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Fairy Tale Traits in The Great Gatsby Essay

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Updated: May 19th, 2021


Penned by a famous Minessota native and narrated by Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby is a captivating must-read chef-d’oeuvre. Like Fitzgerald, Nick is a native of Minnesota and an advocate of Midwestern values. The novel’s setting is on the long island dominated by prosperous wealthy and poor communities of East Egg and West Egg. The year 1922 marked the dawn of a period of epochal social alterations and economic prosperity in America.

Cultural convections perceived as out of date die ushering in new ones. Women seem granted rights to participate in voting, something that causes them to see themselves as equal to men: they assimilate masculine ways and fashions into their lifestyles. Jingoism and racism rise abundantly as mechanisms to counter the benefits and opportunities acquired by non-white communities and foreigners.

Around the same time, the ardent push by religion fundamentalists to the government to prohibit the consumption of alcohol sees bootleg whiskey business greatly hampered with by people. Upon considering the use of symbolism, themes, and characters in the story, it seems evident that the author incorporated substantial elements of the traditional plot for fairy tales. Such a tale has heroes and villains.

The villains remain perceived successful at the onset of the tales but turn out as large losers at the end. Therefore one can see Daisy Buchanan as a Fairy Tale Princess. Basing on the several evident parameters, for instance, the character traits, the behavior of prince and princess, and gender distinctions amongst others, Fitzgerald’s masterwork stands out as a variation and sophisticated version of the fairy tale.

Character Traits/Prince and Princess Behavior

The Great Gatsby characters exhibit traditional fairy tale traits through vividly intertwined with variations and sophistication of purely fairy tale. Daisy Buchanan is a typical princess who never grows. She rejects Gatsby and marries Tom Buchanan (wealthy snobbish West Egg resident) later again to have an affair with Gatsby.

In thought, she is shallow and lacks maturity. She says: “I’ve gone everywhere and seen everything and done everything” (Fitzgerald 141), portraying that she is wholly bored with life. In spite of her unhappiness in marriage and the privileges she goes through in life, she is not the likes who give up simply so as not to turn out as being the loser.

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She had better live with marriage challenges than live without money as Gatsby tells us, “her voice is full of money” (Fitzgerald 151). On the other hand, Tom Buchanan is an arrogant, fabulously wealthy and condescending character. His fellow students despised him at Yale. This is a typical response from the society towards people exhibiting wild characteristics in fairy tales. However, these characters are stereotypes of modern cultures that have an ardent love for wealth and could partake anything to attain it.

For instance, Nick says, “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…” (Fitzgerald 153). Gatsby climbs his ladder to be among the opulence club member through participation in illegal bootleg whiskey business and organized crimes.

Gender Distinctions

Gender distinctions are evident comparable with traditional fairy tales, which more often than not tend to bring out the gender differences in terms of allocation of roles and responsibilities in the society. Gatsby and tom travel to the city to partake their respective work leaving women behind. Daisy exclaims: “I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool- that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (Fitzgerald 160 ).

Daisy informs that the survival of women relied on their husband’s fate. Women disguise themselves as fools, just like her to benefit both socially and materially from men. The other side of the coin tends to show the plot of the writing to be somehow not purely that of traditional fairy tale since females in this society, seem to have some absolute rights. For instance, women can engage in arguments with their husbands on matters of infidelity.

Construct and Conformance to Traditional Fairy Plot

The plotting and writing employ smiles and metaphors to provide a vivid description of places and people. For example, wheat fields are compared to “the valley of ashes” (Chrome Para. 3). The social setting makes the novel more consistent with the traditional plot for fairy tales.

The novel is set among wealthy and educated persons who have an enormous deal for partying and shallow concern for the rest of the people who do not fall in their social milieu. Analogous to traditional fairy tales, in The Great Gatsby, no one seems to be individually worried about issues surrounding spiritual, political, and economic matters.

The primary concern is their overall perception socially. The social climate advocated for is the one, which demands conformance to some specified standards. This fact remains exemplified by Tom’s flaunting about his mistress, something that draws many issues to the society. Besides, in spite of suspicion of Jay Gatsby’s involvement in organized crimes, people still take part in his laxative parties.

Just as fairy tale ends with a promise of a happy life ever after, The Great Gatsby sums up by promising something like happy life after convection. Nick practically appears to invent idealistic Gatsby somewhere midway to cast him to the realization of the right indulgencies affiliated to heroism.

Nick laments that “…Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes and Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor” (Fitzgerald 41).

This piece looks like an attempt to achieve fairy tale quests. Symbolism and figurative language are sufficiently used by the author, who gives the novel a more feel of a fairy tale. However, the figures deployed tend to reflect much on modern-day social challenges like corruption. In real life, this represents aristocrats, which took a long time to establish. Symbolically the author tags them “old money” (Fitzgerald 54) and remains generally characterized by corruption accompanied by jaded ways of life.

Further Research

On the other hand, west Egg residents or “new money” (Fitzgerald 54) are perceived by East Egg counterparts as upstart outsiders. Nick and Gatsby live in this community. The green light is yet another symbol that depicts Gatsby’s dreams. As Gatsby comments, “you always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock” (Fitzgerald 79), The green light gives a permit to move on to pursue dreams.


The Great Gatsby is a tragic novel which perhaps reminiscent of tragedies such as the downfall of central characters in a tragic flaw typically called hamartia appearing in ancient Greek plays- Sophocles (497-405 B.C). The novel documents the rise and fall of two exclusive noble phenomena: American society and Gatsby. The tragedies involving flaws encountered extend from one ridge of idealistic naivety and on the other ridge enormous corrupt behavior. The tale, therefore, is a variation and sophisticated version of the fairy tale.

Works Cited

Chrome, David. , 2005.

Fitzgerald, Scott. The Great Gatsby. Washington: Scriber; Reissue, 1999.

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