The Great Gatsby
Daisy and Her Men: Analysis of Character in The Great Gatsby
Throughout literature, there are countless characters whose only positive attributes seem to be the fact that they are utterly detestable – the reader loves to hate them. From Shakespeare’s conniving Iago to Dickens’ endlessly cruel Estella, these characters bring nothing but pain to those around them. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, Daisy fits rather snugly into this category. She is shallow, self-absorbed, and completely lacking any sort of heartfelt emotion. Yet it is impossible to understand the novel as a whole without possessing an understanding of Daisy. Perhaps the clearest way to examine Daisy’s character is to look at her relationship with Gatsby. They seem, at a glance, to be in love, but the novel’s end leaves readers wondering if Daisy is even capable of loving another human being. She is wrapped in wealth, charm, and aristocracy, and these attract Gatsby to her. At the same time, the very things that Gatsby loves about Daisy are what inevitably keep them from being together.It is clear from the novel’s outset that Daisy is indescribably beautiful, graceful, and charming. She is the quintessential representation of the 1920’s female. When Nick encounters Daisy for the first time, he notes that she speaks so softly that, unless in very close proximity, the listener cannot hear her. Yet more interesting than this observation is the reasoning behind it: Nick states, “I’ve heard it said that Daisy’s murmur was only to make people lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming”(13). Here, it is as though even Daisy’s faults are endearing, and the reader sees just how permeating her charm truly is. To Gatsby however, Daisy is far more than simply charming; she is the physical embodiment of his goals and aspirations. To obtain Daisy is to obtain all the wealth, poise, stature, and aristocracy that she possesses. Gatsby realizes even before Nick does that Daisy is inextricably linked to her richness, telling him that “Her voice is full of money”(127).Yet long before Gatsby pinpoints the sound of wealth in Daisy’s voice, he realizes exactly how enveloped in class and gentility she is. When he and Daisy first meet in Louisville, Gatsby is enthralled by the aura of sophistication surrounding Daisy. Gatsby falls in love with Daisy’s enchanting beauty and grace, not her strength of character. On one of the last nights he spends with Daisy, Gatsby reveals to Nick that he was “overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor”(157). This statement alone indicates that Gatsby knows and acknowledges that Daisy will always be attractive and alluring to him because of her wealth and its ability to sustain her charm and beauty.The problem however, is that Daisy is too entwined with these qualities to ever escape or overcome them. She can never fully “stoop” to Gatsby’s level. Her dependency on wealth and aristocracy makes her incapable of loving anything but herself, money, and material luxuries, evidenced by the fact that she chooses Tom over Gatsby not once, but twice in the novel. The first time, obviously, is while Gatsby is away at war and Daisy grows tired of waiting for his return, even though he continually sends letters professing his desire to be with her. Daisy however, is far too impatient to wait, and Nick comments:”She [Daisy] 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… That force took place in the middle of spring with the arrival of Tom Buchanan. There was a wholesome bulkiness about his person and Daisy was flattered.”(159)Again, Daisy’s need for wealth and prestige are stronger than any emotional attachment she has for Gatsby, and she is won over by mere “bulkiness” and flattery.Furthermore, Daisy never outgrows this shallow attachment to material luxury; in fact, it seems as though she becomes more and more controlled by it. Although her reunion and subsequent relationship with Gatsby after many years seems as though it is based on true love, Daisy’s shallow and self-absorbed nature shines through. After killing Myrtle Wilson and allowing Gatsby to take the blame, Daisy simply disappears again. When Gatsby is murdered and Nick instinctively calls Daisy, he finds that she and Tom have moved and left no forwarding address. Several days go by, and finally, at Gatsby’s funeral, Nick remarks, “I tried to think about Gatsby then for a moment but he was already too far away and I could only remember, without resentment, that Daisy hadn’t sent a message or a flower”(183). Not only has Daisy chosen Tom over Gatsby after their confrontation at the hotel, she appears to feel absolutely no remorse over Gatsby’s death. The event is inconsequential to her, as she maintains her social standing, wealth, and prestige. Had Daisy somehow lost her money or fallen out of social graces because of Gatsby’s death, perhaps then she might have felt grief or sorrow; however, she is unable to feel any affection for anything but her wealth and standing.Beyond observing Daisy’s shallow obsession with class and riches, however, it is important to note the amorality of her character – which is not to be confused with immorality. She (along with Tom) is a clear representation of values in the 1920’s. She never does anything illegal or socially unacceptable, and by all accounts is probably considered an upstanding citizen. Yet she is far from moral. She and Tom share this common amorality, which is why the novel must end with the two of them together. She knows it, and Tom knows it; it is only Gatsby who seems unaware of this ability to mate for reasons other than love. When the two men finally confront Daisy in the hotel room, each demands that she make a decision between the two of them. When Gatsby, confident of the love he and Daisy share, announces that she is leaving Tom, Tom proclaims, “She’s not leaving me!…Certainly not for a common swindler who’d have to steal the ring he put on her finger…I picked him [Gatsby] for a bootlegger the first time I saw him and I wasn’t far wrong”(141). Here, Tom denounces Gatsby’s questionable business ventures, but fails to see any wrongdoing in his blatant infidelity. He possesses a clear understanding of what he considers to be immoral, yet cannot see that his own behavior lacks morality of any kind. Likewise, Daisy sees nothing wrong with any of her behavior throughout the novel, including accidentally killing Myrtle Wilson. In fact, the only clue the reader gets of her reaction to the event is Gatsby’s report to Nick that upon telling Daisy he believes Myrtle was indeed killed, “She stood it pretty well”(150). Like Tom, Daisy is blind to the amorality of her actions, which is precisely why the two belong together and must end up together. Although at times it seems as though Daisy truly does love Gatsby, choosing him over Tom is never an actual option. Nick captures their entire relationship perfectly when he says:”They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made….” (188)And it was exactly their money and carelessness that kept them together, that and nothing else, for neither of them is capable of anything more. Again, Daisy’s intense need for material comfort and ease does not allow her to be with anyone but Tom, and least of all with Gatsby.Daisy’s character is central to the understanding of The Great Gatsby. Without Daisy, the reader would never truly realize Gatsby’s own character. To him, Daisy represents everything that he has struggled for his entire life – wealth, class, sophistication, and aristocracy. Yet when Gatsby believes that his love for Daisy is enough to obtain her – and subsequently all of these things – he drastically overestimates her character. Daisy’s love affair with her money, beauty, and grace fully prevent her love for another human being. And perhaps on some level Gatsby realizes that, and loves Daisy in spite of it. However, she is not worth a fraction of his devotion, and as such, can never be with him. The very things that Gatsby admires in Daisy are what disallow a relationship with her, because she can only love those things. Consequently, only someone who shares her inability to love (Tom) can ever truly be with her. Through Daisy, Fitzgerald allows the reader to gain a better understanding of the great Gatsby.
In his book The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald explores the psychology of love’s fantasies and realities through the character of Jay Gatsby. During their five-year separation, Gatsby pines for his love, Daisy Buchanan, rearranging his entire life in order to retain her love and eventually creating a sublime, intangible image of her in his head. “No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart” (p. 101) and this presents complications for Gatsby’s psyche as he faces Daisy’s flawed humanity. In his mind, the fantasy of Daisy and of their relationship outweighs the reality, while in real life it is quite the opposite. This theme of Gatsby’s powerful yet elusive and sometimes unrequited love for Daisy is prevalent throughout the book. The eventual consequences of living in a false world catch up to Gatsby at the end of the novel, where he dies miserable and despairing for the only person he wants and the one person he cannot have—Daisy.Gatsby’s insurmountable love for Daisy begins after their first kiss. He [Gatsby] 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… At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete. (p. 117)After it was all over, Gatsby “felt married to her, that’s all.” (p. 157) Here, however, is the start of the problems that will plague their relationship until the end. Gatsby is a poor soldier about to be shipped overseas while Daisy is a Louisville socialite with a booming social life and many suitors. Gatsby remains faithful in loving Daisy during their time apart, but the distance separating them makes a torrid affair impossible. These difficulties in sustaining the human, physical side of the relationship provide the impossibility about their affair that caused Daisy to finally give up waiting. Searching for closure and complying with tradition, she weds a young, handsome man from a respected, established family. “She wanted her life shaped now, immediately—and the decision must be made by some force—of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality… That force took shape with the arrival of Tom Buchanan.” (p. 159) This marriage, which Gatsby assumes has sprung out of pure necessity, takes its toll on Gatsby. In his outright denial that Daisy could have feelings for anyone beside himself, Gatsby creates even more of an illusion in his head of poor Daisy. The growing drive to win Daisy back that accompanies this occasion is the coal that fuels his ill-fated obsession.To Gatsby, Daisy grows into such a perfect and faultless individual that Gatsby loses sight of reality and begins to think that Daisy is the only person who can make him happy. In order to achieve this happiness, he begins to build a vast fortune through whatever means necessary in order to woo his love back into his arms. For example, he throws lavish parties in his ostentatious mansion in order to attract Daisy to his home. Finally, when Daisy and he do meet after five years’ separation, Gatsby is so beside himself that he is shocked when Daisy cannot live up to the grandeur of his fantasies….A look of bewilderment had come back into Gatsby’s face, as though a faint doubt has occurred to him as to the quality of his present happiness. Almost five years! There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams—not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. (p. 101)Gatsby sees getting Daisy back as a way to fill the ever-expanding void left by her memory. Without her, he cannot feel complete, and with her he feels confused as to why she is not as perfect as he remembers.Gatsby has built up such a predetermined image of Daisy’s character that she can do no wrong in his mind. This is why it comes as such a crushing blow to Gatsby that Daisy did not hold out for him the way he did for her. After Daisy explains that, while she continued to love Gatsby, she could not deny her feelings for Tom, Gatsby tries to convince himself that things will still work out the way he had hoped. “You must remember,” he says, “she was very excited this afternoon… Of course she might have loved him, just for a minute, when they were first married—and loved me more even then.” (p. 159) After obsessing over Daisy for so long, it is difficult for Gatsby to cope with the loss. Rather than holding the ever-perfect Daisy responsible for ending their affair, Gatsby blames himself. “He left feeling that if he had searched harder he might have found her—that he was leaving her behind.” (p. 160) Because he was originally so far from reality, accepting the truth of Daisy’s marriage and prior obligations is so much harder and cuts so much deeper for Gatsby than would otherwise be expected….He must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real… (p. 169)The death of Gatsby is the only logical conclusion to the story. Daisy was the one thing he lived for, and without having her Gatsby lost his reason for living. As his created world comes crashing down around his feet, Gatsby sinks from the zenith of five years of pining for Daisy to the nadir of realizing she will be forever unattainable. Daisy had always been out there, and though he never had her for himself, Gatsby always retained hope that he someday would.In retrospect, however, it is clear that Daisy would never have been able to live up to Gatsby’s impossible expectations anyway. During the period where Gatsby tries to woo Daisy from a distance with his garish parties and other indirect means, the characters in the novel live relatively peaceful lives. It isn’t until they meet again that the situation goes awry. Tom and Daisy’s marriage slowly deteriorates, Myrtle is killed, and Gatsby realizes Daisy is not a fallen angel but rather a human being. These circumstances, stemming from their impossible love and the unattainable image Gatsby holds of Daisy, lead to the tragic events of Gatsby’s death and the unraveling of the personal lives of all the characters in the novel.
Through A Lens, Darkly: The Use of Eye Imagery to Illustrate the Theme of an Extinct God in The Great Gatsby
Throughout history, the eye has always been an emblem of the deities. In the Egyptian pantheon, there is Horus, god of light, who is signified by his famous Eye; in the Roman pantheon, there is Juno, associated with the many-eyed peacock; and in the Hindu pantheon, there is the three-eyed Shiva, with his celestial left and right eyes and inner one of fire. Ergo, it is a common connection that F. Scott Fitzgerald makes in his novel The Great Gatsby, when he uses an oculary motif to link to the idea of God, and, more specifically, to develop and explore the theme of God’s death in the materialistic and careless world of The Great Gatsby.Nowhere in the novel is there a clearer example of the tie between the death of God and the motif of eyes than in the valley of ashes. The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, left to the dust and ash of the valley “half way between West Egg and New York,” hang over the characters, seemingly all-seeing, watching as the events of The Great Gatsby unfold before them. Nick says, describing the valley of ashes,Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground. (27-28)Given the characters’ apotheosis of these eyes, it seems that Fitzgerald has intended to introduce a false god into the novel; indeed, it is to the billboard that George Wilson makes reference when he tells Myrtle, his philandering wife, that “‘God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me, but you can’t fool God!'” (167). However, the true God has died: the valley of ashes as Fitzgerald depicts it is a forsaken, barren place. The only figure of life in it is Myrtle, whose buxom vitality strongly contrasts with her surroundings, and who is doomed to an untimely death. As he keeps company with George after Myrtle’s murder, Michaelis, who runs the dining establishment door, is surprised by George’s reference to the billboard, and remarks “‘That’s an advertisement'” (167). This deification of Dr. Eckleburg’s eyes is rife throughout the novel, and it is of interest to note that the oculist’s overpowering eyes are only a facsimile, an advertisement – it is as if the media itself has slipped into the place of a departed deity.The car that runs Myrtle Wilson down is driven by Daisy Buchanan, who is described as having a face that is “sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth” (13-14). Daisy, while on the surface the very embodiment of her name, is nevertheless one of the most careless and irreverent people in the novel, but certainly one of the most powerful, through her marriage to Tom and Gatsby’s obsession with her. Her eyes are described as “well-loved” (97), and upon the firing of Gatsby’s coterie of servants, Nick is quick to jump to the conclusion that “the whole caravansary had fallen in like a card house at the disapproval in her eyes” (120). In Francis Cugat’s famed artwork for the cover of The Great Gatsby, he depicts the eyes and lips of a flapper, presumably Daisy. As Cugat’s painting was finished prior to the completion of the novel, Fitzgerald certainly was influenced by it. While the flapper’s eyes appear bright and lovely at first glance, on closer inspection it is revealed that they also enclose recumbent nudes, a reference to Daisy’s sybaritic and restless lifestyle. Daisy is a pivotal character in the novel, and certainly one of the most reckless; she mercilessly runs over Myrtle in Gatsby’s car, takes advantage of Gatsby himself, and ultimately is untouched by any of this. Nick says of her, “[Gatsby] 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” (117). Daisy is the most godless of all the characters in The Great Gatsby; while not without emotion or interest in others, she is ruled by her desire for money and the Good Life.Fitzgerald also utilizes other imagery to further his theme of God’s demise, but none as pervasive or convincing as the motif of eyes. Nietzsche’s well-known words come to mind at the close of the novel, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” Daisy with her starry eyes, the avarice that drives her, and the media (as personified by Dr. T.J. Eckleburg’s disembodied ones) were certainly instrumental in the heartless killing, Gatsby and God alike. So Fitzgerald begins his novel, with his narrator Nick Carraway disillusioned, seeing the fading billboard of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes for what it truly is.
Decay of American Greatness
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a shining example of the principle that the most powerful messages are not told but rather shown. Although the novel is written in the form of largely impartial narration by Nick Carraway, Fitzgerald’s criticism of American life and culture during the Roaring Twenties subtly and powerfully permeates the plot. Fitzgerald shows that American society, flushed from victory in the First World War and bombarded with advertisements expounding the wonders of consumer items from cars to refrigerators, has experienced a radical shift in its value system. Through his portrayal of the main characters, Fitzgerald implies that the traditional virtues of thrift, sincere friendship and true love, as described in books like Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, have been replaced by the vices of reckless spending, shallow friendships and superficial love. Furthermore, Fitzgerald implies that although members of high society in the Roaring Twenties would party all night long, their perversion of the values of frugality, friendship and love help repress and reinforce feelings of loneliness and unhappiness.By detailing the observations made by Nick Carraway of Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald proves that the work ethic and frugality that originally gave rise to American wealth have been replaced by a wasteful materialism. The grand, raucous parties that Gatsby hosts at his West Egg mansion are a showcase of all the undesirable practices that stem from materialism. Carraway observes that a corps of caterers string enough colored lights in Gatsby’s garden to make it appear like a “Christmas tree,” and that eight servants and an extra gardener are required on Mondays to repair the damages of Sunday partying. The narrator is also amazed by the pyramid of pulpless orange and lemon halves, left to rot at Gatsby’s back door without a second thought after the butler had extracted the juice. Inside the parties, sumptuous buffet tables laden with spiced baked hams and pastry pigs and a full-sized orchestra replete with trombones, cornets and piccolos reinforce a vivid image of a high-class society unconcerned with conservation and hooked on the horn of plenty. By using a surfeit of detail to emphasize the excessiveness of Gatsby’s parties, the author suggests that material wealth is merely a cover for spiritual isolation. Through their liberal use of alcohol and enjoyment of their opulence, Gatsby’s guests can drug themselves into not facing their inability to foster the development of genuine human relationships. That the guests have lost this ability is evident in Nick’s observations of the party atmosphere: “The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside…[there are] enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.” (40) The superficiality of these introductions and the false gayety of the party become even more apparent as the party ends. Wives complain bitterly about leaving as their husbands take them home, and departing cars are blocked by a coup stuck in a ditch. The reader receives the distinct impression that the exhilarating party is ending in a whimper like a charade that has finally been exposed. The nature of this charade is expressed in Nick’s parting description of Gatsby’s house: “A sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and great doors, endowing with complete isolation the figure of the host, his hand up in a formal gesture of farewell.” (56) That Fitzgerald chooses this image as the last impression to impart to the reader shows his desire to emphasize the loneliness inherent in extravagant consumerism.The Great Gatsby depicts the perversion of the value of friendship by describing the empty and meaningless personal relationships of Tom Buchanan–relationships that indicate the profound secret unhappiness of the wealthy. Buchanan’s conduct shows the upper class’ rejection of the traditional conception of a friend as a person to rely upon for honest criticism and help in need. When Buchanan invites his old college acquaintance Carraway to his East Egg estate, he is quick to emphasize his affluence when he points out the sunken Italian garden and snub-nosed motorboat. Carraway notices Buchanan’s need to garner approval: “I always had the impression that he approved of me and wanted me to like him with some harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own.” (7) Clearly, Buchanan does not value Carraway as a true friend but merely someone who can confirm the quality of his estate, and by transitivity, the quality of his empty, unhappy life. This interpretation is reinforced by Buchanan’s association with Myrtle’s circle of friends. At the apartment gathering, Buchanan and Myrtle invite friends that are intellectually and physically superficial. For example, Mr. McKee is an amateur artist whose artistic creativity is limited to the far from imaginative renderings “Montauk Point–The Gulls” and “George B. Wilson at the Gasoline Pump.” Myrtle’s sister Catherine is described by Carraway as having a powdered face and plucked eyebrows and wearing pottery bracelets that clink as she moves. The topics of conversation are shallow and revolve around money; Mrs. Wilson describes her medical bill and her sister declares that she was cheated at Monte Carlo. The triviality of the people and atmosphere are outer manifestations of the triviality of the relationships. This becomes painfully apparent when Buchanan breaks Mrs. Wilson’s nose and the party concludes in disorder. Mr. McKee and Carraway leave, in direct repudiation of the aphorism that a friend in need is a friend indeed. Although Buchanan through his drunken revelry and association with mentally anemic and physically ugly people tries to create a semblance of a fulfilling life, in the end his perversion of the value of friendship demonstrates the wealthy elite’s inner unhappiness.Because the false love expressed by the main characters is based on the exchange of valuables and not the exchange of values and aspirations indicative of true love, a character like Tom Buchanan promotes spiritual unhappiness in himself and his women. For example, Buchanan first expresses his love for Daisy by holding an elaborate wedding replete with four private cars and a gift of pearls valued at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars. This seemingly grand gesture, however, does not prevent Daisy from crying and getting drunk before the wedding ceremony. Daisy does not love Buchanan and thus no amount of money can replace true love in creating genuine happiness. That Buchanan himself is left unsatisfied is evident in his taking of Myrtle to be his mistress. Not learning the lesson that love cannot be bought, he lavishes her with gifts–even a dog on her whim. Mrs. Wilson’s greed, which has replaced values of true love, is highlighted by her shopping requests: “I’ve got to get [a] massage and a wave, and a collar for the dog, and one of those cute little ash-trays where you touch a spring.” (37) The emptiness of the relationship is finally revealed when Tom breaks Myrtle’s nose and ultimately sealed when Myrtle is killed after an argument with her husband caused by her infidelity. Fitzgerald convincingly shows that the perversion of love reinforces unhappiness.In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald argues that the degraded values of thrift, friendship, and love have created an upper class that tries in vain to hide their isolation and misery. Even though the novel focuses on specific characters in a limited span of time, Fitzgerald’s contemporary work has proved enduring because of its timeless applicability. He makes a strong case for the warning that to lose sight of the values that made America great is to destroy that greatness itself.
[G]audy … primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. … [T]he air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names. … The party has begun. (40-41)
The beauty and splendor of Gatsby’s parties masks the decay and corruption that lay at the heart of the Roaring Twenties. The society of the Jazz Age, as observed by Fitzgerald, was morally bankrupt and thus continually plagued by a crisis of character. Jay Gatsby, though he struggles to be a part of this world, remains unalterably an outsider. His life is a grand irony in that it is a caricature of Twenties-style ostentation: his closet overflows with custom-made shirts; his lawn teems with “the right people,” all engaged in the serious work of absolute triviality; his mannerisms (e.g., his false British accent, his old-boy friendliness) are laughably affected. Despite all of this, he can never truly be a part of the corruption that surrounds him: he remains intrinsically “great.” Nick Carraway reflects that Gatsby’s determination, his lofty goals, and most importantly the grand character of his dreams set him above his vulgar contemporaries. F. Scott Fitzgerald constructs Gatsby as a true American dreamer, set against the decay of American society during the 1920s. This is the same world that produced what Gertrude Stein called the “Lost Generation”; this is the same world that T.S. Eliot condemned in “The Wasteland.” By eulogizing the tragic fate of dreamers, Fitzgerald thereby denounces 1920s America as an age of blindness and greed, an age hostile to the work of dreaming. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald heralds the ruin of his own generation. Since America has always held its entrepreneurs in the highest regard, one might expect Fitzgerald to glorify this heroic version of the American Dreamer in the pages of his novel. Instead, Fitzgerald suggests that the societal corruption that prevailed in the 1920s was uniquely inhospitable to dreamers; in fact, it was these men who led the most unfortunate lives of all. The figure of Dan Cody exemplifies the hardships faced by the dreamer. Cody is a miner, “a product of the Nevada silver fields, of the Yukon, of every rush for metal since seventy-five” (99). He becomes a millionaire through hard work, ambition, and a little bit of fine American luck. Despite these admirable qualities, he dies alone, drunk, and betrayed. Through Dan Cody, Fitzgerald suggests that 1920s society manipulated its visionaries, milked them for their hard-earned money, and then promptly forgot them. This formula is reiterated through the story of Gatsby. A child growing up in a nameless town in the middle of Minnesota, Gatsby dreams of the impossible and makes the impossible a reality. He begins this grand undertaking in an endearingly methodical way by making a list of “General Resolves”: “Study electricity,” “Baseball,” “Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it” (173). Less than two decades later, he is one of the richest men in New York. Gatsby, too, is exploited by the very society in which he longs to take part. At his own parties, “girls were swooning backward playfully into men’s arms, even into groups, knowing that someone would arrest their falls — but no one swooned backward on Gatsby, and no French bob touched Gatsby’s shoulder, and no singing quartets were formed with Gatsby’s head for one link” (50). His home was full of the Leeches, Blackbucks, and Klipspringers — or at least it was while the champagne was flowing, at Gatsby’s expense. When he dies, no one attends his funeral. Gatsby dies alone, and only a handful of people mourn his passing. In a healthy society, dreamers are respected and encouraged; in Fitzgerald’s version of the American Twenties, they are exploited, maltreated, and discarded. For Fitzgerald, the destruction of dreams is the hallmark of his Lost Generation. Another symptom of the decline of American society is its inability to fulfill its dreamers’ desires. As a child, Gatsby dreams of wealth and success, hoping to become a part of the social elite. When Gatsby finally invites members of that elite (as exemplified by the Sloanes and Buchanans) to his home, they have nothing but contempt for him. After Gatsby accepts Mrs. Sloane’s invitation to dinner, the entire party rebukes him behind his back. They leave without him, hissing that they “couldn’t wait” (103). Though Gatsby is now wealthy and successful, the hypocritical division between those with “new money” and those with “old money” keeps him, despite all his striving, barred from high society. Gatsby’s longing for Daisy — which is, of course, inseparable from his desire to be a part of her social class — is another dream that remains unfulfilled. Since Daisy initially refuses to marry him because of his poverty and low birth, Gatsby resolves to elevate himself. It never occurs to him to condemn her for her cruelty, nor for her indefensible snobbery; instead, Gatsby strives to live up to her misconceived ideal. His idea of Daisy is of a woman pure, a woman perfect, as clear as a green light in June. When he and Daisy are reunited after a five-year separation, Nick incisively remarks, “There must have been times that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart” (96). Daisy is tainted by her association with the brutal and loutish Tom; she is, in fact, more like him than she is like the idealistic Gatsby. During this first meeting, Fitzgerald focuses on the fact that she is no longer dressed completely in white: the “brass buttons on her dress gleamed in the sunlight” (90). She is not “the grail” that Gatsby has sought, nor will he ever find it. Daisies are seasonal flowers that decay in the heat (the passion) of summer. Fitzgerald uses Daisy as an emblem of “old money’s” pompous hypocrisy: it can never be equal to Gatsby’s dreams. The tragedy of Gatsby’s life — a tragedy that is painfully clear to Nick — remains invisible to the rest of society. Blindness is one of the novel’s central themes: it is populated almost entirely with people who wish not to see. They seek out blindness in the form of drunkenness: Daisy binges on alcohol the night before her wedding in order to obliterate her vision of a miserable future. Jordan, Daisy, Tom, and the other “jet-setters” of the 1920s drive recklessly; they remain blind to danger, so caught up are they in the selfish pursuit of pleasure. They thoughtlessly risk their own lives and the lives of others. Nick says to Jordan, “You’re a rotten driver. Either you ought to be more careful, or you oughtn’t to drive at all.” Jordan responds, “They’ll keep out of my way. It takes two to make an accident” (58). For Fitzgerald, Twenties society was “[driving] on toward death through the cooling twilight” (136). Only Nick, who is above all else an observer — the novel is, in some sense, his memoir, and thus a collection of his observations — truly sees. He is Fitzgerald’s representative within the narrative. Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald heralds the decay of his generation. During the climactic confrontation between Tom and Gatsby when Gatsby learns that Daisy will never be his, Nick muses, “I just remembered it’s my thirtieth birthday.” This signifies the end of the corrupt lifestyle of the Twenties; now it is the dawn of the Thirties. The characters attempt to escape the calamity represented by the end of the decade by moving West, away from the decaying East. Tom and Daisy leave New York in an attempt to escape the violence they themselves have caused; Nick remarks, “they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness” (179). America was once a land meant for dreamers, but the mindless pursuit of wealth destroyed the American dream. Fitzgerald saw a society hurtling recklessly onward, without direction, unwilling to take responsibility for its actions; for him, this represented the annihilation of the very fabric of America. His book was meant as a grim harbinger of that destruction.