How Is Jay Gatsby a Tragic Hero?

The title character of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, "The Great Gatsby," is a tragic hero by virtue of his ultimately fatal idealism, which embodies the tragic reality of the "American Dream." He is also something of an anti-hero, in that his considerable wealth, for which he had always longed, came from his involvement in organized crime.

Gatsby is introduced to the reader as a charming idealist whose life is shrouded in mystery. As the mystery unravels, it is established that Gatsby reinvented himself from Jimmy Gatz, a Midwestern farmer's son.

His goal in life becomes winning the affections of Daisy, for whom wealth is of paramount importance. This goal, which consumes Gatsby and drives his every action, is at the heart of his tragic nature. The dream of Daisy falling in love with him becomes his entire world, and it is a fantasy that could not possibly be fulfilled by reality. He realizes this fact too late, having staked and lost everything on his dream.

His life is nevertheless presented as noble. Gatsby is fiercely, heroically passionate but also loyal to his friends and essentially good-hearted. This is especially apparent when his character is contrasted with the aristocrats he spends time with, such as the bullying Tom.