Jay Gatsby always wanted to become famous and wealthy, so he created an ideal image of himself for Nick and others he wanted to impress, especially Daisy. In this image he claims he is the son of some wealthy people in the Midwest but educated at Oxford; traveled to Paris, Venice, and Rome; collects rubies, hunts big game, and paints; and received many awards and medals for his outstanding effort in World War I. Gatsby created this "ideal image" in order to impress those people who were curious about his background such as Daisy and Nick, and to make sure no one thinks he was "just some nobody". This "ideal image" was a complete lie; his real name was Jay Gatz, which he changed when he was seventeen and witnessed the beginning of his career through Dan Cody. As Dan Cody pulled his yacht into the shore of Lake Superior, he saw a young Gatsby working as a clam-digger and a salmon-fisher doing whatever was necessary to put food on his plate. Dan Cody was an idol to Gatsby; he represented everything Gatsby wanted to become. When Cody offered Gatsby a job on his luxurious yacht, Gatsby immediately agreed to work for Dan Cody. He worked on Cody's yacht for five years until Cody had died. With the $25,000 Cody had left him, Gatsby decided to move East to try to become rich and famous. Gatsby was extremely dedicated to his dream; he resorted to bootlegging and crime with Meyer Wolfsheim, the man who fixed the World Series. Gatsby's illusion intensifies when he begins to become involved with crime and immoral activities to become wealthy. He does not care that he is breaking the law because he is fulfilling his dream.
In addition to having a false image of himself, Jay Gatsby was madly in love with Daisy. Gatsby's "love" for Daisy began about five years before the story takes place. Daisy and Jay had a relationship before World War I but could not maintain the relationship because "rich girls don't marry poor boys". One night before Gatsby had to leave, he kissed Daisy for the first time. This first kiss was symbolic of Gatsby's ineffable love and obsession towards Daisy: His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy's white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God then he kissed her. At his lips' touch, she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete. (Page 112)
After this first kiss, Daisy becomes the purpose of his life; everything he did was to win Daisy back from Tom Buchanan. Jay does many things to impress Daisy: he buys a mansion across the bay from Daisy and throws many extravagant parties in the hopes that Daisy will stumble into one and back into his life. He buys a new car, the symbol of wealth during the Roaring 20's. He spends many nights looking at the green light in front of Daisy's house, dreaming about her. He loves Daisy so much that even after she kills Myrtle Wilson in a car accident he says, " of course I'll say I did". This shows exactly how much he loves Daisy; he would be willing to take the blame and face jail time for Daisy.
Even after Tom Buchanan exposed the reality behind the notorious Jay Gatsby to Daisy, Gatsby still believes he has a chance at reuniting with Daisy. When Nick Carroway, the narrator, tells him "you can't repeat the past", Gatsby becomes infuriated; he cannot accept the fact that he has no chance of reuniting with Daisy after she finds out of his life in crime. After Daisy killed Myrtle Wilson Gatsby is only worried about Daisy and how she will react. He even waits in front of her window until 4:00 am to make sure Tom will not lay a hand on her. Gatsby holds on to his dream until the very last minute of his life. In one of the final scenes before his death, one of Gatsby's servants asks Gatsby if he wanted the pool to be drained. He tells the servant not to drain it yet; the pool symbolizes his love for Daisy and all of his other dreams. He is shot while he is floating on his air mattress in the pool holding on to his dreams. Jay Gatsby was caught up in an illusion. Living a life based upon illusions can be very dangerous and destructive. Gatsby based his life upon illusions, and chasing those illusions ended up killing him. The Great Gatsby shows that illusions cause people to do crazy things and act in different ways than they normally would. Chasing illusions can be one of the most dangerous experiences in life.