Jay Gatsby is unlike anyone else in his orbit because contained within his sparkling personality is the essence of authenticity that is associated with achieving the American Dream. The concept of the America Dream is social mobility; it is the at-one-time utterly unique American potential for anybody to transcend the class or social status in which they were born to become self-sufficient. The assertion that Gatsby possesses “one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it” contains within it, when Gatsby’s mystery is such a thing of wonder among people who have spent their life amongst the unauthentic population of East Egg. What Gatsby’s mystery among the denizens of the Jazz Age in New York represents is the conflict between sophisticated beauty and the excesses of empty glamour.
Gatsby is an illumination of promise and this relationship between him and those who seek his company is incisively realized when Fitzgerald writes “In his blue gardens, men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” The parties tossed by Jay Gatsby are held amidst extraordinary glamour with fine food, desserts and liquor. Gatsby represents something something that is apart from the convention because most of his guests arrived uninvited, as if they were called by some mysterious force to his mansion. There will the guests find a swarm of caterers, a magnificent orchestra, and, like some sort of god almost, Gatsby himself poised atop that authentic flourish of money and ostention: the steps carved from pure marble. The implicit assumption is that since Gatsby is not fake and off-putting like the old money residents of East Egg, then he must have acquired his incredible fortune on his own. The self-made millionaire has always been the peak of expectation atop the mountain of the American Dream; in the 1920s such a creature was even more rare than today.
Moths who fly too close to the light sometimes since their wings, of course, and Owl Eyes reveals that getting too close to Jay Gatsby is likely to result in a burning as he deconstructs the truth about the mystery millionaire. “This fella’s a regular Belasco. What a triumph! What thoroughness! What realism!” Owl Eyes says of Gatsby and what he means is that Gatsby has painstakingly created a sense of reality just like a famous Broadway producer of the era. From the comfort of the theater audience it is impossible to determine an authentic prop and one constructed from balsa wood and paint. The same may be said of glamour and beauty; one must look closely to detect the difference. Jordan’s dishonesty can be overlooked by one blinded by her beauty; Gatsby’s ultimate artifice is easy to overlooked because he has so painstakingly constructed a pseudo-reality that he has chosen to stock his library with actual books rather than the standard fake plastic spines.
The conflict that exists between excess and sophistication in the figures of Jay Gatsby versus old money is one that is expressed by Fitzgerald in his description of the extravagance of Gatsby and his claims to authenticity. This concept has roots in the reality of the fact that division of classes has always existed in America despite the deeply cherished dream that it could be overcome. The speculation by the partygoers that Gatsby may have killed a man ignites the further speculation that, like all conflicts between opposing interests, Gatsby’s story will end in tragedy one way or the other.