The Great Gatsby – Romance and Cynicism

The tension between romance and cynicism is a central theme of “The Great Gatsby”. I think that romance seems to be the main theme on the surface level, despite the novel having a quite cynical view overall. For instance, the main character Gatsby is a romantic dreamer. He believes in the American dream, where if he works hard enough he will be able to attain his goals and aspiration which will make him eternally happy and content, which in his case was to be with Daisy. However, because of his romanticized outlook, he falls in love with an idealized version of Daisy rather than Daisy herself. This realization is recognized by the narrator, Nick, who hence has a cynical attitude towards love and the American dream.

Another interesting example of the balance of cynicism and romance is Daisy’s facade and actual self. Daisy has a cynical attitude, although she tries to mask her true nature when she’s around other people. For instance, her character is introduced in a very unrealistic and romanticized way. Nick describes the atmosphere as quite peaceful and lovely and mentions she is wearing a white dress that is “rippling and fluttering” around. He also describes her as “charming” and someone with an “exciting” and “thrilling voice”, “bright eyes” and a “passioante moiuth”. These qualities she possesses and the introduction to her character suggest she is the ideal symbol for romance. However, she only appears this way to be seen as an ideal woman or trophy wife to abide by societal standards. There are a few instances in the novel where she is quite sardonic about these gender norms. For instance, she tells Nick and Jordan she hopes her daughter will “be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool”. During the 20s, a woman’s intelligence and independence were not valued. Instead, a woman who was compliant and delicate was the ideal wife. Therefore, although Daisy expresses here that she finds these values to be quite idiotic and unfair, she still tries to embody them because of societal pressures.

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