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What Is the Main Conflict in the Great Gatsby?

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The primary conflict in Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby is between Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan. Gatsby wants to rekindle his relationship with Daisy, who is now married to Tom.

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It is difficult to point out only one conflict in The Great Gatsby. There is a need to discuss all of them since they are connected. First, there is a conflict known in the literature as Man vs. Man. Gatsby is the protagonist, and Daisy’s husband, Tom Buchanan, is the antagonist. Tom is portrayed as an arrogant, hostile man who fails to care for his wife. The battle for Daisy’s heart ensues, and none of the two men wants to give up. For some time, Gatsby carries on his affair with Daisy behind her husband’s back. Soon, Tom finds out and investigates Gatsby’s shady past. Indeed, Jay gained his fortune from the criminal underworld. For Daisy, it would have been a deal-breaker.

There comes the second significant conflict of the novel – Man vs. Self. Gatsby was his worse enemy. Basically, Jay is hurting himself all the time. His character has some of the worst traits combined – immaturity with overconfidence. Sure, he could make it financially, but he is not prepared to live in society. Gatsby is deluded and chasing utterly unachievable goals.

Finally, it becomes clear that the overarching conflict of the novel is reality vs. fantasy. Gatsby’s entire persona is built on lies, and no-one knows the real him. Besides, he gives in to wishful thinking and chooses illusions over real life. And Daisy is convinced that only fools with zero self-awareness can live happily. That is why she wants her daughter to grow up beautiful and foolish. The story resolves itself after Gatsby’s funeral when Nick sees the ugly reality of New York. The narrator becomes disenchanted and returns home to enjoy simpler things in life.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "What Is the Main Conflict in the Great Gatsby?" June 28, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/q/what-is-the-main-conflict-in-the-great-gatsby/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'What Is the Main Conflict in the Great Gatsby'. 28 June.

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