Greatest Fictional New Yorkers #6: Jay Gatsby

06---jay-gatsby.gifName: James “Jimmy” Gatz aka Jay “the Great” Gatsby
Address: West Egg, Long Island
Occupation: Bootlegger
Hobbies: Man About Town
Memorable Quote: Nick: “You can’t repeat the past.” Gatsby: “Why of course you can!”

The tale of Jay Gatsby is a typical New York story about innocent and idealistic young people from America’s heartland who come to the big City and are corrupted by money and power. Born Jimmy Gatz to a poor farming family in North Dakota, like many poor young men, Jimmy goes to the army and becomes an officer. He meets the beautiful Daisy with whom he has a passionate love affair. Daisy comes from a wealthy mid-Western family. She rejects Gatz for the rich and corrupt Chicagoan, Tom Buchanan. Tom and Daisy end up in East Egg, Long Island, where all the fashionable “old” money New Yorkers live or have summer homes.

Gatz is consumed by his love for Daisy. Moreover, having been raised on American “family values,” the young Jimmy feels that having had a sexual relationship with Daisy means they must be married. Realizing that the only way to win Daisy back is to get rich quick, Jimmy comes to New York and follows a path many poor young people still do for easy money: he gets involved in a life of “crime” as defined by the “Man.” Since he lived in the Twenties, this meant he became a bootlegger, working with a Jewish gangster with lots of “gonnections.”

With his new found wealth, Gatsby moves out of the City and buys a mansion in the less fashionable West Egg, just across the bay from where his love lives. He assumes a new mysterious identity as Jay Gatsby, and tries to insinuate himself into the snobby society circles in which Daisy travels. Eventually he and Daisy unite, but she just uses him to make her philandering husband jealous. Driving Gatsby’s car she “accidently” runs over her husband’s mistress Myrtle, a poor married woman from the wrong side of the tracks. Daisy runs back to her husband, knowing he will protect her from the police. Tom delivers the coup de grace to the broken-hearted Gatsby by getting Myrtle’s husband to kill Gatsby. As in most New York tales, the rich get away with murder and the poor get shafted.

Other Fictional New Yorkers in this series

1 Comment so far

  1. RisingSunofNihon (unregistered) on August 18th, 2006 @ 6:08 pm

    I have to say that it’s a bit disheartening to see The Great Gatsby rank lower than the Stay-Puft marshmallow man on this list of Greatest Fictional New Yorkers… #6 was the best Gatsby could do??

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