A tragic hero can best be defined as a person of significance, who has a tragic flaw and who meets his or her fate with courage and nobility of spirit. In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby is a tragic hero.
Jay Gatsby is an enormously rich man, and in the flashy years of the jazz age, wealth defined importance. Gatsby has endless wealth, power and influence but never uses material objects selfishly. Everything he owns exists only to attain his vision. Nick feels "inclined to reserve all judgements" (p.1), but despite his disapproval of Gatsby's vulgarity, Nick respects him for the strength and unselfishness of his idealism. Gatsby is a romantic dreamer who wishes to fulfill his ideal by gaining wealth in hopes of impressing and eventually winning the heart of the materialistic, superficial Daisy. She is, however, completely undeserving of his worship.
"Then it had been merely the stars to which he had aspired on that June night. He came alive to me, delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor" (p.79). Nick realizes Gatsby's estate, parties, shirts and other seemingly "purposeless" possessions are not purposeless. Everything Gatsby does, every move he makes and every decision he conceives is for a reason. He wants to achieve his ideal, Daisy. Gatsby's "purposeless splendor" is all for the woman he loves and wishes to represent his ideal. Furthermore, Gatsby believes he can win his woman with riches, and that his woman can achieve the ideal she stands for through material influence. Gatsby believes in The Great American Dream, for that is where the basis for his ideal originated. Later, the concept developes into an obsession with money and more so, Daisy.
Gatsby's tragic flaw lies within his inability to see that the real and the ideal cannot coexist. Gatsby's ideal is Daisy. He sees her as perfect and worthy of all his affections and praise. In reality she is undeserving and through her actions, proves she is pathetic rather than honorable.