“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 elusive 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 acknowledgment 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 midwest 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 veer 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 1920s 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 throughout 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 in her shame. As a woman of the 1920s, 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 committing 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.
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