Laura E. K. Von Wallmenich, Ph.D.
Directed Student Presentations and Achievements
Molly Henning, Honor's Thesis and Presentation
Ironic Dreams: Biographical Ambiguities in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby was primarily shaped by his personal biography; the biographical nature explains the novel’s portrayal of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchannan. Gatsby is Fitzgerald’s fictional embodiment, while Daisy is a synthesis of Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda and former lover Ginerva King. Fitzgerald both identifies with and creates critical distance from these characters; the result is an ambiguity in how the reader is to interpret Gatsby and Daisy—an ambiguity defined by the competing textual impulses that ask us to at once identify with and distance ourselves from his characters. What results in the novel is a fundamental irony as the author both criticizes and fictionally relives his own attempt to achieve exactly what Gatsby attempts to achieve the American Dream, through wealth and love. The complex nature of Fitzgerald’s identifications with the characters constructs not only an irony within the novel, but also an unresolved ambiguity that defines the experience of reading The Great Gatsby.