The Great Gatsby
Appearance and Disappearance: The Theme of Evanescence in The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is a novel that has been evaluated by countless critics since its original publication in April of 1925. What makes it such an incredible piece of literature is that it seems to contain endless levels of meaning, and the reader has the ability to delve deep into specific ideas that appear in the text. Countless critics have picked the text apart, thoroughly weighing and discussing various aspects of the novel’s multifaceted components. There is one theme, however, that seems to stand out from all the rest: we see it in the evasive quality of Jay Gatsby, or the vanishing of the obscene word scrawled on Gatsby’s steps at the end of the novel—it’s what gives this book its mysterious, ethereal quality that so many are drawn to. The specific theme is evanescence, or vanishing, and countless scholars have focused on it in their critical works.
One of the ways that select scholars explored the theme of evanescence was through the specific language and text of the novel. It’s important to establish the fact that Fitzgerald chose none of the language or wording in this story randomly. Both A.E. Elmore and James E. Miller, Jr. (an author in Lockridge’s collection of essays) discuss the deep intentionality of Fitzgerald’s word choice, and how he consciously thought out the whole process of word selection. In his essay, Miller quotes Fitzgerald discussing Gatsby, in that what he “cut out of [the novel] both physically and emotionally would make another novel.” (Lockridge 27) Fitzgerald went through an extensive editing process for his book, and so what was left in the final product was extensively edited and the language was clearly intentional. Barbara Will discussed the language and theme of “vanishing” in the Gatsby text, and clarified that “’vanished’ is indeed the predominant term in this text,” (Will 129) citing moments such as “at the end of Chapter I Nick first encounters Gat” (Will 129). These are just two of the many instances in wsby, only to find ‘he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness’; or when, after an awkward meeting with Tom Buchanan, Nick ‘turned toward Mr. Gatsby but he was no longer therehich Jay Gatsby’s character is associated with “vanishing”. Additionally, Will discusses more general moments of appearance and disappearance not just in the language, but also in Gatsby’s overall persona. She deliberates on Gatsby’s inability to be present at his own parties, and also the evanescent quality of his past history and his business dealings. She also cites a line from the text describing “his smile, which “assure you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. Precisely at that point it vanished?” (Will 129). There are multiple more instances in which Gatsby’s character engages in other moments of vanishing, but Will addresses the important general prevalence of evanescence in the language The Great Gatsby the novel, as well as Jay Gatsby the character.
However, language is not the only component of The Great Gatsby in which scholars explored the theme of appearance and disappearance. Other authors, namely Arnold Weinstein and Ronald Berman, emphasize Fitzgerald’s personal relationship with the phenomenal, vanishing quality of the world, and therefore its translation into Gatsby. Ronald Berman highlights how Fitzgerald held an intense love and respect of the phenomenal world, and how he worked to enchant everyday things into something remarkable. In his book The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald’s World of Ideas, he observed that, “Fitzgerald seems to simply have a strong and romantic sense of phenomology… [He] evidently, is about the business of making an entertaining illusion, endowing sordid material life with temporary novelistic value” (Berman 72-73). This insight provides a deeper look into the theme of evanescence in The Great Gatsby. If Fitzgerald’s goal in writing Gatsby was to enchant material life and give it temporary value, then the vanishing that exists in the text marks the de-enchantment of whatever phenomenal idea Fitzgerald was trying to make novel.
Not entirely unrelated to his love of phenomology, Fitzgerald also seemed to greatly appreciate the temporary appearance of things and things being made out of nothing, which, when you think about it in a historical context, is inherently the idea of the American dream. Some scholars trace the theme of evanescence to Fitzgerald’s view of the deflation of the American dream that occurred in the 1920’s. Arnold Weinstein explores this notion in his article “Fiction As Greatness: The Case of Gatsby,” concluding “Fitzgerald seems altogether more committed to the project of making things from nothing. Daisy does not measure up, because Gatsby’s dream cannot be outfitted with checks and balances, or any kind of external referent; it is, instead, supremely autonomous, auto-generative, fed from within… ‘Appearance made real,’ is not only an American theme but also a paradigmatic formula for literature itself. The Great Gatsby depicts things being made from nothing, and objects becoming enchanted objects” (Weinstein 26). This idea of “appearance made real” and something coming from nothing is a direct reference to the prevalent idea of the American dream. In the essay “Scott Fitzgerald’s Criticism of America” in Lockridge’s collection, author Marius Bewely informs that, “critics of Scott Fitzgerald tend to agree that The Great Gatsby is somehow a commentary on that elusive phrase, the American dream,” (Lockridge 37). In the 1920’s, the American dream was such a sought-after idea, that it existed as more of an illusion than a reality. For further evidence, in his essay, Bewley confidently stated that, “the theme of Gatsby is the withering of the American dream… as it exists in a corrupt period, and it is an attempt to determine that concealed boundary that divides the reality from the illusions,”(Lockridge 37-38). For these various authors, the theme of vanishing plays out as a commentary on an important historical idea: the American dream.
Though these scholars explore the theme of evanescence through different components of The Great Gatsby, whether they are language, Fitzgerald’s personal ideas, or his views on the American dream, all the authors acknowledge that this theme of appearance and disappearance is vital in the novel. However, that sense of importance should lead us to question why Fitzgerald included so much evanescence in his story. Is there a significant meaning behind this explicit theme, or was Fitzgerald trying to send a message with the inclusion of this important idea? In his essay, Richard Lehan shares his belief that Gatsby is a novel, “the meaning of which refuses to be limited” (Lehan 78). However, other authors hypothesize that the significance of Gatsby’s theme has cultural meaning, such as the previously discussed American dream, or Laura Barrett discusses in her essay the possibility that it could have something to do with the substantial presence of materialism in the 1920’s. To this day, countless scholars still cannot come to a coherent conclusion as to the true meaning behind the theme of evanescence in The Great Gatsby, and we wonder whether it is a question that will ever be answered.
Barrett, Laura. “”Material Without Being Real”: Photography and the End of Reality in “The Great Gatsby”” Studies in the Novel 30.4 (1998): 540-57. JSTOR. Web. 04 Apr. 2015. Berman, Ronald. The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald’s World of Ideas. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama, 1997. Print. Callahan, John F. “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Evolving American Dream: The “Pursuit of Happiness” in Gatsby, Tender Is the Night, and The Last Tycoon.” Twentieth Century Literature 42.3 (1996): 374-95. JSTOR. Web. 03 Apr. 2015. Elmore, A. E. “The Great Gatsby as Well Wrought Urn.” Modern American Fiction: Form and Function. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989. N. pag. Print. Lehan, Richard. “The Great Gatsby– The Text As Construct: Narrative Knots and Narrative Unfolding.” Ed. Jackson R. Bryer, Alan Margolies, and Ruth Prigozy. F. Scott Fitzgerald: New Perspectives. By F. Scott Fitzgerald. Athens, GA: U of Georgia, 2012. N. pag. Print. Lockridge, Earnest H., ed., Twentieth Century Interpretations of “The Great Gatsby” (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1968), 5-8. Weinstein, Arnold. “Fiction as Greatness: The Case of Gatsby.” Novel 19 (Fall 1985): 26. Will, Barbara. “The Great Gatsby and The Obscene Word.” College Literature 32.4 (2005): 125-44. JSTOR. Web.
Commentary on Closing Passage of Chapter 7 from Great Gatsby
The extract from Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby depicts the events that occur after the Buchanans, Nick and Gatsby return from New York, after Daisy drives into and kills Myrtle, while letting Gatsby take the blame. Themes explored in this passage include the façade of the upper class and the American dream.
As Nick makes his way to the “pantry window”, his movements are very gentle, as he “traversed the gravel softly and tiptoed up the veranda steps”. It is almost as if he is being careful to not disturb the perfect quality of the Buchanan residence, which is further highlighted as the “small rectangle of light” from their “pantry window” is the only light shining in this night. However, the mention of the “porch where [they] had dined that June night three months before” is a hint that this perfect façade is disintegrating. “That June night” represents a more innocent time without the problems present at this point – Gatsby and Daisy’s affair and Myrtle’s death. Hence, the vacancy of this porch also signifies the disappearance of this time, and perhaps, the imminent arrival of more problems – Gatsby’s death and Nick’s loss of trust in this society.
This façade is truly dissolved as Nick finds the “rift” in the closed “blind”. Through this “rift”, Daisy and Tom are revealed in their mundanity, their glamour absent. Firstly, the choice of food – “a plate of cold fried chicken between them and two bottles of ale” – is very basic in contrast to the previous extravagance of their meal in “that June night”, where they drank wine and were waited upon. Additionally, there is the “unmistakable air of natural intimacy about them”, as this “earnest” interaction, to them, is safely hidden from the eyes of society, behind the “blind”. They are interacting across a simple “kitchen table” that is implied to be small, as Tom’s hand “fall[s] upon and cover[s]” Daisy’s hand subconsciously, in “his earnestness”.
While it remains ambiguous whether Tom knows about Daisy’s true role in Myrtle’s death, this is almost irrelevant to the matter, as the significance of this interaction is that Tom and Daisy are reuniting, leaving their relationships with Myrtle and Gatsby – who are substandard to them – and perhaps, maybe even discussing their physical leave from this entanglement. On a deeper level, they are “conspiring together” to repair the cracks in their façade caused by their temporary submission to desire for vitality and passion allowed through their respective affairs, by removing themselves from this situation detachedly, neither “happy” nor “unhappy”, but merely objectively. Though it is at the cost of Myrtle’s, and later, Gatsby’s death, perhaps because of the concessions they feel they are entitled to by their upper class status, they are either uncaring or ignorant of these consequences, further emphasised by their detachment from reality behind this “blind”.
The rarity of this insight into the façade of the Buchanans is indicated as Nick leaves this scene just as he entered – he “tiptoe[s] from the porch”. The apparent serenity of the Buchanan residence is reinstalled, as even the taxi is personified to be “feeling its way along the dark road”. The transience of the moment where the Buchanans are unveiled is synonymous with their actions – “they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness”.
Still clouded by his dreams centered around Daisy, Gatsby remains oblivious to Daisy’s faults, perhaps never thinking about the possibility of the transition that Daisy is undergoing with Tom to detach themselves from the consequences of their “carelessness”. His concern for Daisy is evident in how he is still “waiting where [Nick] had left him”, and questions Nick “anxiously” the instant he is back. In an attempt to help Gatsby, Nick suggests that Gatsby should “come home and get some sleep”. This suggestion demonstrates Nick’s care and support for Gatsby, not only literally as he tells Gatsby to take care of his health, but also implicitly, as the word “come” has collective connotations. Additionally, “home” refers to a place of belonging, which in Gatsby and Nick’s case is West Egg, the less glamorous, less exclusive equivalent of East Egg. The reality of the situation is that, while Gatsby yearns to reach that “green light”, represented by Daisy and all that she embodies – wealth, lineage, beauty – he can never truly belong there, as his “home”, symbolic of his family background and his roots, is immutable. Regardless of his accumulated wealth or fame, to them, he is merely a parvenu – eternally second class. As such, Nick’s gentle attempt to help Gatsby “come home and get some sleep”, to relax his obsession with reaching the “green light”, can almost represent Nick’s realization that Gatsby’s all-consuming fixation on acquiring Daisy is rather unhealthy, and foreshadows Gatsby’s imminent death.
However, Gatsby persists, and “[shakes] his head” in response to Nick’s suggestions, choosing to remain faithfully by Daisy’s side, and to “wait here till Daisy goes to bed”. In this instance, Gatsby seems quite desperate, almost pathetic, as any contact with Daisy at all, even just through observing the lights in her house, “watching over nothing”, is worthy of “vigil”. The “sacredness” of Gatsby’s “scrutiny of the house” to him can be associated with how Gatsby views Daisy. Just as how her association with the colour white and light portrays her as a sort of celestial and heavenly being, Gatsby’s view of her as his ultimate goal and the way he worships the idea of her elevates her character as an otherworldly, unreachable, yet irresistible goal. This serves to emphasise the futile quality of Gatsby’s goals – just as a human can never transcend the boundary between humans and celestial beings, Gatsby can also never truly overcome the boundary imposed by lineage, between old money and the nouveau riche.
This extract ends rather poetically, as there is a beautiful quality in the way Gatsby is described to be “standing there in the moonlight – watching over nothing”. This is perhaps an acknowledgement of the positive aspect of Gatsby’s ability to hope, as his blind persistence encapsulates the strength of human determination and will, and the essence of the American Dream. However, poignantly, Gatsby can only shine in the “moonlight” – Fitzgerald specifies this time setting to be at night, so as to describe Gatsby in the “moonlight”, light reflected from the sun, which is perhaps representative of Daisy and the glittering beauty of East Egg and its people. While the sole reason for Gatsby’s determination to succeed is the hope that one day, he will obtain Daisy and elevate his own being to be equal to that of Daisy’s, ultimately, similar to the moon that does not emit light and can only receive the reflected light from the sun, he can never truly acquire “light” of his own, and his aspirations are mere reflections of the people who truly own this “light”, namely, the Buchanans and the people of East Egg. Nick’s description of the object of Gatsby’s “scrutiny” as “nothing” is an indication of his developing disgust towards this level of society, which foreshadows his later detachment from this society and conclusion that they are “careless people”. “Nothing” could also signify Gatsby’s eventual achievement, as in the end, his efforts only result in his own death, and he is reduced to nothing and forgotten in the eyes of society.
This passage is significant as it captures a rare, unrevealed moment of the upper class. Yet, this instance also continues to highlight the insurmountable barrier between Gatsby and his dreams, concluding with a poignant atmosphere enforcing the futility of Gatsby’s desires to conquer the American dream, and foreshadowing the imminent deaths of Gatsby and the hope and dreams he represents.
The Novel “The Great Gatsby” By F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby
In the novel, The Great Gatsby the author creates a corruptive and harmful society for the protagonist Jay Gatsby. He fails in multiple instances throughout the novel to reach success. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel Jay Gatsby gets inescapably pressured by society and is corrupted. Gatsby’s relationship with Daisy ended up going on hold due to his overseas shipment to the Army during World War 1. When he returned from the Army he was persistent and determined to go up in social standards so he could stand out to Daisy and so that he could win her over. Although Gatsby was very tenacious in his attempts to acquire money he failed to do so legally, so he began bootlegging, and taking part in other illegal activities.
Gatsby began to hold parties in his mansion due his failure in getting legal money, but succeeding in getting money illegally. This goes to show that the 1920s, otherwise known as the Roaring 20s, were a time period when the culture was based of wealth and social status. Gatsby went to extremes to gain his place in his societies social scale. He partook in mysterious activities such, gambling, and bootlegging. Jay Gatsby was someone who honored his country in World War 1, and following the war went as low as he needed in order to achieve his dream of being together with Daisy. The standards of this time period show that if your not at the top of the social spectrum you won’t achieve your dreams or gain respect from society. Also in the novel a frequency is the amount of lies told about personal history mainly with regards to Jay Gatsby. Gatsby was essentially letting people use his house for parties, and was fine with that, and the fact that they knew nothing valid about him. He makes it known that he “went to Oxford”.
Throughout the story it becomes known that Gatsby is not comfortable in his own skin, and doesn’t believe that he is capable of achieving anything as his true self. Through those types of scenarios, Fitzgerald paints the upper class and those aspiring to become part of the elite in a negative light. When only Nick, Gatsby’s father, and a few of his servants attend Jay Gatsby’s funeral, it’s evidence that he leaves no lasting memory behind in the constantly forward-moving world. This ties dissatisfaction with the empty culture with the idea that focusing on greed and obtaining more does not breed personal connection. Gatsby was satisfied with not being himself, getting illegal money, and keeping his circle small.
An Analysis of the Prohibition in the Great Gatsby, a Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Prohibition in the Great Gatsby symbolizes the resistance of the American people. F. Scott Fitzgerald gives the readers an inside look to the 1920’s. The Great Gatsby is brimming with the resistance of the alcohol bans set in place by the U.S. government.
The Prohibition was set into action on January 16, 1920. No one could no longer in the U.S. manufacture, import, export, or sale alcoholic beverages(The Roaring 20s). The government was pressured into the new amendment because of many movements such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The WCTU was largely concerned with the protection of the family. The union saw drinking by men a threat to wives and children. Drinking was also saw as sinful by many Protestant churches(Women Leaders of Temperance). It was groups and movements like these that undoubtedly wanted to prohibit alcohol. Although it seemed like a good concept it was tough for many to accept and even harder to execute.
After the Prohibition Act came the Volstead Act ensued. This outlawed even beverages containing as little as 0.5% alcohol. Included in this was beer and wine. Many Americans thought that only hard liquor would be banned, the addition of drinks like beer and wine caused many to abandon the Prohibition Act (Prohibition). Early America wasn’t the dryest of countries. Everyone drank alcohol in some shape and form no matter the age (The Bootlegging Business).
Many Americans opposed the Prohibition Act, so they found the means to get what they wanted. Underground establishments soon became a large business and a great opportunity to make some money. The most popular name for these establishments were speakeasies. The name came about because you would have to “speak easy” or quietly about it in public or around police (The Roaring 20s. While in a speakeasy patrons drank the hard liquor out of tea cups so that if a raid were to happen, they would be safe. Illegal drinking became the hit of the season. Soon gangster-owned speakeasies replaced neighborhood saloons and by 1925 they were about ten thousand speakeasies in New York (The Riverwalk Jazz).
Hard liquor was very hard to buy, now that it was illegal it became very expensive. Those who could not afford it simply made their own – often in bathtubs. Bathtub gin as it was called, was not always safe and was responsible for causing blindness and even death. People who had no idea what they were doing were often the ones making it. Drinking bathtub gin put drinkers at risk of consuming unsafe concentrations of wood or denatured alcohol (Prohibition).
Gangsters realised that their was big money behind selling hard liquor. Not even an hour after the Prohibition Act was set in place six armed men had been found trying to rob train in Chicago of medicinal whiskey (How Prohibition Backfired). One gangster bought a group of pharmacists in the Midwest so that he was able to legally obtain alcohol and then hijack his trucks and take the alcohol for illegal uses. Alcohol used for industrial reasons was turned onto moonshine easily by bootleggers.In many large cities it wasn’t unusual for hardware stores to sell copper still and other ingredients to make alcohol (Prohibition and Why It Failed).
The biggest gangster of them all was Al Capone. He made a name for himself by running a multi- million dollar operation. He smuggled illegal alcohol into Chicago. He was also known for being incredibly violent with his rival gangs (The Roaring 20s). In two years, Capone was earning around sixty million a year from alcohol sales alone. Capone was able to bribe the police and important politicians of Chicago, overall it cost him seventy five million dollars to keep them in line but he considered it a good investment. The mayor of Chicago in 1927 was one of Capone’s men, Big Bill Thompson (Prohibition and the Gangsters).
Prohibition was never enforceable. Moderate drinking for Americans just simply wasn’t viewed as sinful (Prohibition). The Prohibition proved to be worthless and only lowed the regard for the government and law. In 1933, the eighteenth amendment was repealed, although many states kept the idea (The Roaring 20s). Many scholars have concluded that the Prohibition did more damage rather than help the communities. The greatest failure of the Prohibition was that it led to growth in organised crime. It also failed because ordinary citizens were willing to break the law. Corruption was rife among the police as well as those who were charged with enforcing the Prohibition(Prohibition and Why It Failed).
Gatsby was known to have these crazy parties where people got drunk. Meaning he was able to get his hands on alcohol illegally. “He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side- street drug stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter”. Gatsby did something very similar to an gangster in new York that bought the pharmacies. Gatsby then used the alcohol at his gigantic parties (The Great Gatsby).
Symbolized in the Great Gatsby was the Prohibition. Gatsby had large parties were many people would get wildly drunk. Fitzgerald gave his readers an inside look into his life. The roaring 20s. The Great Gatsby is filled with resistance from many American people that once supported the Prohibition Act.
The Nature Of Society In The novel “The Great Gatsby” By F.Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby
In the novel ‘The Great Gatsby’, the author F.Scott Fitzgerald uses ideas to show the nature of society by dividing the characters into 3 different social classes: old money, new money, and no money. The author leaves a powerful reminder to the audience of how the society we live in is really a dangerous place that is likely to collapse by these classes of people.
The first group of characters are Tom and Daisy. These people own the ‘old money’ and lives in the upper class, the East Egg. They were born wealthy and have never worked in their whole entire lives, all they do is admire their money and look for things that satisfies them. In the novel, the Buchanans are not happy one minute, but when something goes wrong they pack up like nothing has ever happened and leave their mess for others to clean up. That is the society we live in. When Daisy hit Myrtle with her car and killed her, she had protection that the money and the upper class provided her to get her out of that mess. Instead, Gatsby took all the blame and ended up getting killed by Wilson.
In the novel Tom says: “An Oxford man!” he was incredulous “like hell he is! He wears a pink suit.” This quote illustrates about society and the class crashes between the old money and the new money. Gatsby wants to hang with the upper class people and stand proudly beside them but Tom not having it. Here this shows that the upper class people like the Buchanans do not care about equality among the lower class people. All they care about is money and themselves, this is the society that we live in. The ‘old money’ people do not understand the problems that the lower class goes through since they are less fortunate.
The second group of characters are Gatsby and Nick. These people own the ‘new money’ and lives in the West Egg. They started off being poor but has gained wealth in the future. Gatsby for instance, always held parties at his house and tired to look wealthy to bring back his American dream, Daisy. But at the end of the novel she chooses Tom instead of Gatsby and his American dream collapses. Gatsby had lots of stories and rumors going on between people, but no one really knew about him except for Nick. Even the people who attended to Gatsby’s parties did not know much about him. This shows how in society when we see people on social media, we can gain some knowledge about them by searching through their stream or status. But we will never know who that person really is until we actually meet them.
Another link to this can include famous celebrities and online stars. The majority of celebrities and online stars tend to have false stories and rumors about themselves made by people online. Other people who read these news tend to easily believe in them, even if they don’t really know much about them in person. As more and more rumors start to begin it eventually turns out to be a big gossip just like Gatsby in the novel. All the people who visited Gatsby were just selfish people who were only attracted by his wealth and the parties, not the actual man himself. This resulted in no one attending to his funeral except for Nick. At the end, all the lower class characters died and Tom, Daisy and Nick were the only ones who survived from all the mess.
The third group of characters are George and Myrtle. These people own ‘no money’ and lives in the Valley of Ashes. They lived poor for their whole lives and are in the lower classes of society. Myrtle for instance, is a character who is really obsessed with money. For Myrtle, wealth was the only way for her and her husband to escape from the poor life in the Valley of Ashes. That was the reason she continued the affair with Tom who provided her all the clothes, parties and apartment. In the novel, Myrtle comments: “I told that boy about the ice,” Myrtle raised eyebrows “These people you have to keep after them all the time.” This quote illustrates society and class because Myrtle thinks she’s much higher than the others because her lover Tom, is in the upper class. Myrtle’s American dream was to be wealthy and stand beside the upper class people which made her meet Tom. But for Tom, he only sees Myrtle as his toy and relies on her only for entertainment. This shows how the lower class people cannot get into the upper class’ boundary, even if they try. The author uses the character ‘Myrtle’ in the novel who represents the society of people today. Everyone tries and wants to become rich and live their life in the upper class. But like Myrtle in the novel, becoming one of the members of the upper class from the lower class isn’t that easy. Myrtle tried to earn the old money by Tom, but ended up getting killed by Daisy in the end.
Many people were, and still are, attracted to a higher class of living and everybody wants to become wealthy. People are yet still obsessed with the newest and most expensive clothes, technology, cars and music. The classes and society show how the characters in ‘The Great Gatsby’ ended up to save their dreams and money.
Jay Gatsby’s Representation of America
It was literary critic Lionel Trilling who quite aptly described the collective entity Jay Gatsby when he wrote, “Jay Gatsby [stands] for America itself.” Jay Gatsby lives his life entrenched in unfathomable wealth. His true roots are rather mysterious, but they revolve around an anti-Calvinistic attitude and what is Jay Gatsby essentially reinventing himself. Through Gatsby’s modest upbringing, domineering drive, and his tragic demise, Gatsby truly is representative of America as a whole.
From its very beginnings, America consisted of rather modest individuals who all led simple lives with accordingly simple goals (Bewley 13). Jay Gatsby, or James Gatz, began his life like the classic American ideal, through the idea of rebirth. Originally born to modest farmers, Gatsby receives his first taste of affluence from a man named Dan Cody (Mizener 182). As Fitzgerald himself puts it, “To young Gatz, resting on his oars and looking up at the railed deck, the yacht represented all the beauty and glamour in the world…Cody asked him a few questions (one of them elicited the brand new name). (Fitzgerald 106)” It is Gatsby’s total reformation that aptly reflects America’s reputation as the land of opportunity. Beyond his desire and ability to become reborn, Dan Cody also facilitates the growth of Gatsby’s eternal drive for wealth and glory. Critic Marius Bewley asserts, “[Gatsby] sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about his father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, meretricious beauty” (Bewley 15). Gatsby’s life is dedicated to his pursuits of a lavish lifestyle that borders on, if not enters into, the arena of gaudiness. It is these immensely capitalistic goals that also parallel the pervading mindset of past, present, and future America. Through an effective blend of a personality naturally inclined towards success and the influence of others, Gatsby manages to reinvent his own image in the eyes of those around him, just as America has done in the eyes of the world time and time again.
Literary critic Marius Bewley stated, “The American Dream, stretched between a golden past and a golden future, is always betrayed by a desolate present” (Bewley 17). It is this “desolate present” that plagues Gatsby’s life. Primarily, his modest upbringing shields him from the dishonesty present in those surrounding him (Mizener 190) and allows him to be blindly in love with Daisy (Bewley 20). Despite the seeming hopelessness of Gatsby’s desire, this very inability to abandon one’s goals also serves to represent America. Time and time again, America has been made glorious and has reached historic precedents through individuals who refused to abandon their goals. At one point in the novel, Nick states of Gatsby, “There was something gorgeous about him,” but not only was this a catchphrase of the 1920’s, it shows Nick’s envy of Gatsby’s riches and illustrates the American need for superiority and to be looked up to by the rest of the world (Bewley 26). Paradoxically, while striving for indescribable grandeur, Gatsby also inadvertently works towards humility. Most notably, in the scene where Gatsby shows off his imported shirts to Daisy and Nick, Gatsby’s actions are the engenderment of what Marius Bewley refers to as an unconscious “inner vision” Gatsby is unable to formally recognize (Bewley 22). Finally, Marius Bewley asserts that, “Gatsby to us is less an individual than a projection, or mirror, of our ideal selves,” this notion, that Gatsby is the embodiment of all that mainstream America strives for (24) absolutely reaffirms the fact that Gatsby represents America.
During an interview, F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” It is this quotation that embodies all that is Gatsby’s fall and its parallel’s to America. While lying in the pool, moments before his death, Nick aptly describes to the reader the desolate feeling surrounding the fall of the noble: “I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn’t believe [the phone call] would come and perhaps he no longer cared. If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream” (Fitzgerald 169). Just as with any hero, from John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. to America itself, all figures of great power and nobility eventually find their decline and consequent fall from grace. Gatsby felt alone and Gatsby felt alienated, all feelings of sorrow and failure that are not at all uncommon to the lives of many Americans. After the murder goes unnoticed by Gatsby’s hired help, it seems life continues on a normal course for quite some time before the true gravity of Gatsby’s death sinks in (Hindus 243). This mindset that doesn’t accept change or sorrow is quite similar to the emotionless manner with which many Americans view their lives and the lives of people around them.
“[Future dreams] eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms farther” (Fitzgerald 189). The idea aptly portrayed in these final lines of The Great Gatsby is the simple notion that people will forever seek certain goals, American goals. Goals such as power, freedom, love, and wealth; and it is the total amalgamation of these goals that truly represents and describes the vibrant spirit and being of Jay Gatsby.
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Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1925.
Hindus, Milton. “F. Scott Fitzgerald and Literary Anti-Semitism.” Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski, and Phyllis C. Mendelson. Detroit: Gate Research Company, 1978. 243-244.
Mizener, Arthur. “The Great Gatsby.” The American Novel. Ed. Wallace Stegner. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1965. 180-191.
Morris, Lloyd. “Postscript to Yesterday: America: The Last Fifty Years.” Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski, and Phyllis C. Mendelson. Detroit: Gate Research Company, 1978. 244-245.
Conformity, Equal Rights, and Same-Sex Attraction as Depicted In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Book The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby: Traditionalism, Feminism, and Homosexuality
The 1920s were an era in American history that birthed significant changes in various categories, ranging from the music industry to the political agenda. Perhaps the most notable category of change, however, was that of the lives of women. Having been given the right to vote, women experienced a surge in deviance, separating themselves from their traditional roles. Despite this separation, however, many women were still objectified and powerless to the patriarchy, best portrayed in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald portrays the ever-present powerlessness of women through several characters all through the eyes of a closeted, homosexual protagonist.
The Buchanans’ marriage is one of the focal points in the novel, and for good reason – Fitzgerald utilizes their toxicity together to portray perpetual gender roles. Tom is proven to hold immense power and authority in the marriage, while Daisy remains relatively docile and follows traditional gender roles. One way that this is proven is when Tom harms Daisy’s finger in their home; though it is an accidental injury, Daisy grows eccentric about it, exclaiming that the injury is “what [she] get[s] for marrying a brute of a man, a great big, hulking physical specimen of a-…” (Fitzgerald 12). Just because an injury occurs without malice, doesn’t mean it doesn’t warrant an apology – but Daisy doesn’t get one. She never comments on the lack of one, even excusing Tom’s actions by saying “[he] didn’t mean to;” and this is indicative of her own submissiveness to her husband. Even unconsciously, she rarely ever faults him on his actions because, as the woman in the marriage, she is powerless to do anything. Additionally, Daisy seems so used to the lesser role of women compared to men in the world when she speaks about her daughter. She cried when the gender of her child was revealed, and comments that “the best thing a girl can be in this world” is a fool (Fitzgerald 20) – to Daisy, “the best thing a woman can be…is eye-candy for the hulking brutes,” (Samkanashvili 47), which is a parallel to her exact situation. For Daisy, a woman who has experienced a loveless marriage in which she is the lesser being, remaining docile and traditional is the only option a woman has in order to be stable in life.
While Gatsby’s treatment of Daisy is nowhere near as aggressive and dominant as that of Tom, their relationship is still indicative of traditional gender roles, as well as incredibly phony. For one, Daisy and Gatsby clearly want and expect two different outcomes out of their affair. This is first implied when the two finally reunite – Daisy comments that they haven’t seen each other in years, while Gatsby interjects that it is actually “five years next November” (Fitzgerald 87). While Daisy only knows the rough extent of her separation from him, Gatsby remembers the actual five-year anniversary of it. The fact that he is so hung up on not only their reunion, but also their past separation, shows that Gatsby himself has a deep scar from the years they were apart, while Daisy has established a family, a place in society, and a name for herself that she doesn’t want to give up. ¬¬A second time this is expressed is the tension-filled party with the main characters; overwhelmed with their affair being aired out in front of Tom, Daisy grows frustrated with the situation, exclaiming:
“Oh, you want too much!… I love you now – isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past…I did love him once – but I loved you too” (Fitzgerald 132).
Daisy’s true motives shine through with this statement – she admits that she does love Gatsby, but really has no intention of leaving Tom for him because she loves him as well. While she wants Gatsby to accept that their affair cannot be anything more, Gatsby wants her to run away with him and leave New York. Gatsby also is seen to view Daisy as an object of value, a treasure to own, albeit in their younger days; after all, it “excited” him that “too many men had already loved Daisy – it increased her value in his eyes” (Fitzgerald 149). When they first begin their tryst as young lovers, Gatsby finds Daisy’s past with men attractive. She is something many want to attain, making her more beautiful and valuable, and this sounds more like Daisy is a famous painting or a piece of expensive jewelry rather than a young girl. This goes to show that, despite his gentleness, Gatsby ultimately ¬¬still objectifies Daisy.
The Wilsons are evidently a role reversal of traditional gender roles, but still remain indicative of the overwhelmingly patriarchal society of the 1920s. Myrtle, though she is the woman in the relationship, is aggressive towards her husband and overpowers his mere presence with her own. This is shown when George attempts to lock her inside their home when he finds out about her affair with Tom; they get into a fight, and Myrtle demands he hurt her:
“’Beat me!’ He heard her cry. ‘Throw me down and beat me, you dirty little coward!’” (Fitzgerald 137)
Here, Myrtle calls attention to her affair with Tom; she knows George isn’t capable of doing her harm, like hitting her, and this seems to be her way of telling him, “you won’t do it, because you aren’t man enough like Tom is.” Despite this provocation, however, George does still hold a physical authority over her, as expected as he is the man in the relationship. When Myrtle points out her affair with Tom, George reacts immediately, telling Michaelis when he locks her in her room that, “she’s going to stay there will the day after to-morrow, and then we’re going to move away” (Fitzgerald 136). George has always been shown as the submissive party in his marriage, something Michaelis even mentions repeatedly, often allowing Myrtle to do as she pleases without speaking up against her. However, he suddenly shows that he is capable of overpowering her if he really needs to, illustrating the authority and power men have over women under any circumstances.
On the other hand, Tom’s power and control over Myrtle is much more severe than that of his marriage with Daisy, and their affair is where much of the physical dominance comes into play within the novel. The most prominent occurrence of this is during their heated argument in their flat:
“I’ll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai- ‘
Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand” (Fitzgerald 37).
Whereas the most physical harm he brought upon Daisy was hurting her little finger on accident, with Myrtle, Tom easily breaks her nose when she speaks out of line. As his mistress, he strongly believes she was not allowed to speak on his wife’s name, and her nose being broken so abruptly is a much harsher punishment than needed. This shows that, unlike with Daisy, Tom has no remorse about openly harming Myrtle, as she is his girl, and needs to follow his rules. Their expectations of their affair were also very different, paralleling the situation of that of Gatsby and Daisy:
“Myrtle saw [the affair] as a way…out of poverty. Tom thought of it as a game where Myrtle was just a sex object…” (Samkanashvili 48).
Just like his wife, Tom leads a lover on into believing their tryst will be something more, when in reality, both affairs are being used for ulterior motives, and to satisfy their own personal desires.
As a breath of fresh air from the wave of dominance, and objectification, Nick’s relationship with Jordan portrays him as a completely different man from Gatsby and Tom, but for good reason – his attraction to her is clearly a show of his closeted homosexuality. When he meets her, his attraction is noted, but he describes her in an interesting way – in his eyes, Jordan looked “like a young cadet…” (Fitzgerald 11). He expresses attraction and interest towards her, yes, but also akins her appearance to that of a young boy in military school. Odd that, were he heterosexual, he would be so attracted to a woman that had resemblance to a young man. In this, Nick’s deep attraction to her from the moment they met has a “homoerotic dimension” (Tyson 334). His description of her is also interesting from the standpoint that, out of context, it seems rather ambiguous – he calls her “small-breasted,” which “de-emphasizes the golfer’s feminine attributes” (Olear), and can make her seem like a young boy to uninformed readers. Ultimately, Nick’s relationship with Jordan fails due to several forces; he grows to be annoyed with her disregard everyone other than herself, her lousy attitude, her terrible driving – but nothing is as underlying and forceful as his struggle with his own homosexuality.
Nick’s failure to find love and happiness with Jordan is undoubtedly caused by his underlying attraction to Gatsby, and their bond throughout the novel is what showcases his closeted homosexuality. For one, Nick’s descriptions of Gatsby throughout the novel are a stark contrast to that of his descriptions of Jordan, showing his attraction to him. He comments that Gatsby’s smile “understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself…” (Fitzgerald 48), and this occurs during his first sight of Gatsby. Nick speaks of him with intense admiration, seeing him as a sort of light in the shadows of the upper-class society. From the first impression he conjures up, Gatsby is someone Nick intensely admires and, eventually, is attracted to. Throughout the novel, our closeted protagonist gushes about Gatsby while still insisting they are merely friends with a “deep bond” – and yet, his words are clearly indicative of a romantic attraction:
“…There was something gorgeous about him…an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness…I have never found in another person and…is not likely I shall ever find again” (Fitzgerald 2).
Along with his aforementioned comment about Gatsby’s “rare smile,” Nick sees him as a one-of-a-kind person, someone that you only meet once in a million years. Out of context, this quote would have one believe Nick was describing an old lover rather than an old “friend.” Additionally, Gatsby’s appearance is a clear “repository of homosexuality” (Tyson 332):
“[Gatsby owned] shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange…” (Fitzgerald 92).
Eccentric colors and flamboyant wardrobes were and are still seen as staple aspects of the LGBTQ+ community, especially homosexual men. Gatsby is never seen wearing simple suits or shirts, always dressed in pastel or eye-catching colors, exuding a flamboyancy that coincides with the stereotypical gay man.
F. Scott Fitzgerald illustrates the overwhelming and perpetual existence of the patriarchal society in The Great Gatsby, and does so through the point of a view of a homosexual protagonist. He portrays the consequences of sexual freedom for women through infidelity, tragedy, and loveless relationships. Despite the emergence of the “New Woman” in the 1920s, the characterization of women in The Great Gatsby prove just how existent the patriarchy is and always will be.
Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby
The character of Daisy Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is not the women she first appears to be. In the beginning, we see her as an innocent, charming woman, the Daisy that Gatsby had fallen in love with. As we go further into the novel, we see Daisy’s true colors. Daisy’s innocent image has transformed in our eyes, and we now see a women absorbed with money, reputation and her own desires. When given a chance at true love, a chance to be truly heard and cared for, she chooses wealth and social status as her true form of happiness, eventually leading to her own misery.
Living in East Egg, Daisy’s lifestyle represents old money and high class society. This “East Egg” standard of living defines her actions and choices. Raised as an elite member of society, she’s very familiar with money, ease and materiel luxury. She practically only knows one form of true happiness; Money. She puts money ahead of everything, even her own means of ending her miserable relationship with Tom and being truly happy. Nick observes: “It seemed to me that the thing for Daisy to do was to rush out of the house, child in arms—but apparently there were no such intentions in her head.” (25) After Nick had seen the way Tom treated Daisy, he assumed the best thing for her to do was to leave Tom right away. But since money and reputation play big factors in Daisy’s life, she cannot risk leaving Tom and abandoning her “East Egg” way of life.
Growing up in a high class society, reputation means everything. Daisy was raised to be exactly what she is now, superficial. When Daisy and Gatsby first met, Gatsby lied about his background, claiming to be from a wealthy family, trying to convince her he was worthy of her love. Though she had promised to wait for him until he came back from war, she felt the pressure of the outside world. She wanted security of her wealth in the future. “She wanted her life shaped now, immediately—and the decision must be made by some force—of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality—that was close at hand.”(159) and that’s when Tom came along, a young man from a solid, “old money” family who could promise her a wealthy lifestyle and who had the support of her parents. Even when seeing Gatsby again after many years, rich and powerful, he was still not truly worthy of her. She had an “East Egg” reputation. Both her and her husband grew up into wealth such as a blue blood, while Gatsby was “new money” and earned his money himself. Even though it was pretty obvious Daisy would rather be with Gatsby; leaving Tom for another man, especially one of a lower social class, would ruin her reputation.
When Gatsby falls in love with Daisy, he falls in love with her charm and beauty. She was wealthy and sophisticated, everything Gatsby wanted and strived to be. She was his American dream. But we end up seeing that Daisy falls short of Gatsby’s expectations for her. Past her outer façade, there is a fickle, shallow, bored and cynical person. It seems as though Daisy is knowingly toying with Gatsby’s emotions. Maybe she had just wanted to be admired and adored by Gatsby. She desired his affection and love towards her. But her personal desires lead to confrontation with her two lovers, something she did not expect. “Oh you want too much!” Daisy cried to Gatsby. “I love you now—isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past. I did love him once—but I loved you too.” (139-140). She’s at war with her own feelings. She now realizes that in her mind, she’s better off with Tom. Not only has Tom accused Gatsby of being involved in illegal business, he’s brought up past events to make her remember their love for each other. She also knows that Tom can continue to provide her with security and financially stability. At that point, she wishes things would have gone back to normal. She had said she loved Gatsby in the very beginning of the argument, but by the end, she had sided with Tom again. She doesn’t seem to care for Gatsby’s feelings anymore, though she tries pretending like she did nothing wrong in the first place. At first, she comes off as confused and love-struck, but once Tom starts to convince her and remind her of their past, it almost seems like she forgets all about Gatsby and instantly goes back to Tom. Now it seems that it was all just a game to her. Maybe she did it because she craved Tom’s attention and she wanted two men fighting over her, but in the end she knew that she would go back to Tom because he could give her what she really wanted: money, power and social status.
Although some believe that Daisy could truly be looking for love, evidence of her true love of money and social status are clearly proven when she chooses Tom over Gatsby. Daisy knew that she most likely would have been happier with Gatsby, but in her mind, her true happiness was in the pursuit of money. Her love for money, her reputation and her own desires led to her down fall. Even though she knew Tom couldn’t love her like Gatsby did, she knew Tom could provide her with wealth. She believed that this wealth would give her the attention and the love she had always wanted. Unfortunately she was wrong; it eventually led to her own unhappiness.
“Love Conquers All”: Analyzing Romance and Relationships Within The Great Gatsby
Love relationships consume a substantial portion of public attention, whether in regards to legitimate bonds, media exposure, or literary portrayal. In The Great Gatsby, a number of love relationships are introduced and explored, including the bonds between Myrtle and George Wilson, Daisy and Tom Buchanan, as well as Daisy and Jay Gatsby. Notably, however, few of these relationships seem to consist of any genuine substance, leaving the reader to question the truthfulness and the depth of affection within each couple. Relationships proposed in The Great Gatsby can be examined on the basis of passion, emotional intimacy, and commitment between partners in order to determine the convincingness (or lack thereof) of each pairing.
According to Merriam-Webster, passion can be defined as “strong romantic or sexual feelings” directed towards a cause or being. This type of feeling is overwhelmingly lacking in Myrtle and George Wilson’s relationship. George is a meek man, completely controlled by his wife, Myrtle. They have no children, and Myrtle is introduced in the narrative through her involvement with Tom Buchanan. Myrtle is cold towards and has little or no regard for her husband; the statement “She… walk[ed] through her husband as if he were a ghost” (Fitzgerald 25) illustrates how little heed Myrtle affords George. Mr. Wilson, however, does seem to care deeply for his wife, with his devotion to her particularly displayed through his grieving upon her demise (Fitzgerald 139-141).
In the Buchanan relationship, Tom is unfaithful to Daisy, and it is known that Tom has a long history of affairs. In spite of this past, readers do catch glimpses of devotion between Tom and his wife. Tom speaks “flushed with his impassioned gibberish” (Fitzgerald 130), and fights to keep Daisy from leaving him for Gatsby. The couple does have a daughter, along with some past chemistry. Jordan remarks to Nick on one occasion that she saw Daisy with Tom in Santa Barbara when they had returned from their honeymoon, and remarks, “I thought I’d never seen a girl so mad about her husband… looking at him with unfathomable delight” (Fitzgerald 78). Daisy herself also claims that she did love Tom: “…I can’t say I never loved Tom… It wouldn’t be true” (Fitzgerald 133). The validity of Daisy’s feelings could be called into question, nonetheless, based on recollections of Gatsby’s:“she wanted her life shaped now, immediately?and the decision must be made by some force?of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality” (Fitzgerald 151) in regards to her reasons for marriage.
Daisy and Jay Gatsby are a passionate couple, and romantic encounters in both the past and present are revealed. Especially when glimpsing the early relationship between Daisy and Gatsby, we can see their desire on clear display: “[Gatsby] looked at Daisy while she was speaking, in a way that every young girl wants to be looked at” (Fitzgerald 76), and “sat with Daisy in his arms for a long, silent time” (Fitzgerald 150). Most convincing is when Gatsby related “they had never been closer in their month of love, nor communicated more profoundly one with another than when she brushed silent lips against his coat’s shoulder or when he touched the end of her fingers, gently….” (Fitzgerald 150). Whatever the underlying motives for the relationship, it cannot be said that Daisy and Gatsby were not consumed with each other. Even in her home, with Tom in the next room, “…[Daisy] got up and went over to Gatsby and pulled his face down, kissing him on the mouth” (Fitzgerald 116).
Emotional intimacy, referring to the sharing of personal matters, is another key component to any love relationship. With Myrtle and George, it is difficult to discern that any such connection exists. Myrtle is committing adulterous actions in violation of her marriage, while George, though he cares for his wife, is definitively submissive, consenting to his wife’s dominance. Readers are not made privy to any sense of deeper connection between the two, aside from Myrtle’s resentment of her husband and his lifestyle. George refuses also to listen to his wife when she tries to explain about the dog collar found in her drawer, showing a distinct failure to communicate between the couple (Fitzgerald 158).
Yet Daisy and Tom seem to have a sense of mutual understanding that transcends that of the other couplings. This connection is best described in the following terms: “Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table… He was talking intently across the table at her, and in his earnestness his hand had fallen upon and covered her own… They weren’t happy… and yet they weren’t unhappy either. There was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about the picture…” (Fitzgerald 146). For all the adultery and lies, Daisy cannot leave Tom because of their learned intimacy, their comfortableness about each other, even after the ugly confrontation with Gatsby.
Though physical intimacy may not be problematic for Jay and Daisy, their relationship is not deeply rooted. In spite of Gatsby’s infatuation with Daisy, their conversations remain shallow, revolving around Gatsby’s worldly possessions and status, and little else. Daisy truly seems to have only monetary investment in the relationship, painting herself as materialistic, especially when she shows significant emotion regarding Gatsby’s fine wardrobe: “They’re such beautiful shirts… It makes me sad…” (Fitzgerald 93).
Finally, each Gatsby couple displays varying levels of commitment. Myrtle and George share a twelve year marriage?a fact that Myrtle grants little significance, content to carry on her infidelity with Tom Buchanan. George lives under Myrtle’s rule. His commitment to her is shown through his meek willingness to appease. When he learns of his wife’s affair, he is devastated by it, and ultimately this grief (paired with the loss of his wife) leads to his vengeance on Gatsby and to his own demise.
Tom and Daisy, though in a tumultuous relationship, do always return to one another, although one could argue that the reasoning for this tendency is based on the flaws of each individual (Tom’s infidelity and Daisy’s materialism). Tom, though repetitively unfaithful, does not wish for Daisy to leave him (Fitzgerald 131-136), while Daisy cannot deny to Gatsby that she loved Tom, and does not in fact leave Tom. Daisy’s meal with Tom after the confrontation with Gatsby further solidifies the underlying commitment between the Buchanans, since despite the mistakes each is responsible for, Daisy and Tom are able to reconcile and resume some semblance of normality in their household (Fitzgerald 146).
Daisy is far more committed to Tom than to Gatsby. Throughout the text, Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship flourishes, so long as there are no directly opposing forces. Originally, Daisy marries Tom and gives up on Gatsby, looking for a more monetarily stable existence. History then repeats itself, when Daisy chooses to stay with Tom, abandoning Jay (Fitzgerald 150-152). This irony is best represented by Daisy’s statement “I did love him once… but I loved you too” (Fitzgerald 133). Gatsby’s eternal infatuation with Daisy shows his devotion to her, and even when Daisy won’t abandon Tom, Gatsby remains outside Daisy’s home to ensure her well-being (Fitzgerald 146).
Passion, emotional intimacy, and commitment are all components of genuine romantic entanglement. The Great Gatsby, as evidenced, shows the relationships between the Wilsons, the Buchanans, and Gatsby and Daisy. Most convincingly, the Buchanans show that love is not always a feeling, but sometimes an obligation; despite the tremendous flaws of both Daisy and Tom, a comfortable existence is still somehow resumed by the couple near the novel’s end. Perhaps Fitzgerald explained love and its intricacies best when he said “there are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice”?leaving hope that greater love can be discovered, allowing the lesser to fall by the wayside.
Twisted but Innocent
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is considered a great American novel because of its fast-paced intricate plot and round complex characters. Throughout the work we witness many different perspectives and opinions about life in New York in the 1920s. There were stark differences between the activities of the wealthy and poor in society. A sententious quote was stated by the main character, Nick Carraway after experiencing a lavish evening surrounded by individuals with seemingly no morals, “I was within and without simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life” (Fitzgerald 35). The importance and impact of this quote can be seen through personal interpretation, revelation of Nick’s dual-natured character in the novel, and validity of its message in today’s society, through the baby boomer generation and increased dependency on technology.
This quote discusses the extreme parallels of life. There are many aspects of creation that are pure, gorgeous, and innocent. Other components are twisted, ugly, and evil. An over-abundance of both are present in the world today. “Inexhaustible” in the above quote emphasizes the never-ending possibilities and discoveries to be made. This quote can be used to describe any situation or experience. There are virtually no circumstances in life that are completely repulsive or entirely amazing. Most experiences are a twisted mixture of both. “With and without” explains that internal thoughts and outward expressions can coincide to relay the same message or feelings. This is an incredibly powerful and complex quote that must be fully understood to realize its significance.
Nick Carraway stated this quote after spending the day with his brother-law Tom Buchanan and Tom’s mistress, Mertle. The odd collection of people drank and shamelessly partied in the apartment Tom provides for Mertle. This quote explains the drastic parallels Nick experiences throughout his journey in New York living next door to the wealthy, grandiose Jay Gatsby. All of a sudden Nick was thrown into this crazy, twisted world. He was not used to such lavish parties and outrageous behavior. Everything is new, different and very overwhelming to Nick. He appears to be excited about this extravagant world he has suddenly entered, but also repulsed by the staggering lack of principals. Nick is simultaneously participating in the chaos and witnessing these events from a stranger’s perspective. He possesses the ability to share his personal thoughts and feelings while also understanding and conveying the opinions of someone simply witnessing the flamboyance. Throughout the novel, Nick often draws interesting parallels between his own thoughts of a situation and how he believes an observer would interpret the same circumstance. Ambivalent feelings constantly course through Nick’s mind as he experiences the extreme highs and lows of life.
The over-arching message conveyed by this expressive quote is visible in today’s modern society. There are many amazing advancements in technology and medicine occurring in the world today. Vicious, heartless crimes and acts of violence are unfortunately also very prevalent. It’s easy to experience both ends of the spectrum. Take a college campus for example, it’s a wonderful place where new discoveries are made and people can reach their full potential. Contrastingly, there’s also a lot of partying, drinking, and partaking in immoral acts. The generation born directly after World War 2 can especially relate to this quote. Modern society has changed substantially in a short 70 years. Dependence on technology has increased dramatically. This generation has lived through a period of time without much extended use of computers and cell phones. Now, however the same individuals are experiencing a new culture, over-saturated with electronic devices. Members of this generation are intrigued by new advancements in technology, while also resisting to fully accept its influence. When discovering the immense possibilities of something for the first time, such as a computer, it is common to have contradicting feelings of amazement and frustration. The baby boomer generation can relate to Nick, in the way he is both partaking in a situation and looking at the circumstances from a bystander’s perspective. This specific group of people is well-versed in the ability to be fully present during an event, while also recalling memories from the past and wondering what someone outside of the situation would think.
This sententious quote displays the complex dual-nature of our world. It explains the concept of being amazed and horrified of a situation. Nick Carraway experiences many intriguing, outrageous events throughout the novel. He is “simultaneously enchanted and repelled” by the ostentatious actions of Gatsby and the Buchanans. Nick has a unique ability to portray his own internal feelings, while also understanding an outsider’s perspective of his current situation. This quote’s validity can be proven in our current society. Members of the baby boomer generation are fascinated by the powerful technology of our world, but also repelled by its complexity and society’s dependence on it. The above quote, is very profound and thought-provoking, but sadly often over-looked in The Great Gatsby. The world is beautifully distorted, twisted but innocent, and open to one’s personal interpretation.