Secrets, lies, jealousy, and rumors are a lethal combination which not only destroy lives but also cause multiple murders. Jay Gatsby, the character in Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, and Iago from Shakespeare’s play Othello are consumed with chasing a dream and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. Gatsby met Daisy, the love of his life, but he was required to leave for World War I. When Jay returned from the war to reunite with Daisy, he discovered she was already married to Tom Buchanan. His life’s mission is to win Daisy over and make her his wife. Iago is jealous because Michael Cassio is promoted from soldier to lieutenant, a position Iago was more qualified for. Determined to tarnish Cassio’s reputation and remove him as lieutenant, Iago will stop at nothing to claim the lieutenant title he believes he is destined to have. Obsession, vanity, jealousy, and betrayal are some of the most powerful negative qualities that F. Scott Fitzgerald and Shakespeare used in their writing which ultimately lead to Jay Gatsby and Iago’s destruction.
People who are obsessed with higher social status and wanting what they cannot have are sick individuals who justify the end result by any underhanded means. Jay Gatsby was the son of “shiftless and unsuccessful farm people” and had a difficult time accepting them as his parents (Fitzgerald 98). By age 17, he longed for a life of luxury and believed he’s destined for something great. Gatsby, determined to make a name for himself, was fortunate to work on a yacht for a millionaire named Dan Cody, where he learned how to mingle with the rich and famous. Determined to win back Daisy, he turned to bootlegging, became one of the wealthiest individuals in West Egg, and would stop at nothing to reclaim her. Like Jay Gatsby, the character Iago in William Shakespeare’s Othello is also desperate and frustrated because he was not appointed as the new lieutenant. Iago manipulates his closest friends, and turns them against each other by starting rumors so Cassio would be asked to step down, and he would become the new lieutenant. Iago stated, “I do hate him, I swear. Three of Venice’s most important noblemen took their hats off to him and asked him humbly to make me his lieutenant, the second in command. And I know my own worth well enough to know I deserve that position. But he wants to have things his own way, so he sidesteps the issue with a lot of military talk and refuses their request. ‘I’ve already chosen my lieutenant,’ he says. And who does he choose? A guy who knows more about numbers then fighting! This guy from Florence named Michael Cassio. He has a pretty wife but he can’t even control her. And he’s definitely never commanded men in battle. He’s got no more hands-on knowledge of warfare than an old woman—unless you count what he’s read in books,” (Shakespeare 1).
Gatsby’s vanity and fixation on winning Daisy back largely contributed to his demise. Gatsby rose out of a humble beginning. “The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself” (Fitzgerald 98). When Gatsby met Daisy Buchanan before the war, he was still a poor man and needed a substantial amount of money to win her over. He was in love with the idea of marrying Daisy because he yearned to belong to the class of the old money elite. However, Gatsby failed to realize that no matter how much money he earned, Daisy would never accept being married to someone without old money. His obsession with Daisy allowed him to engage in illegal dealings so he would have the means to manipulate the situation and win Daisy back. Iago, on the other hand, was not obsessed with a woman but fixated on acquiring his lieutenant status. Iago masterminds the ultimate lie and tells Roderigo that Desdemona is cheating on Othello with Cassio, but Roderigo doesn’t believe him because of how innocent Desdemona is. “I can’t believe that. She’s not that kind of woman. She’s very moral” (Shakespeare 28). Iago was so vain about the lieutenant title that he would stop at nothing to reclaim it and does not care about how his lies affect others.
Daisy Buchanan was a weak, vain, woman who refused to wait for Gatsby; she married into old money and ruined Gatsby’s life. Despite the fact that Daisy’s husband was a spineless man, she married him for the old money, so she could be identified as superior and wealthy. Even though Tom cheated on Daisy repeatedly, Daisy lacked the courage to leave him, making it impossible for her to be with Gatsby. Once Daisy found out the truth about Gatsby’s wealth, she could not see past her vanity and selfishness to even ponder a future with Gatsby. “She vanished into her rich house, into her rich, full life, leaving Gatsby-nothing.” (Fitzgerald 149). After the accident, Daisy retreated into the safety of her old wealth. According to the Department of Behavioral Science, “Vain people may have exaggerated views of their accomplishments and the expression of these views may be negatively viewed by others…The vain person’s lack of conviction implies an excessive concern over keeping up the appearance of his or her superiority. Concerns over personal appearance or achievement play a key role in vanity” (Webster et al. 615). Daisy was the one driving the car when Myrtle was killed and still allowed Gatsby to take the blame. Rather than deal with the consequences of her actions and own up to her mistakes, Daisy was willing to let Gatsby take the fall instead.
Finally, the worst blow of all came from Tom Buchanan’s lies and betrayal. Tom inherited his wealth from his family and used his money to impress Myrtle and others. Myrtle has an affair with Tom, and when Daisy ran Myrtle over with Gatsby’s car, Gatsby took the blame to spare Daisy from the pain and publicity. Myrtle’s husband, George, was irate that his wife was seeing another man and was determined to seek revenge. If Tom had not engaged in the affair with Myrtle in the first place, he would not have needed to keep quiet about his indiscretion. To detract attention, Tom conveniently investigated how Gatsby made his fortune and revealed Gatsby’s illegal business. “…I’ve made a little investigation into your affairs.” (Fitzgerald 133). Once Daisy learned the truth, she completely rejected Gatsby. Tom played his hand well because he informed George that Gatsby killed his wife, even though Tom knew that Daisy was the one driving the car; he also led George to believe that Gatsby was the man having the affair. Tom’s lies motivated George to seek vengeance and shot Gatsby in cold blood. The rumor Iago invented of Cassio and Desdemona’s alleged affair was solely to get revenge because of his jealousy toward Cassio’s title and was enough to send Othello over the edge and suffocate Desdemona. “Oh, I’ve been murdered unfairly!” (Shakespeare 99). Iago’s lies not only caused four deaths but also cost him his lieutenant position, which was the thing he revered most in life.
Even though George and Othello physically committed the murders, Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom, and Iago equally share the blame for Jay Gatsby and Iago’s demise and several others. If Gatsby was honest from the beginning and not so delusional about his chances of a relationship with Daisy, he would not have pursued her relentlessly. If Daisy would not have had secret rendezvous with Gatsby, she would never have been driving his sports car, and Myrtle would not have been killed. If Tom were a kind, faithful husband who spent quality time with his wife, Daisy would not have had to seek companionship from Gatsby. If Iago would have talked to Othello about the lieutenant position and possibly compromised, Cassio would have been appointed and there would not have been such chaos. Thanks to their negative, obsessive behaviors of vanity, jealousy, and betrayal, many lives were lost while others were ruined.
- Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby, Scribner’s, April 1924,
- Loeser, Meghan, et al. “Siblings’ Perceptions of Differential Treatment, Fairness, and Jealousy and Adolescent Adjustment: A Moderated Indirect Effects Model.” Journal of Child & Family Studies, vol. 25, no. 8, Aug. 2016, pp. 2405–2414. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s10826-016-0429-2
- Shakespeare, William. Othello. No Fear Shakespeare, Alex Woelffer, Sparknotes 1565