We all have flaws, and sometimes they are depicted through characters in literature.
In both Macbeth, a play by Shakespeare and the novel The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, there are two main characters who experience a demise because of their flaws. Even though both works were written at different times in history and in different countries, they both have similar characters with similar flaws. Specifically, both of them are tragic stories in which the characters die; however, due to their obsessive flaws and the influence of women, they experience a demise, and this is important for all readers because they are cautionary tales to warn us of how our own frailties can hurt us. To begin, both the play and the novel are considered tragedies, and they have all the elements of a traditional tragedy including a serious tragic flaw. One quality of a tragedy genre is that the main character dies. In this case, both main characters are men, and both characters die because of a tragic flaw of ambition to obtain something that will make them feel powerful.
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In a literal sense, revenge is also something that happens that leads to their deaths. Using Gatsby as an example, in his mind, he ambitiously loves Daisy, and perhaps he feels invisible as she has been the symbol of success for him. Therefore, he does everything to win her, puts all his emotion into her, and creates a whole world to win her. On account of his love for her, he uses any means possible to also lure her to him through parties and money. Gatsby’s obsession leads him to spend a lot of time with Daisy and her friends in which he gets caught up in their marital problems which then leads to the mistaken idea that Gatsby murders Myrtle with his car, but, in fact, it was Daisy. Because Gatsby covers for Daisy, who is his obsession, he is killed by George for no real reason at all.
In this case, Gatsby was merely too caught up in his own ambition to obtain Daisy that he loses the power he is gaining through wealth. Like all tragic heroes, he dies because he allows his flaw to take him over. One further thought is that Gatsby himself causes his own tragedy in a way because before his death there are signs such as Gatsby knows that Daisy is still with Tom but insists on standing in between them. Tom is very angry and he warns Gatsby once and for all: “You’re crazy!” he exploded. “I can’t speak about what happened five years ago, because I didn’t know Daisy then–and I’ll be damned if I see how you got within a mile of her unless you brought the groceries to the back door.
But all the rest of that’s a God damned lie. Daisy loved me when she married me and she loves me now” ?141). Gatsby’s response to Tom makes Tom even angrier and it sets into motion all of the tragic events that transpire which would never happen if Gatsby did not intrude on their lives with his lofty ambitions for Daisy. Macbeth, in comparison to Gatsby, also has a wild ambition after he learns more what he believes to be his predictions for power from the Weird Sisters. For starters, Macbeth’s ambition sparks once he is told the news that he will be Thane of Cawdor which prompts him to send a letter to his wife.
The seed for his flaw is planted, but not carried out until later. However, it is not fate that makes Macbeth do what he does, which is murder Duncan; it is Macbeth’s own desire to maintain his power once he becomes king and to pass that power down to his offspring in the future. For instance, it is only Macbeth who hears the Weird Sisters and finds out that his close friend Banquo’s children will be kings. This is evident when Banquo says, “Why fear what sounds so fair? If you can look into the seeds of time. / And say which grain will grow and which will not, / Then speak to me of what MY life shall be!” Then, later, Macbeth reaffirms to Banquo, “Your children shall be kings!” (ACT1, SCENE2, LINE9) This confuses Macbeth and ignites him to not only hire murderers to kill Banquo but also orders them to stab Banquo’s son, Fleance, the assumed heir to the throne.
In other words, Macbeth causes this entire tragedy and is the most responsible for all the bloody killings that occur in the play. Macbeth’s own dark ambitions lead to the death of many people as well as his own just to gain and preserve his king status. Whereas there was an ambition for a woman for Gatsby, Macbeth’s ambition to maintain his throne is equally as devastating and, essentially, leads to his death. Also, in both works, the main characters are seemingly influenced by the females in their lives. Gatsby and Macbeth are both driven by women to do tragic things but both are influenced in different ways. Using Gatsby as an example, his ambition for money and power exists because he wants Daisy to love him.
He works hard and earns plenty of money for the past five years because he wants to give Daisy the life she currently has and wants her. Gatsby knows this, too: “Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly (128). It is then obvious that Daisy is “old money”, and wealthy for a long time, and it is even heard in her voice as being “indiscreet,” which means she is reckless with her money and almost misguided in some way. While most people might save all they have, Daisy is indiscreet, or as it is defined, she talks about money which is something that should be kept private. She has never suffered financially, and this is what Gatsby himself has always wanted: wealth and to be better than his farmer family. Therefore, he changes his status and himself for Daisy.
It is clear, then, that it was not just Gatsby’s desire for success for himself but that Daisy influences him in extreme ways. Different from Gatsby, Macbeth is influenced by women rather than just one woman, and he is influenced in other extreme ways. For instance, Macbeth’s mind is finally determined by the three sisters and his wife “Lady Macbeth”. It seems that those four women instigate his flaw for ambition to be king and forces him to make the decision to kill the king. Those four women are kind of mediators in his life to give him advice and help him make up his plans to carry out the murder. Again, the bloody events that occur are all because Macbeth carries out his ambition that he creates in his mind right after he meets the Weird Sisters and before he even speaks to Lady Macbeth, when he says, “Come what may.
/ Time and the hour runs through the roughest day. / Let us toward the king!” (Act1, Scene2, Line1). Therefore, she cannot possibly be completely responsible for his actions, but certainly influences him. Macbeth is then the one who literally kills Duncan while Duncan is sleeping, causing such an awful scene in his own castle. Also, Lady Macbeth also exists as a supporter in his plan; she supports his decision because she herself wants her husband to become the king so that she can enjoy the life he provides for her. Therefore, she acts like a mediator to try to convince Macbeth to finally do what he does.
So, both stories’ main characters are highly influenced by the women in their lives. Whereas Daisy is the object of affection and symbol of money that leads Gatsby to engage in his ambitious flaw, Macbeth is influenced by his wife and the weird sisters in his. Finally, both tragedies are cautionary tales about what happens when people allow their weaknesses to lead them; they will ultimately suffer. In the case of both of these stories, the tragedies happen solely because of the main characters themselves. In The Great Gatsby, this is tricky because readers do not know if Gatsby truly loves Daisy for who she is or because she represents money and success.
But, we do see that Daisy is his main goal and furthers his ambitious flaw. She is what drives him to accumulate wealth in negative ways. As the hotel scene as Tom and Gatsby argue: “You’ve been seeing this fellow for five years?” “Not seeing,” said Gatsby. “No, we couldn’t meet. But both of us loved each other all that time, old sport, and you didn’t know. I used to laugh sometimes”.
— but there was no laughter in his eyes—- “to think that you didn’t know” (140). However, even though Daisy does eventually reconnect with him again after five years of separation, it is Gatsby who brings upon himself his own demise, and not Daisy. Gatsby, for example, is the one who moves near her, he is the one who orchestrates all of the parties to lure Daisy there, and he is the one who gets involved with all of these other characters instead of just enjoying his wealth. We know that it is his tunnel vision for Daisy’s love and acceptance that drives him, and he has allowed this to become the biggest desire of his life. In comparison, many readers blame Lady Macbeth in the play Macbeth for her husband’s demise but it is actually his own fault. Even though, initially, Macbeth does not want to kill King Duncan and some believe he is mentally forced by his wife, he is to blame for the act and for all the bad things he does afterwards.
Before Macbeth even wrote that letter to his wife, for example, he was already having dreams of becoming king once the weird sisters confronted him with the title of Thane of Cawdor. Therefore, Lady Macbeth becomes more of a supporter than the prompter of the grisly murder, but she is not the reason he goes through with his plans to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth merely supports and promotes an idea that is already in Macbeth’s mind, and he does not dismiss her proposal. The bloody events that occur are all because Macbeth carries out his ambition that he creates in his mind right after he meets the Weird Sisters; he cannot control it and this is evident before he even speaks to Lady Macbeth, when he says, “Come what may. / Time and the hour runs through the roughest day. / Let us toward the king!” (Act1, Scene2, Line1).
Therefore, both the demise of Gatsby and of Macbeth are due to their mistakes and errors in thinking. Ultimately, these works are cautionary tales for all readers to make sure not to feed their own flaws. It is important to identify weaknesses, and one-sided thinking, and to improve upon it so it does not take over our whole existence as it did for Gatsby and Macbeth. Although we might not die because of our flaws, these weaknesses can lead us to lose people or ourselves in our own worlds of selfishness. Furthermore, both the novel and the play are very similar in that they depict characters who struggle with their flaws, they are both tragedies, both are influenced by the women in their lives, and both teach tales that letting a weakness overcome a person can have dire results.