“It is good to have an end to a journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end,” (QuotationsBook). Many embark on the bold quest of life, seeking the final destiny it has in store for them. Some procure what they yearn for, while others are left helplessly to their vitriolic fates. The goal, however important it may be, is preceded in importance by the journey itself. In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby’s journey supersedes and prevents his final goal of accompanying Daisy. A similar occurrence arises in Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus’ goal is to safely reach home to Ithaca, but his journey back home is the experience he will remember for a lifetime. Many parallels like this one can be drawn between The Great Gatsby and The Odyssey. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s chef d’oeuvre, The Great Gatsby, Daisy, Gatsby, and Tom can all be analyzed to draw comparisons between The Great Gatsby and The Odyssey.
In The Great Gatsby, Daisy is compared to two different characters from The Odyssey, the sirens and Penelope. The most obvious comparison Fitzgerald creates is between Daisy and the sirens. In The Odyssey, sirens are creatures which lure sailors to shore with their archangelic voices; but their entrancing voices are a trap, however, as they draw sailors close to the treacherous shores and sink their ships. Daisy’s voice is compared to that of a siren numerous times throughout the novel, and Nick is fixated by her voice early on, “there was an excitement in her voice …a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour,”(Fitzgerald 14). Daisy’s intoxicating voice promises that there are merry, entertaining things in the future and Daisy uses it to lure unsuspecting men to herself, just as the sirens use their voices to lure sailors to the shore. Later on in the story Nick describes the voice once again, “The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain,” (Fitzgerald 85). Fitzgerald puts such a sole importance and focus on Daisy’s voice to make the allusion to the sirens clear. Comparing the two stories in a different sense, Daisy also represents Penelope from The Odyssey. Penelope is the wife of Odysseus, and her situation becomes dire as Odysseus continues on his voyage back home. Many suitors covet Penelope’s hand in marriage but she tries to remain faithful to Odysseus, whose status is unknown. Daisy, much like Penelope, never decisively picks a single man to be with until Tom reveals Gatsby’s past. Daisy’s indecisive qualities are brought to the forefront when she displays reluctance when declaring her love for Gatsby, “‘Daisy’s leaving you.’ ‘Nonsense’ ‘I am though,’ she said with visible effort,” (Fitzgerald 133). Her personality is analogous to Penelope, as Penelope never chooses a suitor to be with until Odysseus returns. In summary, Daisy is a clear connection between The Great Gatsby and The Odyssey, because she is an allusion to the sirens and Penelope.
Gatsby is also compared to two different characters in The Odyssey, Odysseus and Euramychus. Many comparisons between Gatsby and Odysseus are clearly displayed throughout the novel. On his homeward voyage, Odysseus and his crew encounter sirens, and he is enraptured by the beguiling voices of the sirens, but is able to successfully bypass them without being drawn to their captivating force. Gatsby is similarly drawn to Daisy’s voice, however, he does not have the same luck in escaping her wrath and is unable to forget her voice, “there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget,” (Fitzgerald 14). Gatsby remembers his idolatrous past with Daisy and wants to renew the lust they once felt for one another, but Daisy uses this to her advantage and effectively draws Gatsby into her clutches as a siren. She creates an illusion, setting a facade of love, while the rocky shore of rejection hides behind. Gatsby truly believes Daisy’s confession of love, “As he (Tom) left the room again she got up and went over to Gatsby, and pulled his face down kissing him on the mouth. ‘You know I love you,’ she murmured,” (Fitzgerald 122-123). Unlike Odysseus, Gatsby does not know the danger of the sirens, and this lack of knowledge leads to his inevitable rejection, which becomes apparent when Tom surfaces all of Gatsby’s corrupt dealings and criminal activity, “he began to talk excitedly to Daisy, denying everything, defending his name against accusations that had not been made. But with every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up…trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room,” (Fitzgerald 142). Daisy has drawn Gatsby in, and crashed him on the shore, leaving him to dwell on his paucity. Looking at Gatsby in a different manner, he also represents Euramychus, one of Penelope’s suitors from The Odyssey. If Daisy is analyzed as Penelope, then Gatsby is clearly a parallel for Euramychus. In the Odyssey, many suitors fight for Penelope’s hand in marriage but two suitors, Euramychus and Antinous, stand out prominently. Euramychus is known for being very deceitful, and almost manages to fool Penelope into marrying him. Gatsby fits the mold well, as he has been continually deceiving everybody in the story. There are rumors pertaining to Gatsby’s knavish background, but Gatsby never lets the truth out, displaying a semblance of charm and glamour, while truly being a clandestine felon. Just as Euramychus almost tricked Penelope, Gatsby is almost able to trick Daisy into reviving their love once and for all, but when Gatsby’s criminal activities have been brought to the forefront by Tom, Gatsby no longer has his aura of charm, and loses his relation with Daisy. In conclusion, through Gatsby’s connections with Daisy, his representation of Odysseus and Euramychus becomes staggeringly clear.
In The Great Gatsby, Tom is described as the lumbering being of a Cyclops and Altinous, one of the suitors vying for Penelope’s hand in marriage. Tom is described as a cyclops physically, mentally, and at times, emotionally. Fitzgerald illustrates Tom’s physical likeness to a cyclops very clearly, “Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body…you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage-a cruel body,” (Fitzgerald 11). This quote displays the physical masculinity and primal features Tom possesses, as he is almost animal-like in his physical descriptions; such descriptions allow the reader to mentally dehumanize Tom, allowing the reader to see the comparison between Tom and a cyclops. Tom is once again described as a primal being, “Flushed with impassioned gibberish he (Tom) saw himself standing alone on the last barrier of civilization,” (Fitzgerald 137). Tom is no longer refined, instead he has turned into a bestial, dehumanized figure. Viewing Tom in a different fashion, he can also be compared to Altinous, one of Penelope’s many suitors. Altinous is one of Penelope’s most striking suitors and is extremely arrogant and self-centered, along with being portrayed as violent, mean spirited, and overly confident; Tom is shown in a similar light when Nick first sees him, “Now he (Tom) was a sturdy, straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward,” (Fitzgerald 11). Tom has a vainglorious manner about him, constantly thinking of himself as superior to others, and looking at others in a condescending way; Altinous is similarly self-centered, eating all of Odysseus’ food and taking advantage of his hospitality without ever reciprocating. Tom has domineering eyes and is seemingly always leaning forward aggressively; likewise, Altinous is a very violent, aggressive character. All in all, Tom can be compared to the cyclops and Altinous through a variety of characteristics they all possess.
In The Great Gatsby, Daisy, Gatsby, and Tom can all be analyzed to draw comparisons between The Great Gatsby and The Odyssey. Each of these three main characters bridges the gaps between these two literary masterpieces. Gatsby and Odysseus both live their lives in search of a singular goal, and fateful events occur on their journeys. Hemingway was true when he said, “…it is the journey that matters, in the end,” (QuotationsBook). Gatsby’s journey ends up leading to his own death, and Odysseus’ journey becomes a very unexpected and extraordinary one. Both stories seem to suggest that if people worry too much about their final goal in life, they miss the valuable experiences on the path to the goal. These experiences, whether they are daily occurrences or monumental life changes, are more important than the final goal humanity strives for in life. John Lennon describes it well, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” (Wikiquote).
Fitzgerald, Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953
Gill, N. S. “Summary of the Books of the Odyssey.” About.com Ancient / Classical History. About.com, 12 Feb. 2013. Web. 08 May 2013.
“John Lennon.” Wikiquote. Wikimedia, n.d. Web. 08 May 2013
“Quotes by Hemingway, Ernest.” Hemingway, Ernest Quotes. Quotations Book, n.d. Web. 08 May 2013.
Schneider, Daniel J. “Color Symbolism In The Great Gatsby.” Critical Insights (n.d.): 245-54.
Steinbrink, Jeffrey. “‘Boats Against the Current’: Mortality and the Myth of Renewal in The Great Gatsby.” Twentieth Century Literature 26.2 (1980): 157-70.