Discuss the ideas developed by the text creator in your chosen text about the ways in which individuals take responsibility for themselves and others.
Death, Dreams, and Daisies
When thinking of the American Dream, often times themes of dissatisfaction prove to be more common than those of success. It is in this dream that the ideals are created: hopes for the future, the ideal home, land; the ideal romance. To be a man in America meant you needed to be strong, rich, or devilishly handsome to make your mark in that day and age, but consider: where does the responsibility lay within that blueprint of manhood? Where, between the lines of determination and dreams does accountability fall into place? For those existing in the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, it is hard to draw the line between responsibility of one’s self and the responsibilities of others. Jay Gatsby, for example, lived the life any man could have only dreamt of at the time; handsome, rich, well-respected and successful, but what he lacked was a sense of fulfillment. His sense of fulfillment was manifested in the form of the woman he loved: Daisy Buchanan. As a result of this, his life, despite it meeting the criteria of every man’s wish of success, was empty without her, and in order to fill that void within himself he turned to extravagance in order to win her over. This would have been a fine method, however Gatsby chose to take his pursuit one step further by prioritizing herself over him entirely, and therefore lost a sense of responsibility in himself and his well being. Where he lacked it in himself, he made up for by taking responsibility for Daisy, going as far as to willingly engage in an affair and take the blame for her careless actions. Gatsby, despite his inherent success already, allowed himself to blur the lines between his responsibilities to himself and the responsibilities of Daisy that he assumed as his own in order to prove his worth to her. This ultimately lead to his murder as he cared to protect Daisy more than himself, thereby demonstrating how a dissatisfied individual, hungry for a sense of fulfilment in romance, may takes up the responsibilities of those they admire, and thereby neglect their own, in order to achieve their wants.
Initially, Gatsby is presented as nothing more than a mysterious success story, and is he is depicted by the narrator Nick Caraway as the perfect kind of man, representing “everything for which I [he] have unaffected scorn.” [1.1]. Living on the bay of West Egg, throwing lavish parties and living a life of extravagance, he was nothing more than an unachievable ideal; captivating and impossible. Hardly ever seen, and with little background he was the physical manifestation of the “dream” in motion. He was presented as a man who worked for his success, but what was not realized was that his success was for not for himself, but rather Daisy. His entire reason for wealth and prosperity was so that he may be noticed by her as he sent light over the bay each night from his lavish parties, hoping she would notice across the bay; whereas, the green light from her dock was symbolic of Gatsby’s beacon of need for Daisy (his ideals) and the bay being his dissatisfaction (his reality). Upon meeting Carraway, Gatsby immediately seized the opportunity of befriending him (as he was Daisy’s cousin) as a means getting closer to her. This act, as generous as it seemed, was selfish in the sense that it were not for Nick whatsoever. Instead Gatsby used this as a gateway to an opportunity with Daisy, thus starting his quest to reclaim her as a new man with a new fortune, a well defined social status and “ one of those rare smiles with a quality of reassurance in it.” [3.45] He made it his responsibility to educate Carraway on how to live as an honourable and successful man much like himself, in order to prove his worthiness. He vowed to this life of pursuing success as he felt that is was his his fault for not being able to keep Daisy in the first place. This mentality demonstrated how Gatsby’s dissatisfaction with his past led him to equate his satisfaction with Daisy’s affection. When they had first fell in love he was younger and poorer, and had left her to join the army. Daisy, being a lady who prided her social merit (as most people did during the time), married Tom Buchanan, a wealthy man in Long Island New York, in order to preserve her social status. Gatsby, being heartbroken, then vowed to a life of redemption to get her back as it was his responsibility to make himself wealthy and sociable enough to win her over once more. This pursuit of the everyday man’s “American Dream” was for himself only in the sense that he wanted to extinguish his feelings of dissatisfaction, by washing them with Daisy’s romance. To put it simply, Gatsby was an individual who put too much responsibility on himself as he yearned for a sense affirmation from others to quench his dissatisfaction. This affirmation existed in the form of romance as it proved to be the only thing Gatsby could not posses. No amount of “little parties” or meaningless pleasures could fulfill his desires if he could not have Daisy, and so he made it his responsibility to make sure that he could. His lack of fulfillment was the catalyst for his beliefs that he was responsible for everything that had happened, and the more elaborate his advances were towards her the more he felt like it was his job to win her back. Poisoned by a hopeless ideal of success however, Gatsby relied on Nick Caraway to act as his springboard, as he used his relations with him in a desperate attempt to get closer to Daisy.
As his friendship with Nick Carraway progressed further, Gatsby was able to reunite with Daisy once again on a friendly outing to the Buchanan’s home one afternoon, and it was then that Gatsby was provided with the same sense of fullness he lacked without Daisy. This small taste of Gatsby’s own “American Dream” was enough to remind him of the flavour of satisfaction, but not nearly enough to quench his thirst for Daisy. Because Gatsby willingly indulged in an affair with Daisy despite her marital status (although Tom was cheating as well), he felt as though suddenly his life was full of purpose again. It was during this time that Gatsby truly encompassed the true ideal of the American Dream by having anything anyone could ever want: fame, wealth, and the woman of his dreams. This created a temporary sense of comfort in Gatsby’s life where he began to ignore his responsibilities more due to his satisfaction with Daisy’s romance, going as far as to say that that the ”colossal significance of the [green] light had vanished forever”; a statement suggesting that his needs to draw Daisy’s to him was no longer needed as he “seemed very near her, almost touching her.” [5.79] There was a small crack in Gatsby’s ideal life however – a thin layer of mist that still existed between them – as their relationship still remained a secret for reasons regarding Daisy’s honourability and status. This meant that Gatsby possessed a small sense of emptiness that compelled him to take up the responsibilities of Daisy as well to combat his dissatisfaction, as he could almost but not fully “touch her”, meaning to truly have her as his own. He felt it was his job to love her and his alone and that he needed to save her from the marriage she was caught in. As the relationship between the two continued to grow his responsibilities declined further, whereas the responsibility he took on as her true lover only increased. He even went as far as to somewhat flaunt the relationship in Tom Buchanan’s face, being that he knew he too was cheating and thereby hurting Daisy. This act of hypocrisy demonstrates how far Gatsby’s affections had pulled him into his ideals, where he could not care less about taking responsibility for being Daisy’s paramour, but rather was more consumed with her the maintenance of her emotions. Gatsby found no guilt in flaunting their relationship because he assumed all responsibility of protecting her, and was thereby willing to make sacrifices of his own credibility and safety for her. This caused tensions to rise between Gatsby and Tom that put him on risk, but due to intoxication with Daisy and a want for fulfillment in his life, he ignored such things and consequently relinquished himself to Daisy’s responsibilities, to hold on to what he had.
By the end of their relationship however, caught in a ever thickening mist of falsehood and obligations, Gatsby had managed to become so caught up in upholding Daisy’s responsibilities that he had driven himself to forget his own entirely. He no longer cared for himself, his parties, Nick, or even his success as his want to be fulfilled by Daisy trumped all else. He became so emotionally invested in Daisy’s personal life that he had let his guard down far enough to allow Tom’s speculations about the affair to be confirmed. After sharing an awkward lunch date on the “broiling, almost the last, certainly warmest day of the summer” [7.94] -the heat being representative of the events to follow due to Gatsby’s lack of responsibility- Daisy outs the relationship between the two by maintaining a tender stare and flirtatiously saying to Gatsby “you look so cool[…] you always look so cool..” [7.97] Gatsby, without thinking responsibly in the slightest, further confirms Tom’s accusations by boldly spitting “She doesn’t loved you, do you hear?[…] She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but she never loved any one except me!” [7.106]; this proclamation being a sad and desperate truth revealed about Daisy’s selfish intentions and Gatsby’s weakness. This act of defiance was Gatsby’s peak of responsibility for Daisy, but also the peak of irresponsibility for himself. His acquired confidence to act out was accumulated by the fulfillment he thrived off of from his affair with Daisy and it compelled him to leave the luncheon with her, driving as a far away into a new future as possible. Due to the fact that Daisy was distraught afterwards, Gatsby yet again assumes the responsibility to please Daisy by granting her permission to drive his own car; an open invitation for Daisy to drive him to his demise. As Daisy mistakenly hits a pedestrian (who happens to be Tom’s mistress ironically) he foolishly, yet willingly, takes the blame for the murder, claiming he was responsible because it was his car she was driving and he loved her so dearly. It is obvious why Gatsby would do such a thing as he was just on the cusp of being satisfied in his own version of the “American Dream”. As their relationship progressed, Gatsby’s inhibitions reduced and he found himself closer and closer to what he wanted, only that proved to be dangerous for him as he neglected his responsibilities and made himself into an enemy for many people, including Tom Buchanan. Furthermore, after the death of Myrtle (the mistress) he made yet another enemy for himself with her husband George Wilson and his rage, combined with Gatsby’s lack for care for himself, put him in a dangerous position. No longer did he care for his own responsibilities, and by letting his guard down, he ended up being murdered by Myrtle’s husband as he had assumed responsibility for a crime he did not commit. Rightfully, it should have been Daisy that should have taken the blame, but in Gatsby’s “chivalrous” nature he claimed he would for the woman he loved. Because Gatsby was so consumed with winning back Daisy he effectively managed to neglect his own responsibility, only taking accountability for the emotions and actions of Daisy, hoping she could fill the void of dissatisfaction within him. Consequently however, it was his over dependancy on her that doomed himself to a death that was not meant for him, only because he prioritized another’s responsibilities more than his own.
Despite appearing wealthy and successful, Jay Gatsby found a dissatisfaction in himself that he could not seem to combat without Daisy Buchanan in his life. Though it seemed as though he had achieved all that came with the American Dream and had become the perfect man, his lack of fulfilment in his life (due to his lost romance), drove him to do anything he could to keep her. In doing so, Gatsby neglected his own responsibilities in life by prioritizing everything that had to Daisy; therefore taking up all of her burdens as well. Where he took responsibility for her, he lacked accountability in himself which ultimately led to his death, thereby demonstrating how when an individuals craves a sense of fulfillment in love, they may prioritize the responsibilities of other’s rather than their own in order to achieve their wants of satisfaction.