Often in literature, an author will juxtapose two opposing concepts to enhance the meaning of the work. Such is the case in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby. Throughout the novel the actions of Gatsby are shaped by the ongoing tension between idealism and reality.
Gatsby's vision of Daisy and her near perfection in that illusion comprise the idealism that acts against the reality of Daisy. Gatsby builds a dream with Daisy at its center, and takes many steps in trying to win her love. After he returns to America following World War I, he secures a significant amount of money, through bootlegging and gambling (and these are only hinted at).(Magill 360) These corrupt sources, consequently "taint" his money. Because his money is acquired, it is called the "new money" of the 1920's. He purchases a large mansion directly across a bay from Daisy, with the intent of being as close to her as he could be without obviousness. However, Daisy hails from the old money of the 1920's, or the inherited money. The people of the old money consider the people of new money their inferiors. Gatsby, driven by his idealistic vision of Daisy, attains money in hopes of winning her. However, Gatsby fails to understand that he cannot recapture the past no matter how much money he makes.(Magill 360)
Gatsby also takes another step towards attracting Daisy's love. Much of his time is spent in trying to impress, and become accepted by, other rich people.(Magill 356) Every weekend he holds grand parties for the distinguished members of society. He spends a significant amount of money in preparing for these parties. He brings in rare fruits from out of town; he hires an orchestra for the music and entertainment; and he also has a wide variety of foods to accommodate the desires of his guests. Gatsby spends all this money, and endures all the trouble in hopes that if Daisy will come to one of his parties she would be extremely impressed. However, Gatsby still fails to realize that no matter how much wealth he displays, he cannot fix what has already been done.
Gatsby's actions are still influenced after Gatsby and Daisy reunite. When Gatsby takes Daisy through his house for the first time, he is showing off his house to her and wants to impress her with how much wealth he possesses. While they tour the house, Gatsby relies on each of her reactions to keep his dream alive, especially when Daisy proclaims how much she likes his shirts. He does not want to recognize that Daisy is not what his dream has made her out to be. When Gatsby, Nick, Daisy, Tom, and Jordan are all in the apartment in New York City, Gatsby's actions are again shaped by the tension of idealism and reality. Within his dream, Gatsby and Daisy are together living happily. Gatsby seems to force her to love him in return when he demands that she tell Tom that she is in love with Gatsby. In attempting to achieve his dream, he must pursue and win Daisy, who to him is an embodiment of ideal beauty.(Minter 85) However when she refuses a life with him and ultimately, to love him in return, his dream crumbles.
The continual tension between idealism and reality frames the actions of Gatsby throughout the novel. Gatsby tries to impress Daisy through his money and possessions because he clings to a vision that sees Daisy, the ideal character, and him together. But, when he is refused her love, his dream is crushed.