identity of the self usually involves success. That success may include cars, luxury items, mansions, beautiful kids, and a beautiful spouse. It varies from person to person. Some people view success through self-actualization as well, having the ability to harness one's potentials and talents and becoming something more than what they thought possible. In The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald and The Talented Mr. Ripley by Highsmith, men attempt to find success through illegal means in order to fulfill their need of self-actualization and material gain. To them, success and self-actualization came from being wealthy and living in extravagance, not from being uniquely talented or philanthropic.
Only Gatsby, the man who gives is name to this book, was exempt from my reaction= Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivities to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. (Fitzgerald 1)
The Great Gatsby begins with the mystery of Gatsby. Nick Caraway, a Yale graduate, rents a house near an enigmatic millionaire whose lavish parties rival the best in the world. Gatsby's grandeur and the surrounding mystique lend an air of curiosity and intrigue. However, as the story progresses, and Nick befriends Gatsby, he finds out the source of Gatsby's wealth.
Gatsby, much like Mr. Ripley, grew up poor and with limited means. His desire for wealth meant he was willing to do just about anything to attain it. As Nick sounds discovers, the Great Gatsby was nothing more than Jay Gatz, a man desperately in love with a wealthy woman whom he had an affair with and wanted to impress. In order for him to impress her and possibly win her back, he needed to be wealthy. His wealth came from illegally distributing alcohol and trading in embezzled securities.
Mr. Gatsby's success, although great and impressive, was illegally acquired. Although both protagonists committed several crimes in their attempt at becoming wealthy, neither of them truly suffered any ramifications for their dealings, at least in the criminal sense. Gatsby could have been arrested and jailed for decades for all of his shady business, but managed to elude law enforcement enough to host lavish parties even amidst rumors of his origins. He also had an affair with the wife of a wealthy man and still evaded suspicion until the end of the novel where he is ultimately murdered by the husband of the woman Tom had an affair with. Ironically, Gatsby's demise came from an act he did not commit, taking the blame for his lover, Daisy, in the homicide of Myrtle, Tom's lover and wife of George.
To Gatsby, material success was a way to self-actualization and to Daisy. As Daisy was an eternal focal point for Gatsby, material success was the only means of acquiring and keeping a woman like Daisy, who was used to and desired the life of the elite and wealthy. Ultimate success for Gatsby was a life with Daisy. Gatsby hated poverty however.
Gatsby did not and could not live the way he was born and raised. Regardless of his motivations, his desires for a better life always existed. In away one could see Gatsby's pursuit as that of self-actualization vs. Mr. Ripley whose pursuit was strictly material gain. Gatsby's love interest that was his end goal. For he was not satisfied with the extravagance and opulence his wealth afforded him. It was seen throughout the novel. The lavish parties were not for his enjoyment, but rather, to lure Daisy to him. He acquired a mansion near her just so she could one day go and see him.
Many people often obsess over and crave the attention and love of a person. That's what fuels them and gives them purpose. Others like Mr. Ripley crave security and wealth. Although both characters saw being rich as a means of achieving their goals, the characters reacted differently once they acquired it. Gatsby, once he acquired his wealth, set immediately to pursue Daisy, falling in love with her while he was stationed elsewhere and promising to be with her after the war. Mr. Ripley, once he had a taste of wealth, was willing to do anything and everything necessary to maintain it.
The Great Gatsby could be seen as not a story of a man emerging from humble means to achieving millionaire status, but rather of that of a love story. It is about a man willing to do anything to be with the woman he loves, even sacrificing his life for her as his acceptance for Myrtle's death led to his murder. Love was the end goal for Gatsby. Even when Nick finished Gatsby's funeral and went home, and the lavish parties and mystique ended, the great affair was still left, the memories a lost moment in time.
Gatsby was and always will be a romantic. If he would have married Daisy, like he intended to when he met her after lying about his financial status, he would have realized his goal of self-actualization. He would have met the love of his life, gained social status through marrying her, and had the children and life he desired. However, Gatsby had to gain material wealth in order to provide some truth to his lies and that is what provided most of the conflict later in his life. His obsession with Daisy led to his untimely demise.
A quote from the introduction, on page XVIII, explains Gatsby and his image quite well. "And at the same time, the title powerfully foregrounds Gatsby's remaking of himself: he has altered the harsh immigrant name Gatz to the melodious Gatsby. Identity is plastic and can be remade or rebranded." (Fitzgerald XVIII) He reformed and renamed himself in order to let go of his past and embrace a future with Daisy. Everything was done and motivated by his love of Daisy. He wanted to become what she wanted because all he wanted was her.
Daisy however, was another story. Daisy only loved material items, saw success through wealth not self-actualization, much like Mr. Ripley, and only showed interest in Gatsby because of his status and things vs. his personality and love for her. On page XIII Daisy's identity is described as that of a lover of things vs. Gatsby's lover. "Daisy's love for Gatsby in conditioned by fascination with his wealth. The lover's sobbed confession of her feelings becomes in Gatsby a confession about love of things -- the plethora of beautiful shirts ordered from England…" (Fitzgerald XIII)
It could be said that during the time of The Great Gatsby women were still fulfilling the roles of mothers and wife, forgoing forming an identity outside of home and marriage. Daisy, a product of her surroundings, did not see herself much like Jordan did. Jordan, a golfer and close friend of Daisy's, used her talents to gain recognition. Whereas Daisy mainly relied on her status and looks to acquire her version of success. Her marriage to Tom was purely based on economic status. Even when she knew of Tom's affair and Gatsby's origins, she chose to be with Tom because Tom could secure a future for her financially unlike Gatsby whose source of wealth came from criminal activity. Status was the only thing important to Daisy, much like Mr. Ripley.
Unlike Gatsby, Mr. Ripley was not fueled by love nor self-actualization, but rather, material gain. He was obsessed with gaining as much money as he could while not really working hard for any of it. He even befriended a wealthy, young man, Dickie, in order to study and copy him, killing him, and eventually taking his persona. The murder of Dickie and his friend, Miles, who suspected Ripley was impersonating Dickie, brought on ever increasing paranoia that continued even after Ripley seemingly got away with everything and inherited Dickie's fortune from his apparent suicide.
The Talented Mr. Ripley is a book about hustle. It is a story of a young man wishing for wealth and doing whatever it took to acquire and maintain it. When he first met Dickie and saw his life, he wanted to be him. He wanted to achieve what Dickie had and planned a way to do it. On page 14 of the book, one sees his first impression of Dickie and his reflection on his own life compared to that of Dickie's. "Dickie was lucky. What was he himself doing at twenty-five? Living from week to week. No bank account. Dodging cops now for the first time in his life." (Highsmith 14).
Tom was a degenerate to some extent and when he saw Dickie, he saw a way out of his sad and pathetic life. He did everything and anything to achieve his means. Tom impressed and entertained Dickie, hoping a budding friendship would lead to a better life. "Dickie frowned. "Paid…
Sources Used in Document:
Fitzgerald, FS. The Great Gatsby. Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 1993. Print.
Highsmith, Patricia. The Talented Mr. Ripley. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2008. Print.