The Theme Of Illusion Versus Reality In The Great Gatsby And Hamlet

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The human mind is an interesting element, it gives us the ability to feel, think, and imagine. While the complexity of the intellect gives people the competence to replay events in their memories, the human desire to seek comfort through their illusion blinds the reality. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it depicts the story of an indecisive and hesitant young prince, who found out the heartbreaking truth about his father’s death through his spirit. Questioning the reliability of his father’s spirit, Hamlet deliberately plans a play that reenacts the murder of King Hamlet, hoping Claudius will react with fear and guilt. Hamlet further plays fool to take revenge against Claudius, which eventually leads to his tragic downfall. Similarly, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, follows the story of a millionaire by the name of Jay Gatsby, who is obsessed with recapturing his unattainable dream: Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby’s visionary ambition to gain the love of Daisy once more, corrupts his ability to differentiate between reality and illusion. While Shakespeare and Fitzgerald work were written four centuries apart, both work evidently displays the theme of reality versus illusion. In both texts, the characters use illusion to protect themselves from the inevitable truth and horrendous acts of others. Furthermore, the characters utilize their illusion to hide their true identity and fulfill their fantasy of having wealth and power.

Both Fitzgerald and Shakespeare work shows how illusion prevents people from perceiving the reality. In the text of Hamlet and The Great Gatsby, both titular characters use illusion as a protection for themselves. From The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby depends on his illusion to shun the undeniable truth. He abandons all of the irrefutable evidence, declaring that “Daisy might have loved Tom for a minute when they were first married- and loved him more even than”. Believing that Daisy’s love for him has not changed over the years, he attempts to impress Daisy in order to repeat the past. However, in reality, “even just talking to Gatsby alone Daisy can’t say she never loved Tom.” Upon rejecting the truth, Gatsby’s dependence on his illusion encourages him to pursuit his unattainable dream- Daisy. Glamorizing Daisy as a perfect women, Nick states that “Daisy tumbled short of Gatsby’s dreams- not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion” (Fitzgerald 95) Desiring to preserve his unrealistic image of Daisy, he continues to add vitality into his illusionary version of her after all these years. In actuality, Daisy will never be able to achieve his expectations.

Comparably, in the play of Hamlet, prince Hamlet creates the illusion of insanity in other people’s mind to protect himself from external threats. Attempting to change his appearance, “Lord Hamlet, has his doublet all unbraced; no hat upon his head, his stockings fouled, ungartered, and down-gyvèd to his ankle, pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other, and with a look so piteous in purport as if he had been loosèd out of hell” (Shakespeare 2.1.88-93). As Hamlet meets others with a disheveled appearance and the way he act, it had created an illusion of other to think he is demented. Ophelia’s exaggeration wording has consolidated his insanity in others mind. However in reality he was trying to protect himself by creating a hallucination of insanity, he demonstrated to Horatio “no matter how strange or odd soe’er he bear himself (As he perchance hereafter shall think meet to put an antic disposition on), That Horatio, at such times seeing him, never shall — With arms encumbered thus, or this headshake” (Shakespeare 189-194). Hamlet tells Horatio to not act oddly for his action, shows Hamlet is not actually crazy but he wants to make the illusion of craziness. After finding the truth of his father’s death Hamlet realize it is necessary to have some action so he decided to fake his mental status, and use it to impel his plan of revenge and to protected him from the murderer. Both titular characters from two texts had hidden themselves under the illusion from the harms other and the reality. In the theme of illusion versus reality, both Myrtle Wilson and Claudius from both texts created an illusionary figure. I

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n The Great Gatsby, Myrtle was married to George Wilson a poor mechanic who live in the Valley Of Ashes, but her motivation of money encourage her have an affair with Tom Buchanan and uses Tom Buchanan to achieving to her dream of being rich. During the conversation on the train with Tom and Nick, a servant forgot to bring the ice, Myrtle complained about “These lower-class people! The wealthy’s have to keep after them all the time” (Fitzgerald 32). She puts herself as a higher position as people from aristocracy, and looks down on lower class. Her mirage of wealthiness made her believe she belong to the higher class. In additionally, the narrator has described “Mrs. Wilson had changed her costume some time before and was now attired in an elaborate afternoon dress of cream-colored chiffon” (Fitzgerald 30). Myrtle tries to fit in to the group of high class by changing her outfit. She want to create the illusion of she belong to the same group like them. But in reality, she is a low class woman that is living in the Valley of Ashes. When Nick first meet her, she walk out “From the garage office,…… and weared a spotted dress of Dark blue crepe-de-chine” (Fitzgerald 25). Myrtle was wearing a dirty dress and spotted with oil. With the comparison from the train and where she really live in. It shows two different version of her. One is the illusionary figure of how she presented herself and one is her true form. Likewise, Claudius from the play of Hamlet he also created a illusionary version of himself. He created the image of a good king to the others, uses a excuses that seem to be rightful to operate his plan, he said about “Hamlet’s liberty is full of throat to all, to Gertrude, to Gertrude and himself , to everyone ……but he will ship Hamlet to hence; and this vile dead Gertrude and himself must with and our majesty and skill both countence and excuse” ( Shakespeare 4.1.15-34). Claudius uses Hamlet’s insanity as an excuse to send Hamlet to England. By saying this, it can creates an image of a caring king that don’t want anyone to threaten the kingdom. In reality, he is not the person he presented, his soliloquy shows he had sended letter to “ king of England, ……to congruing to that effect the present death of Hamlet.” His main purpose is to kill everyone that will harm him from his throne, he sended a letter to the king of England to kill Hamlet. He decision was decided based of the good for him, but in others’ illusion he is a kind-hearted king who wants to protect the kingdom.

Both characters from the work appear two different versions of them. Illusion make Myrtle and Claudius appear to someone who they aren’t, but in reality they are the opposite as they appear. In both text of Hamlet and The Great Gatsby, Claudius and Gatsby have the illusion of thinking having wealth and authority can give them the abilities to get happiness. In the case of The Great Gatsby, Gatsby thinks being wealthy can recapture the heart of Daisy. He declared “Daisy never loved Tom…… she only married Tom because he was poor and she was tired of waiting for him” (Fitzgerald 130). For all these years, Gatsby’s dream was always Daisy, his memories from the past stated as long as he’s with Daisy he will be happy. He denies the relationship between Daisy and Tom and believes that his poorness is the main reason that leads to her to make the impetuous decision to leave him. Thus, he spend all these years making dirty and illegal deals to become affluence, and have the confidence that Daisy will return back to him. In reality, Daisy did not follow the expectation of his illusion, after he made the confession with Tom about the affair with Daisy. She has choice to go back to Tom’s house. When Gatsby stood at Tom’s house overnight Daisy simply “come to the window and stood there for a minute and turned out the light” (Fitzgerald 147). Daisy turning the light of symbolizes the dream of Gatsby has also turned off. Daisy finally picks to stay with Tom instead of Gatsby. His obsession with Daisy’s love had causes his final death. His illusion did not bring Gatsby happiness but death. Similar situation happen in Hamlet, Claudius the present king, have the illusion of believing having authority will give him happiness. From his soliloquy, he has admitted he killed his brother for the “the crown, the ambition and the queen” (Shakespeare 3.3.59). Claudius always wanted power, he even killed his own brother King Hamlet to achieve his illusionary happiness. Eventually, he got all his wants but in reality he didn’t live happily. He mentioned “his stronger guilt defeats his strong intent. And like a man to double business bound, instant in pause where he shall first begin, and both neglect” (Shakespeare. 3.3.44-47). Instead of living illusory happiness with his “reward” for committing the murder, he has been living in guilt. The guilt slowly killing his intention and mind. However, Hamlet discovered his guiltiness from the premeditated act which causes the revenge from Hamlet. Both characters try to reach their illusory happiness, but reality is not what they had expected, and even lead them to a tragic downfall.

Both The Great Gatsby and Hamlet exemplify the theme of illusion versus reality and prove illusion can ceases people to accept the reality and lead to delusions. Characters uses illusion to create fake identity, also uses it to protect themselves from the horrendous acts of others and the unavoidable reality, and achieve their illusion of having money and power. In the society, people often utilize their fantasy to create a fall appearance to show the public, especially on social media. Slowly it become a pathological situation to many people, the force themselves to become “perfect”. Don’t be control by the delusion, it is important to accept the reality and your true identity.

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