Not everything is what it seems, and often we are fooled by the outside appearance of people, things or places. Authors often use contrast in their works such as white/black or good/bad to convey a meaning. Fitzgerald used the contrast between reality and illusion in the novel “The Great Gatsby”. The notion of reality and illusion is intertwined with the characters in the novel. The reality and illusion theme is used throughout the entire novel to represent the character of people in the 1920s and their illusionary world. The contrast between what is real and an illusion it’s a critical issue in the novel. There are many events that take place in the novel which reveal that underneath those perfect lives, there lurks false happiness and materialism. Beginning with the protagonist of the novel, according to Lee (1997), Jay Gatsby is a mysterious figure, an illusion of his true self James Gatz. Gatsby acts as a successful person, but his whole world, his lavish life is dependent on illusion. Furthermore, his parties present an illusion of popularity, whereas in reality they are created only for Daisy’s approval. He is not interested in the people who come there, only in Daisy. Moreover, people use Gatsby only to go to his parties, because in reality, they do not care for him the same way they did not care to go to Gatsby’s funeral.
From Nick’s eyes, Gatsby is a lonely person, withdrawn from the real world by his illusory life.
Gatsby’s vision of wanting to repeat the past is considered as an illusion as well. For nearly five years he has dreamed of getting back together with Daisy and was convinced that she was waiting for him with the same desire. Gatsby proves to be blind, he doesn’t realize that his dream is far away from becoming a reality because Daisy is married to Tom and he has created an illegal wealth. His dream fails because he is unable to divide the illusion from reality. Fitzgerald also depicts the illusion of Daisy’s character. Throughout the novel, she is believed to be innocent from everything that happened. Her appearance is characterized by the white color, which symbolizes purity and innocence. First she is seen as a victim of her unfaithful husband Tom, but later on, her real personality is discovered as being a materialistic and selfish woman. The reality is that the protection that Tom gives her it’s much more important to her than Gatsby’s sacrifice. Despite the fact that Daisy understands that her husband has an affair, she again chooses to stay with him, thinking that money will solve their problems. Just as everyone else in that time that was lost in the illusion that money can make everything happen.
The people of the upper class lived a wonderful life all because of their wealth, not because they were really happy. We can see their reality through Nick’s eyes when he becomes part of this class due to his connection to his cousin Daisy and to his friendship with Gatsby. He realizes that wealth destroys people, it does more harm than good. As mentioned in Lee (1997), Gatsby maybe didn’t know Daisy very well, because their affair was very short. Gatsby’s version of Daisy proves to be very different from Daisy’s real actions. Her need to have a secure and wealthy life with her husband conveys a different reality. Nick realizes that Gatsby’s illusion was keeping him alive, if he were to admit the truth to himself then the only essential thing that gave meaning to his life would be destroyed. Without his dream, he would be left only with his wealth and materialistic world.