Archetypes in The Great Gatsby

In this article you will learn about the archetypes in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the classic novel containing various archetypes commonly seen in literature throughout the ages.

What are the Archetypes in The Great Gatsby?

F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby contains a number of famous literary archetypes personified in its central characters.

In the eponymous Gatsby Fitzgerald models four archetypes – the tragic hero, the scapegoat, the quest and the fall.

Jay is a larger than life character with heroic qualities who is ultimately destined for tragedy, never to achieve the only thing he really wants in life despite heroic efforts to do so and a personality which draws all those around him towards him.

As the scapegoat Jay literally takes a bullet for Daisy, dying to protect her.

In his archetypal quest he sets out to make his fortune and win back the love of his life.

However, his efforts lead to his fall from the heights of wealth and popularity so that his true nature is revealed and he loses his life.

In Daisy, Fitzgerald has created an archetypal Temptress, one who cares only about her social standing and her image, leading her to choose the social status of Tom over her love for Gatsby despite the cost.

Nick Buchanan is an archetypal outsider and loner, who’s background and mannerisms set him apart from others in the story and leave him on the outside looking in, despite his best efforts to become part of the group.

Tom Buchanan is an archetypal narcissist, a man who cares only for himself and his own interests, who acts without care or consideration for the impact on those around him and only with his own desires at heart.

Jordan is an archetypal trickster, a woman willing to lie, manipulate and deceive in order to achieve what she wants.

The Great Gatsby Book Summary

  • Nick Carraway travels to New York to become a bond salesman and rents a property next to the luxurious estate of multi-millionaire Jay Gatsby, an enigmatic character who hosts extravagant parties but does not get involved in them.
  • Nick dines with distant relative Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom, encountering socialite Jordan Baker, who tells Nick that Tom has a mistress named Myrtle.
  • Nick travels into New York with Tom and Myrtle ends up accompanying them.
  • Tom takes them to the apartment he rents for his trysts with Myrtle and hosts a party.
  • He ends up breaking Myrtle’s nose when she mentions Daisy.
  • Nick is invited to one of Gatsby’s parties, where Gatsby introduces himself.
  • Gatsby insists they served in the same Infantry Division during the Great War, and he tries to ingratiate himself with Nick.
  • Jordan tells Nick that Gatsby and Daisy met back in 1917 and fell in love but that Daisy married Tom when Gatsby was serving overseas.
  • Gatsby hopes to win Daisy back, using Nick to stage a reunion between the two at which they commence an affair.
  • Tom discovers the affair and Daisy insists she never loved Gatsby, leaving both men upset.
  • Tom reveals Gatsby is a swindler and his money comes from bootlegged alcohol, with Daisy choosing to stay with Tom.
  • Tom tells Gatsby to drive Daisy home scornfully.
  • On driving home their car accidentally kills Myrtle. Gatsby tells Nick Daisy was driving but he will take the blame.
  • Tom tells Myrtle’s husband George that the car is Gatsbys and George assumes he was her lover rather than Tom.
  • Gatsby has refused to flee, despite Nick’s urging. George shoots Gatsby then commits suicide.
  • It transpires that Gatsby’s real name was James ‘Jimmy’ Gatz.

The Great Gatsby Archetype Examples

  • Tragic hero
  • Scapegoat
  • Temptress
  • Narcissist
  • Trickster
  • Outsider/Loner
  • Quest
  • Fall

Want more literary archetypes?

Go check out our extensive list of archetypes in literature to find out more about the characters seen in literature throughout the ages.

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