There is a fine line between love and lust. If love is only a will to possess, it is not love. To love someone is to hold them dear to one’s heart. In The Great Gatsby, the characters, Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan are said to be in love, but in reality, this seems to be a misconception. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald portrays the themes of love, lust and obsession, through the character of Jay Gatsby, who confuses lust and obsession with love. By the end of the novel however, Jay Gatsby is denied his “love” and suffers an untimely death. The author interconnects the relationships of the various prominent characters to support these ideas.
The character of Jay Gatsby was a wealthy business man, who the author developed as arrogant and tasteless. Gatsby’s love interest, Daisy Buchanan, was a subdued socialite who was married to the dim witted Tom Buchanan. She is the perfect example of how women of her level of society were supposed to act in her day. The circumstances surrounding Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship kept them eternally apart. For Daisy to have been with Gatsby would have been forbidden, due to the fact that she was married. That very concept of their love being forbidden, also made it all the more intense, for the idea of having a prohibited love, like William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, made it all the more desirable. Gatsby was remembering back five years to when Daisy was not married and they were together:
His heart began to beat faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.
His memory of her is sweet and beautiful so that even without saying it, it is obvious that he was, and possibly is still, in love with her. He remembered the past and convinced himself that it could be like that once again. He became delusional with love, and was blinded by it.
Because Daisy was married, it was impossible for she and Gatsby to be together, but this did not stop them from secretly flirting and quietly exchanging their tokens of affection.
‘Who wants to go to town?’ demanded Daisy insistently. Gatsby’s eyes floated toward her. ‘Ah,’ she cried, ‘you look so cool.’
Their eyes met, and they stared together at each other, alone in space. With an effort she glanced down at the table.
‘You always look so cool,’ she repeated.
She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw
Before this quote, Tom had no inkling of Gatsby and Daisy’s secret affair and when he finds out, it makes him crazed. The thought of not having control over his women, made him furious. He also thought that to love someone, you had to dominate them and the moment he realizes that he has lost this domination, he panics because he thinks that maybe Daisy doesn’t love him anymore. Gatsby senses that Tom is upset which gives Gatsby a sense of power since it is now he who has control over Daisy, for the time being.
To lust for someone is to have sexual longings for a person. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald portrays lust through Gatsby. It is mentioned that before he met Daisy, he lusted after many women, yet he held no respect for them.
He knew women early, and since they spoiled him he became contemptuous of them, of young virgins because they were ignorant, of the others because they were hysterical about things which in his overwhelming self-absorption he took for granted.
Until he met Daisy, he took women for granted, never understanding the value of respect and love. The character of Gatsby gives enough evidence to conclude that lust has nothing to do with love, and that they are entirely different frames of mind. Gatsby lusted for women, but did not respect or love his lust objects. They were only objects of desire.
When lust becomes an obsession, lust becomes dangerous. It can completely overpower a person until they become controlled by it. By the end of this book, Gatsby becomes obsessed with Daisy. He thinks of nothing else but her and constantly analyses over every little detail of her life. He wanted her so much to have her, that it consumed his life.
He wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: ‘I never loved you.’ After she had obliterated four years with that sentence they could decide upon the more practical measures to be taken. One of them was that, after she was free, they were to go back to Louisville and be married from her house – just as if it were five years ago.
‘And she doesn’t understand,’ he said. ‘She used to be able understand. We’d sit for hours-‘
He broke off and began to walk up and down a desolate path of fruit rinds and discarded favours and crushed flowers.
‘I wouldn’t ask too much of her,’ I ventured. ‘You can’t repeat the past’
‘Can’t repeat the past?’ he cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can!’
Gatsby becomes delusional with the thought of Daisy. He again thought that he could turn back the hands of time and have everything the same and perfect, with the exception of a few dollars or so. He had no life anymore. She was his life.
It is also clear that the driving motivation for getting all his money, was so that he will appeal to Daisy. She was a material woman and she was used to living a lavish life. She knew that if she married Gatsby, she would have to give up many of the luxuries that she had become accustomed to over the years of her life. Gatsby’s whole efforts in this book are focused on trying to bring him and Daisy back to the point of time before he joined the army, except this time he has enough money for her.
‘She never loved you, don’t you hear?’ he cried. ‘She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved any one except me!’
He wanted to repeat the past and have it exactly the way it was before he joined the army. She wasn’t willing to risk her social status for the man she loved, concluding that she did not really love him.
Near the end of the novel, Gatsby is murdered by the husband of the woman Daisy had killed. Gatsby was denied Daisy’s love and he thereafter paid for her actions. She walked away with her life and social status in tact and continued to live in luxury, paying no thought to the fact that the man she had “loved”, was killed for an action that she herself had committed.
Throughout the novel, the character of Gatsby portrayed the succession of love, to lust, to obsession. By showing this succession, he differentiated between the three, deducting that they all were different things. If love is only a will to possess, it is not love.