is
clear when he hides his affair with Myrtle by placing Myrtle in a different train, withholding the truth
from Mr. Wilson of the affair and convincing Myrtle and Catherine that he will one day marry Myrtle.
Gatsby tries to convince himself and others that he is the son of wealthy people, he creates an
appearance that he is a successful, educated man through the books in his library and assures himself
that Daisy loves him. Tom's dishonesty reveals that he is selfish, while Gatsby's distortions expose his
insecurities, and Myrtle's misrepresentations show that her sole focus in life is to achieve materialistic
success. Gatsby and Myrtle both lie in order to obtain the "American dream." However, Tom, who
appears to already have achieved the "American dream", deceives others out of boredom and because
he takes his wealthy lifestyle for granted. F. Scott Fitzgerald demonstrates the human flaw of
dishonesty for personal gain and how lies have inevitably tragic consequences in his characterization of
Gatsby, Myrtle, and Tom.
Jay Gatsby is dishonest to himself to and those around him which ultimately leads to his failure.
He lies about his past, his family, and his accomplishments in order to achieve his version of the
American dream, which is to win over Daisy. Nick informs the readers that Gatsby's "parents were
shiftless and unsuccessful farm people- his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents
at all" (Fitzgerald 95). Not only does Gatsby try to convince others that he is the son of wealthy people,
but he also tries to convince himself. Because Gatsby knows that Daisy sees success through status, he
is willing to misrepresent his parents. He also creates the appearance that he is successful through the
extravagance of his home. While at Gatsby's party, an 'owl-eyed' guest discovers Gatsby's books and
It's a bona-fide piece of printed matter. It fooled
me. This fella's a regular Belasco. It's a triumph.
What thoroughness! What realism! Knew when
to stop, too - didn't cut the pages. ( Fitzgerald 47)
Gatsby's books symbolize intelligence and education. This outlines the issue of appearance
versus reality which is...
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