The Great Gatsby
Materialism Portrayed By Cars in The Great Gatsby
“But as I walked down the steps I saw that the evening was not quite over. Fifty feet from the door a dozen headlights illuminated a bizarre and tumultuous scene (58).”After the first of Gatsby’s parties that Nick attends, Fitzgerald dedicates two pages entirely to a seemingly inconsequential car accident. The reader does not find out the name of the owner, or what really happened, so what it substantial about this part is it’s symbolic value. It is in these two pages that Fitzgerald introduces the notion of cars symbolizing the material carelessness of America before the Depression. Also, by associating certain characters with a certain brand of car, or establishing a parallel between a character and his relationship with cars, Fitzgerald sheds light upon character flaws, especially concerning gross materialism. By using cars as such significant symbols throughout the novel, Fitzgerald points out their manipulation value. Just as the characters in the novel use cars to escape, move, and loudly proclaim their wealth, the author similarly uses this to structure the book. By removing himself as the primary narrator, he is escaping. By his use of flashbacks and by placing scenes out of sequence, the author takes advantage of manipulating the story’s movement. Finally, Fitzgerald uses this novel to loudly proclaim his feelings towards America at the time of the story.Reverting back to the car accident at the end of Gatsby’s party, material carelessness proves an important theme. The person assumed responsible for the accident says, “I know very little about driving-next to nothing. It happened, and that’s all I know (59).” When the true culprit emerges from the car, he says, “At first I din’ notice we’d stopped (60).” Despite the audiences insistence that the car could not be driven, the criminal ignores such warning and says, “No harm in trying (60).” Both of these responses communicate carelessness and frivolity. The entire party scene foreshadowed this, describing the guests, as coming and going, “…like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars (42).” Such portrayal of Gatsby’s guests cheapens their intentions and shows how they care only about having a good time among the finest goods. The party fruits provide another foreshadowing of this American carelessness. “Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York?every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves (43).” Just as the guests arrived on schedule every weeknight, they also left the party pulpless and empty. None of the guests really knew Gatsby, yet they showed up week after week to drink his champagne, eat his food, and mingle amongst the wealthy. They gain nothing from the party except superficial conversation and drunkenness. These shallow qualities of the party guests are epitomized at the end of the scene through the use of the car accident.The relationship between the carelessness of this accident as well as the carelessness of Jordan’s driving, gives further insight into Jordan’s character flaws. Jordan’s dishonesty is shown early in the novel by cheating in a golf tournament, and further defects, such as her pretentious and pompous attitude are revealed by her feelings towards driving. The first time Fitzgerald makes this point clear occurs when Jordan says, “When we were on a house party together up in Warwick, she left a borrowed car out in the rain with the top down, and then lied about it…(62)” This dishonesty did not mean very much to Nick, however, and instead he is simply made curious by it. He did pay close attention to Jordan’s driving, which brings to light her rashness. When Nick tries to tell her how terrible she drives, she responds by saying that although she is not careful, other people are. “They’ll keep out of my way…it takes two to make an accident (63).” After Nick fires back with the possibility of meeting someone as careless as she is, Jordan ignorantly replies with, “I hope I never will…I hate careless people (63).” This response completely shows Jordan’s lacking sense of responsibility as well as her sanctimonious perception of herself. Jordan’s logic lacks substance and her self-righteous opinions throw her into the crowd with the rest of the American careless. This accounts for the failure of Nick and Jordan’s relationship. Although the two tried to maintain a romantic relationship, Nick is searching for someone more genuine, someone who does not deny her own imperfections, and Jordan cannot provide him with that.Along with the overall American frivolity of the time, cars are used to almost personify each character. Nick mentions his own car only once throughout the entire novel. It is mentioned eight pages into the book, and on this page, he describes his only possessions when he moved out to the country. “I had a dog, at least I had him for a few days until he ran away, and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove.” Taking into consideration the subjects of his description, the sentence denotes a sense of loneliness. He could have not mentioned the dog whatsoever, but instead, he writes that he once had a dog but no longer does. This creates a sense of loss as the immigrant woman speaking to herself creates a sense of loneliness. Nick’s regular human contact consists of his employee who doesn’t even speak his own language. Because of this, one gets the sense that his car must also carry some dreary significance. Its old age and ordinariness conveys Nick’s simplistic yet isolated life, as he innocently begins his narrative. This innocence, and somewhat removal from materialistic America, separates him from all the other characters and accounts for his failure in relationships and ultimately, for him moving back to the mid-west.Nick’s departure from the East is an inevitable choice, as all the characters he meets are shown to be quite dishonest and materialistic. Fitzgerald strategically develops each character by epitomizing them through cars. For example, the first time Myrtle is introduced, it is by an association with her husband and cars. Fitzgerald introduces the couple by writing, “Repairs. GEORGE B. WILSON. Cars Bought and Sold…(29).” Just as George makes a profession selling what he owns to his patrons, he also gets his wife taken from him by one of his patrons. The fact that George makes repairs seems to make him second best, as if he cannot already own what is best, he must work to try and get it to that point. Just as Myrtle gives all of her love, and all of herself to Tom, George has to work to try and get her to love him. Another interesting twist is that George very much wants to buy Tom’s car from him. When George finds out about Myrtle’s affair, he desperately calls upon Tom to try and make a car deal in order to somehow save his marriage to Myrtle. Tom is responsible for the affair, and sickly agrees to sell his car during George’s desperate plea, as if he is doing something honorable. Such deceiving acts mirror the deceit and manipulation the characters in the book all use.Although these characters play important roles in the narrative, Nick’s relationship with Gatsby holds the most importance, and therefore, the association between Gatsby and his car proves very significant. The narrator once nonchalantly mentions that Gatsby owns a Rolls Royce, the first time great attention is given to one of his cars, draws extreme parallels to Gatsby’s personality. Nick’s admiration is exposed through his description of the car. “I’d seen it. Everybody had seen it. It was a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hatboxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns (68).” The concision of the first two sentences, as well as calling the car “it” in both sentences coveys a sense of entrancement for Nick. He loses himself in the beauty of the car, and for a second, he cannot really talk, except to state the obvious. The color of the car means a great deal since it was normal at that time for factory-made cars to all be black. Therefore, his customized cream-colored car screams of his wealth which in turns symbolizes his materialistic intentions. The adjectives Nick uses also paint a picture of majesty. Words such as, “bright,” “swollen,” “Monstrous,” and “triumphant” all create images of might, splendor, yet also grotesque. Although this would be fine if it was just meant to describe the car, the trouble is that it is soon after this point in the book, that Nick starts to confuse the greatness of Gatsby’s possessions with the greatness of Gatsby himself. Therefore, this entrancement with the car, and the grand adjectives prove to be dangerous, as Gatsby soon completely enthralls Nick. For example, despite all the sings pointing towards Gatsby’s criminal activity, Nick defends him during speculation by his party guests. Also, a similar sense of entrancement occurs at the end of Chapter VI during a conversation between Nick and Gatsby. “For a moment a phrase tried to take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man’s, as though there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But they made no sound and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever (118).” At this point, Gatsby lures Jim into his scheme of achieving Daisy and achieving happiness. The novel soon takes a turn for the worse.The beginning of the end of The Great Gatsby occurs in climax of the book, which begins and ends with cars. Setting up the scene, Tom insists that he drive Gatsby’s “circus wagon” to the city while Gatsby drives Tom’s coupe. This switching of cars parallels the switching of Daisy’s love from first Gatsby to Tom and then the confusion between the two. Tom calling the car a “circus wagon” is a blow towards Gatsby, making it seem as if Gatsby should not be taken seriously. At this point in the book, Tom knows about Gatsby’s involvement with boot-legging, and therefore finds him to be a sham, something that can be laughed at, something simply put on display for entertainment, just as if he was a circus act.After the intense scene revealing the truth of Gatsby’s source of income as well as his affair with Daisy, Tom insists that Daisy leave with Gatsby in Gatsby’s car. In this scene, his car seems to be mimicking their entire affair. Since Tom contemptuously made them leave together, and since he revealed Gatsby’s criminal involvement, the majesty of Gatsby’s car is suddenly seen for its shallowness. It is only appropriate at this point for Gatsby’s car to be the “death car,” since his corruption of the American Dream inevitably leads to failure.Gatsby perverted the idea of success, and in an effort to achieve his dream of reliving the past with Daisy, he lost sight of the importance of honesty and genuine hard work. His distortion of the American Dream can be seen in the distortion of the plot at the end of the story. The fact that Tom told George it was Gatsby driving the car, and that he allows George to believe Gatsby was the one having the affair with Myrtle, the fact that it was really Daisy driving the car, and the fact that it was Tom who insisted Gatsby and Daisy leave the city when they did, shows how warped American life became when one lost sight of honesty. Such integrity is the basis for achieving happiness, so when this is distorted, happiness cannot be accomplished. Therefore Gatsby’s car, which so vividly displayed his wealth and phony happiness, fittingly leads to tragedy. The fact that his own car not only kills Myrtle, but it consequently leads to Gatsby’s own death, shows the destruction of confusing happiness with materialism. This carelessness is developed from beginning to end, and shows Nick’s unavoidable discontent with his life on the East Coast.The repeated appearance of cars in The Great Gatsby significantly symbolizes the materialism of the time, and of the isolated characters in the book. From overall carelessness to individual distorted perceptions of what a car means, Fitzgerald ingeniously portrays America’s obsession with spectacular materialism. As Nick begins his story quite innocently with a simple hidden car of his own, he becomes wrapped up in riding in Gatsby’s grand car, and after the deaths of both Gatsby and Myrtle, he loses some of his innocence, and gains insight. “One night I did hear a material car there…Probably it was some final guest who…didn’t know the party was over (188).” By the end of the book, Nick sees the story for it’s failure and can no longer be a part of the material world and the party he had grown accustomed to living. Nick sells his car, and fittingly heads back to his real home.
Gatsby’s Fall from Greatness
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby completes a decline from his carefully crafted image of greatness to his exposed, unsightly, and lonely death. The story of the novel is really the deconstruction of this image, and the various ways in which the true “Jay Gatz” is uncovered. Hailing from a middle-class, rural family, Gatsby seizes his chance to escape his past at a young age. After falling in love with an upper-class girl, Daisy, and not being able to please her with his military status, Gatsby turns to a more corrupt occupation to attain large-scale success. But when he finally gains the monetary status that he thinks will qualify him to satisfy Daisy, the society turns on him. His chase of the American dream is fruitless and leaves him alone. Ultimately it is clear that the dream is corrupt, and that the notion of overcoming the walls of class is a myth. The fall of the great Gatsby documents the corruption of the American society, and the hypocrisies that forbid Gatsby from ever attaining his dream. From the moment we are first introduced to Gatsby, it is clear that he desires control – over his own life, and that of others. His first image is almost God-like; as he stands, overlooking the crowd at one of his profligate parties, Nick observes: …my eyes fell on Gatsby, standing alone on the marble steps and looking from one group to another with approving eyes…I wondered if the fact that he was not drinking himself helped to set him off from his guests, for it seemed to me that he grew more correct as the fraternal hilarity increased. (50)As Gatsby stands observing the crowd at his party, there is a feeling that he is in charge. Nick detects a separation between Gatsby and the crowd, which he attributes to Gatsby’s superior air. Gatsby enjoys this separation because it gives him a sense of control over his guests; indeed, this may be the only reason that he chooses to have such extravagant gatherings. Additionally, this outward display of his wealth makes him feel more secure of his fiscal position. Gatsby’s beginnings are humble at best, and his rise to the top – along with his pursuit of Daisy – is part of his pursuit of the American dream. When Gatsby gazes out over such a sight, he feels content that he has escaped his lower class. But he can only fool himself for so long, and the more Gatsby tries to assert his position, the clearer it is that he has not eluded his common beginnings. When Gatsby’s past is discovered it weakens his whole position and exposes the corruption of his American dream. Before we learn of Gatsby’s past, Fitzgerald asserts, “Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry.” (88). This statement clearly characterizes Gatsby; he is willing to be a slave to a distorted American dream, and to the other corrupt members of society, as long as he believes himself to be of high class. As it turns out, Gatsby makes tremendous sacrifices for this sake. Nick says, “Jay Gatz – that was really, or at least legally, his name. He had changed it at the age of seventeen and at the specific moment that had witnessed the beginning of his career…” (98). From an early age the American dream possesses him; and for its sake, he gives up his very identity. Gatsby sees it as a worthy sacrifice for the sake of greatness. But later on, he is exposed. “‘My God, I believe the man’s coming,’” said Tom. “‘Doesn’t he know she doesn’t want him?’” (103). In the social situations that characterize high class, Gatsby is utterly clueless. He unintentionally invites himself to a party where he is not wanted, demonstrating his oblivion. Despite his misgivings about fitting in, the gates of high society have locked him out. Earning a high position based upon hard work is impossible, as demonstrated by Gatsby’s failure. In this way the American dream leads him on a chase of the unattainable. In the culminating scene of the novel, when Gatsby proclaims his love for Daisy in front of her husband, Tom, the two men are both exposed as being completely false; but only Tom is allowed to escape unscathed, because he carries the protection of natural-born money, while Gatsby’s destruction is complete. As the two men fight for Daisy, Tom begins to attack Gatsby, and in doing so reveals his hypocrisy:I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that’s the idea you can count me out…Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions, and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white. (130)Everyone present knows that Tom is having an illicit affair, so the idea that he would preach about family values is absurd. He has constantly shown no respect for the institution of marriage, and was even missing at his own daughter’s birth. And yet, Tom is the winner because he takes Daisy home. Although there is absolutely no difference between Gatsby and Tom, Gatsby’s position is built upon a frail foundation while Tom’s rests solidly on class. The American society has no tolerance for people like Gatsby, and it embraces men like Tom, whose words “bite physically into [him]” (132). Gatsby leaves without Daisy, and as a failure. Gatsby’s destruction by the American dream is fortified by the tragic image of his funeral – only his father and Nick attend. Despite his best efforts, Nick cannot convince anyone else to come. It seems that any and all of those who knew Gatsby only valued their relationships for their own personal gain, and that they don’t really care about him. Gatsby’s false claim to high class means that people use him for their own gain. Although he thought that fulfilling the American dream would bring him happiness, it strips him of friends, love, and ultimately of life. Fitzgerald’s critique of the dream is complete when we realize that it allows despicable individuals like Tom to thrive, in spite of the way Gatsby is punished. The “foul dust” of mankind that prays on Gatsby is responsible for his fall, and causes us to question the very basis of a dream that is so fundamentally American.
The Great Gatsby and the Decline of the American Dream
F. Scott Fitzgerald explores the decline of the American Dream in one of his most famous novels, The Great Gatsby. Although this book only takes place over a few months, it represents the entire time period of the 1920s, in which society, mainly on the East Coast, sees the decay of the American Dream. What once was the idea of hard work and prosperity becomes perverted idealism and pathetic optimism. In this novel, Gatsby and other characters represent the corrupt American Dream. When Gatsby’s real past has been revealed, it seems as though he embodies the American Dream. Once a young fisherman and clam digger, he becomes a self-made wealthy man through hard work, despite being the son of unsuccessful parents. Nick states, “His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people- his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all” (104). The fact that Gatsby has achieved more than his parents is one definition of the American Dream. He also has a mentor, Dan Cody, who influences Gatsby at a young age. Cody himself is a self-made millionaire. As Nick explains, “Cody was fifty years old then, a product of the Nevada silver fields, of the Yukon, of every rush for metal since Seventy-five. The transactions in Montana copper that made him many times a millionaire found him physically robust…”(105). Living on Cody’s expensive yacht, Gatsby becomes accustomed to the luxurious lifestyle of the rich and dedicates himself to become a wealthy, successful man. Gatsby’s dream, however, becomes corrupt. He uses “get-rich-quick” schemes and throws outlandish and over-the-top parties to get the attention of his love, Daisy. It is even intimated that he sells grain alcohol over the counter. Tom states, “I found out what your ‘drug stores’ were. He and this Wolfshiem bought up a lot of side-street drug stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him and I wasn’t far wrong” (141). Gatsby simply replies, “What about it?” (141). Gatsby also is connected with other illegal activities and gambling. Gatsby wants Daisy so badly that he once was willing to give up his noble dreams for money and material possessions. His idealism, however, becomes perverted. The desire for personal happiness and individualism is no longer the American Dream; it has been consumed by materials and pleasures. Gatsby drives around in his Rolls-Royce, shows off his many expensive shirts, and lives in an obscenely huge mansion, but all of these objects are completely unnecessary and obviously do not make him happy. Nick describes the time when Gatsby shows off his shirts:“He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them one by one before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table. While we admired he brought out more and the soft rich heap mounted higher.” “I’ve got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection of things at the beginning of each season, spring and fall,” Gatsby says (97).Gatsby is simply flaunting his wealth in an attempt to attract Daisy. The parties that Gatsby throws are completely “empty”. Many people show up to these parties, but all of them do it for themselves and their meaningless pursuits of pleasure. Nick explains the parties that Gatsby has. He says, “…the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors…The bar is in full swing and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside until the 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” (44).These people are fake, greedy, and hollow. They do not really care about Gatsby or each other, but rather come just because they can. Again, they are pursuing material possessions and cheap pleasure. In fact, they do not even show up to Gatsby’s funeral. Nick and Owl Eyes discuss this at Gatsby’s grave. “I couldn’t get to the house.” [Owl Eyes states] “Neither could anybody else.” “Go on! Why, my God! They used to go there by the hundreds. The poor son-of-a-bitch.”Their idealisms are perverted, and their actions are immoral. The parties that Gatsby throws only worsen these morals and idealisms. Morality is not the only value that has gone astray in this novel. Gatsby’s optimism is corrupt as well. He has the unobtainable goal of winning Daisy over. He puts her on a pedestal and idealizes her, even though she is not worthy of Gatsby’s attention. The object of Gatsby’s dream (Daisy) is unworthy, just like the objects of the corrupted American Dream (pleasure and money) are unworthy. Nick tries to explain this to him by saying, “They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together” (162). Because Gatsby cannot earn Daisy’s love, he is forced to earn all of his money illegally in order to impress her. Yet because of their different social statuses, he cannot reach this goal. Social status is another example of the dream’s corruption. Residents on West Egg, including Gatsby, cannot win the affection of the residents of East Egg. Even though people living in West Egg have made their own money themselves and worked hard to do so, they have not gained the respect of East Egg, whose residents have old money. Gatsby thinks that he can break the barrier between the two classes, but in reality, it is impossible. He tries to bring back the past, when his dream had value. He says, “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” (116). Gatsby dedicates his whole life to this illusion of a dream, and when he finally realizes it is impossible, there is nothing left to do but die. Nick narrates, “He had paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about…” (169). His dream is impossible and cannot bring happiness to him, and, therefore, is an illusion. Gatsby is not the only character in this book to represent the perversion of the American Dream. His partner and accomplice, Meyer Wolfsheim, is involved in all sorts of illegal activities in order to gain his wealth. Gatsby says, “He’s a gambler. He’s the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919” (78). Jordan Baker is another example. Nick says, “There was a row that nearly reached the newspapers- a suggestion that she had moved her ball from a bad lie in the semi-final round” (62). Both of these characters have done illegal and unfair things to gain their accomplishments. This is certainly not a part of the traditional view of the American Dream, where hard work will accomplish anything. When most people first read The Great Gatsby, they think it is a love story between Gatsby and Daisy. After more thought and reading, it becomes clear that Fitzgerald is trying to convey a larger message. It is that in the 1920s, the traditional American Dream was taken over by the extreme desire for money and pleasure. The American dream had become a perverted idealism and a pathetic optimism. People during this time ambitiously chased unobtainable goals, and many were left in despair. There is much more to the “Jazz Age” than flapper girls and illegal alcohol. Americans started to see the decay of the American Dream.
The Eulogy of a Dream
The central theme of The Great Gatsby is the decay of the American Dream. Through his incisive analysis and condemnation of 1920s high society, Fitzgerald (in the person of the novel¹s narrator, Nick Carraway) argues that the American Dream no longer signifies the noble pursuit of progress; instead, it has become grossly materialistic and corrupt. Fitzgerald¹s novel is structured as an allegory (a story that conceals another story): the terrible death of Jay Gatsby is, by extension, the death of the American Dream.For Fitzgerald, the true American Dream is characterized by a spirit of perseverance and hope; through these, one can succeed against all odds. This ideal is embodied by the young Gatsby (then James Gatz): he meticulously plans the path by which he will become a great man in his “Hopalong Cassidy” journal and then follows it, to the letter. When Mr Gatz shows the tattered book to Nick, he declares, “‘Jimmy was bound to get ahead. He always had some resolves like this or something. Do you notice what he’s got about improving his mind? He was always great for that’.” The journal exemplifies the continual struggle for self-improvement that once represented the American ideal. In comparing the young James Gatz to the young Benjamin Franklin, Fitzgerald suggests that the American Dream does survive despite the decay of modern society there will always be those guided by an indomitable hope. Modern society, however, has no place for such dreamers: Gatsby¹s passionate desire to win Daisy’s love ultimately remains unrealized, and in fact leads to his destruction. Gatsby is first seen late at night, “standing with his hands in his pockets”; Nick says, only half in jest, that he is “out to determine what share [is] his of our local heavens.” Nick watches Gatsby’s movements and comments: “He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and as far as I was from him I could swear he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward — and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of the dock.” Gatsby’s dedication to an ethereal ideal elevates him above his shallow, vulgar contemporaries. His longing for Daisy is like that celebrated by the medieval ideal of courtly love, in which a knight worshipped his lady without any hope of being loved in return; his every action was only for her, and he strove to lead a noble life in the hopes of becoming worthy of her. Daisy is Gatsby¹s ideal: we first see him reaching toward the green light that marks her house in East Egg; in the final days of his life, he waits unwearyingly outside Daisy’s house for hours despite the fact that she has already decided to abandon him. Though Gatsby exemplifies the purest elements of the old dream, he cannot help but fail in his pursuit of it, since the woman he loves is a corrupt product of modern society.For Fitzgerald, the American obsession with wealth, power, and privilege is the chief cause of the decay of dreaming. Gatsby earns his money through illegal practices; his ostentatious parties, garish mansion, and lavish clothing are all attempts to win the attention of the cruel and shallow Daisy, who cares only for money. He ceases to throw his parties once he believes that he and Daisy will be reunited. Daisy and Tom Buchanan are the most detestable exemplars of the modern order: they live without hope and without regret, because all they care for is the preservation of their own power and privilege. Daisy is never heard from again after Gatsby’s death, as she wants only to forget him and their relationship. Nick confronts Tom about his responsibility for Gatsby¹s death. Tom lies to George Wilson, telling him that Gatsby was driving the car that struck Myrtle, though Daisy was the driver; he lets George believe that Gatsby was having an affair with Myrtle, when in fact it was Tom himself. Tom scoffs at Nick: “‘I told him [George] the truth… What if I did tell him? That fellow [Gatsby] had it coming to him’.” Tom admits that he is responsible for Gatsby’s murder and Wilson’s suicide, but does not feel guilty; he has never known guilt or shame, since his position as a member of the established elite protects him from punishment. Through Nick, Fitzgerald condemns all of “high society”:”I couldn’t forgive him or like him but I saw what he had done was, to him, entirely justified… 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… ” Nick realizes that Tom and Daisy represent a class that has attained success at the cost of their own dehumanization. They are a kind of social void a wholly negative force that is capable of spreading only destruction. Toward the end of the novel, Fitzgerald creates a sense of utter hopelessness and despair through the introduction of Tom and Daisy’s child, the murder of Gatsby, and Wilson’s suicide. The first hint of the impending tragedy can be found in the person of the Buchanans’ daughter, whom Daisy nauseatingly refers to as “Bles-sed pre-cious.” When the girl is brought into the Buchanans’ salon, Nick observes Gatsby¹s obvious discomfort: “Gatsby and I in turn leaned down and took the small reluctant hand. Afterwards he kept looking at the child with surprise. I don’t think he had ever really believed in its existence before.” Daisy then calls her child an “absolute little dream,” crushing all hopes Gatsby has of truly returning to the past he shares with her. The gross materialism that has taken the place of the American Dream is revealed shortly thereafter, when Nick and Gatsby attempt to discern why Daisy’s voice is so seductive. Gatsby blurts out, “‘Her voice is full of money'”; Nick has a sudden epiphany, which alters his view of society as a whole:”That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money- that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it… High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl…” At this point, all of Daisy is stripped of all her charm and beauty; nothing remains but the coarse lure of wealth. The ideal that Gatsby has been so inexhaustibly pursuing is not love it is money, soulless money, that has been given a deceptively pretty human face. When Gatsby dies, any chance the American Dream has of surviving in the dehumanized modern world dies with him. Nick later conjectures that Gatsby, at the moment of his death, “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.” The hopes and dreams which have strengthened Gatsby and guided him are shattered as he lies bleeding in the pool; he must take leave of a world which no longer has a place for men like him. George Wilson who symbolizes the common man struggling to eke out his own meager success on the modern world¹s harsh terms commits suicide. The deaths of Gatsby and Wilson, both striving toward different versions of the original American dream, mirror the death of that dream itself. At the end of the novel, Nick returns to the Midwest with this disturbing knowledge: the American people must struggle to keep from losing its humanity: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” The dream is now utterly lost and can never be resurrected at least not in its original, its purest form. Through the story of a doomed romance, Fitzgerald heralds the tragic decline of American values. Gatsby and the other characters of the novel act as mere vessels for the author’s true story: the American Dream, once a pure and mighty ideal, has been degraded and buried by the dehumanizing lust for money. Nick Carraway is an outsider to his own story: he is an honest man, an observer who bears witness to the calamity. The Great Gatsby is not, in the final analysis, a eulogy for a man named Jay Gatsby; instead, it serves as a eulogy for the idea of America itself.
The significance of the end of Chapter 1 of “The Great Gatsby”
Luminosity and spiritual longing for something that had vanished a long ago are probably the two main characteristics of the last two paragraphs in Chapter 1 of “The Great Gatsby”. The scene takes place shortly after Nick’s return from dinner at Tom and Daisy’s and is set in Nick’s small garden, close to Jay Gatsby’s mansion. It is then that Nick sees Gatsby for the first time, despite of the fact that he had heard so much about him before; that very first meeting is not quite as he expected, as he sees Gatsby from a completely different perspective than most people who would consider Gatsby to be a good acquaintance of theirs. Those last paragraphs illustrate Gatsby’s real nature, as well as how the scene affected Nick’s perception of Gatsby. Yet, in spite of the emotive mood, Nick is only describing the factual situation, not attaching any judgements to it just yet; the readers are the ones supposed to interpret Gatsby’s behaviour.The image that dominates the scene is one of light and the visibly strong contrast between brightness and darkness. At first, the surroundings seem to be darkened by the “deep summer” night, but the references to “pools of light” and in fact, a “bright night” itself, create an image of something quite anachronistic, as if the night was interrupting the power of light rather than the light disturbing the lonely, sombre night. The darkness does indeed seem inadequate, as at this time it is still “loud” and “wings are beating in the trees”, even the “frogs” are “full of life”. The omnipresent noise creates a sort of perplexing mood, as despite of the superficial feeling of brightness, it is difficult to locate the source of the noise, and as nights are often associated with silence, the atmosphere becomes yet more mystical, as if the commotion were a means to conceal a great secret and grant anonymity. Connotations of the night are normally ones that may imply a level of mystery, tranquillity and contemplation, which therefore means that the night which is being described here is not a typical, everyday one – the image is somehow oxymoronic. It seems that the whole scene is surrounded by flourishing life and hope, illuminated even further by the persistent vision of light, something which in fact gives life and allows humans to survive; the light also makes the descriptions less insipid and gives the setting a sense of divinity or being raised to higher levels of existence, a sense of emotional depth. This in turn arouses suspicion in the reader; it is unclear what is being anticipated, but the whole scene is like an omen for something unforeseen.Another distinctive characteristic of the scene is the overpowering loneliness which both the characters seem to be experiencing. The “abandoned grass roller” on which Nick sits as if to keep the meaningless object company, and the “silhouette of a moving cat” illustrate the sad, profound reality of being alone. The fact that the readers might perceive the two images as worthless, hollow ones only emphasises the sorrow and the sense of abandonment, seeing as the images are being degraded by the readers to the point that their symbolic value is disregarded. Yet they may be an allegory for Nick and Gatsby – the “grass roller” being a solid character that offers support to others to the point of self-sacrifice (in the novel Nick seems to possess that kind of personality) and the “silhouette of a moving cat”, being an allegory for Gatsby and his enigmatic, almost elusive aura; the noun “silhouette” suggests only an outline, nothing specific (after all, Gatsby’s “essence” is never revealed completely) and the adjective “moving” implies a constant change, perhaps even an escape from reality… Despite of the fact that Nick says: “I saw that I was not alone” when Jay Gatsby first appeared, both of them are indeed completely alone emotionally, as if they were missing something significant or as if they were expecting a miracle to occur and alter their empty lives: this is especially true for Gatsby.When he sees that “a figure had emerged from the shadow” of his “neighbour’s mansion”, Nick is convinced that it is the “Great” Gatsby, the man who seemed so well-known in the area. The act of emerging “from the shadow” is portrayed beautifully in the scene, particularly if this is connected to Gatsby’s persona which is certainly an enigmatic one; here, he seems to be linked to darkness, as if that hollow emotion were a deeply engraved part of him. He was “regarding the silver pepper of the stars”; despite of his “darkness”, he seems attracted to the elusive light in the sky, the faraway objects in space that he could never reach. This longing for something unattainable could be a metaphor for his love for Daisy – she seems like one of those stars in the sky, so incredibly captivating, yet hopelessly distant. When watching the stars, Gatsby does not seem like the person he is seen as – sociable, throwing parties and engaging himself in shallow conversations with his guests. Instead, he is now perceived by the readers as a sensitive man, perhaps tired of people and their narrow mentalities; it seems that he only feels comfortable when he is alone, which is supported by his “leisurely movements” and the “secure position of his feet upon the lawn”, as if he could finally rest and stop acting in front of those enchanting stars which resemble Daisy so much.We are also confronted with Nick’s sensitivity and good behaviour in the last two paragraphs of Chapter I. He had a pretext to “call to Gatsby” and even decided he would do so. But when he observed that Gatsby “was content to be alone”, he got a feeling that at this moment he would be seen as an intruder, disturbing Gatsby’s silent contemplation. This is similar to another situation which took place at Daisy’s, when Nick almost “murmured an apology” to Miss Baker simply for having set his eyes on her; through both these events we can see how apologetic and tactful Nick is, perhaps even to the point which would suggest being intimidated by doing something if he is not encouraged or clearly invited to do it. The way in which he behaved might also imply him seeing himself as inferior to or admiring characters who are more confident and bold, who can speak out for themselves (for example Jay Gatsby).“He stretched out his arms toward the dark water” – this portrait of a man making a gesture so irrational and abstract is strangely captivating. At first, we know nothing of the “single green light” shining from “far away”, but that is probably the most momentous element of the whole scene. On a physical level, Gatsby seems to be reaching out towards the green light in the distance, as if he wanted to capture it (which is naturally impossible); the “dark water”acts as an antithesis to the light, causing it to appear more saturated and vivid, which further emphasises the profound meaning of that “green light”. But on a deeper level, one can see how moving that gesture is in reality. Gatsby is stretching out his arms in an embrace, as if he wanted all of that “minute” light to himself and could not satisfy himself with only a small, elusive fragment that he imagines to be getting. One interpretation of this could be that Gatsby is desperately looking for support or at least some faith, something he could hold on to in life, hence the “green light”, seeing as the colour green often connotes rebirth and hope. What strikes me about this is the way Gatsby is clinging on to something virtually non-existent: the light is evidently only a visual phenomenon and the only kind of hope it could give to someone is vain, temporary hope. Perhaps the concept of escapism is suitable in this context – Gatsby seems to not completely accept his own reality, as if he himself was an anachronism and belonged to a different life. The green light visible in the distance might let him leave his own self momentarily and lose himself in a world of illusion, dictated by the game of lights on that “deep summer night”. Even though Gatsby’s behaviour might now seem meaningful, in my opinion there is a much sadder, deeper meaning. I believe that the light being embraced by Gatsby is a metaphorical representation of Daisy, a woman whom he still profoundly loves, even though now this love may have become platonic in nature. Deducing facts about Daisy from earlier descriptions of her, we can compare her quite easily to the light that Gatsby is embracing: whenever Nick described her presence in the room, the room seemed filled with positivity and beauty, Daisy herself being a metaphorical light which creates an optimistic, bright atmosphere – Nick writes that she had a “glowing face”, that a “stirring warmth flowed from her”, that she had “bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth”, all these phrases describing Daisy as an extremely charming woman who seemed to shine like a diamond. Therefore, Fitzgerald managed to create a beautifully suitable metaphor for her – the sense of hope contained in the “green light” even alludes to the hope and happiness that she could bring to Gatsby’s life. Following this interpretation, by attempting to embrace the light, Gatsby was in fact embracing an imaginary picture of Daisy, believing that she is pure light. Her gentleness and daintiness resemble the fragility of the light.There are some clear similarities between Daisy and Gatsby, visible as soon as in Chapter I: they both cling on to things which are not reliable at all. While Gatsby is hanging on to the light, Daisy seems to be addicted to words, her own and the ones that others utter. Another quality of theirs is that they are both actors in front of other people – they make themselves look strong and confident, but in reality they are only weak and seem to not be able to cope with life; their essence is concealed behind fake appearances and superficial behaviours. These peculiar insecurities almost suggest that perhaps they are destined for each other: seeing as they are both vulnerable, sensitive characters, they would surely discover their real selves together.Gatsby’s sudden disappearance from his lawn is unexpected for Nick: “he had vanished”, he writes, as if Gatsby were a ghost or illusion, vanishing softly, unnoticed. The use of the word “vanished” creates an even more enigmatic and secretive atmosphere around him, as if he really was a “silhouette of a moving cat” or a madman trying to embrace light. His disappearance was as unforeseen as his appearance. Then Nick “was alone again in the unquiet darkness”. The adjective “unquiet” used in this context seems to refer to the emotional meaning of the word, rather than physical (“noise”). Because of the vagueness of the scene, Nick is left confused, his thoughts are “unquiet” and he seems to be experiencing mental chaos. Somehow Gatsby’s short appearance did have an effect on Nick’s state of mind, forcing him to change his views.In conclusion, stories about Gatsby and the way others view him made him seem inaccessible, grand and pretentious, yet this scene shows him as a vulnerable man, more personal and human-like. In a way, this is disillusionment for Nick (as well as the readers), as at that point he should have stopped idealizing Gatsby, because his weaknesses were exposed and it was evident that Gatsby is not the man that others have portrayed – that is the new, realistic impression we get. Yet this does not mean that Gatsby’s personality is revealed; quite the opposite, he now becomes even more enigmatic as we can see that there is a part of him which cannot be understood easily. Light plays a vivid role in this scene, as it illustrates that revelation and creates a more dramatic mood, highlighting the significance of each event. The atmosphere and symbolism are possibly the most beautiful elements of the scene – the night seems to represent reality, whereas the light symbolises illusion. When the two are imagined simultaneously, especially with the sense of abandonment and loneliness, a magnificent portrait is painted – one of silent tragedy.
The Bildungsroman Form in The Great Gatsby
Maturation and personal evolution of main characters typify the bildungsroman, a distinct novelistic form. The growth of characters Tom Buchanan, George Wilson, Jay Gatsby make F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and important example of the bildungsroman form. Tom Buchanan matures from being a carefree, unfaithful husband to one who realizes the depth of his relationship and concern for his wife. In the opening of the novel, Tom is described as being a “freelance,” shameless man: “His acquaintances resented the fact that he turned up in popular restaurants with her and, leaving her at a table, sauntered about, chatting with whomsoever he knew” (24). Buchanan refers to his mistress as “my girl” (29), rather than referring to his wife as his lady. Only when Buchanan discovers that Daisy has her own relationship with another man – Gatsby – does he recognize the significance of his actions. After finding Daisy and Gatsby kissing in his own home, Buchanan finally acknowledges the pain he has felt: “And if you think I didn’t have my share of suffering – look here, when I went to give up that flat… I sat down and cried like a baby… by God it was awful” (179). Buchanan has clearly deepened.Like Buchanan’s, George Wilson’s evolution has to do with increasing awareness about what is happening with his wife. In the beginning, Wilson is unable – or unwilling – to acknowledge the obvious clues of his wife’s disloyalty: “I know…I’m one of these trusting fellas and I don’t think any harm to nobody” (158). Both his wife and his friend Tom take advantage of him. When asked about Wilson, Tom says: “Wilson? He thinks she goes to see her sister in New York…he’s so dumb he doesn’t even know he’s alive” (26). When he learns the truth, Wilson is shattered; he even becomes physically sick. Even so, he is determined to move west to take action against his wife’s wrongdoings: “I just got wised up to something funny the last two days…that’s why I want to get away” (124). Wilson’s decision to move demonstrates his transition from blindness to strength and independence – he is no longer his wife’s man, but his own.Finally, Jay Gatsby undergoes a dramatic change as his dreams of reliving the past are broken and replaced by reality. As a poor boy from North Dakota, James Gatz was determined to make it big and distance himself from a poor farming life. During his military service in World War I, Gatsby falls in love with a woman named Daisy. He states: “I can’t describe to you how surprised I was to find out I loved her, old sport…Well, there I was, way off my ambitions, getting deeper in love every minute” (150). However, James was unable to maintain the relationship because of his financial instability: “He had certainly taken her under false pretenses….he let her believe that he was fully able to take care of her…as a matter of fact, he had no such facilities” (149). From this point on, Gatsby is determined to succeed and win back Daisy. He transitions to manhood through his acquaintance with Dan Cody, who teaches Jay the inner workings of “business arrangements” – i.e. the bootlegging that makes Jay a fortune. Gatsby purchases a palace directly across from the residence of his lost love and, with the help of Nick and Jordan, finally meets Daisy again. Although their reunion is memorable, Fitzgerald’s use of the broken clock not only symbolizes Gatsby’s mission to bring back lost time but also foreshadows his eventual failure. Also symbolic is the contrast between West Egg and East Egg. Nick describes the Eggs as being almost completely opposite from each other except for the fact that they are physically similar. This is significant because it displays the “incompatibility” of Gatsby and Daisy as Jay, who lives in West Egg, desires Daisy, who lives in East Egg. Throughout the novel, Gatsby is so engulfed in his fantasy that he refuses to believe the presumption that Daisy and Tom were in love. He demonstrates his denial at the Plaza Hotel, for instance, stating in reference to the love between Tom and Daisy that “In any case…it was just personal” (152). Through all of these occurrences and his failed attempts to relive the past he so desired, Gatsby finally goes through a momentous character change moments before his death. Nick states, “I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn’t believe it would come, and perhaps he no longer cared. If that was true, he must have felt that he had lost the old world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream” (161). In the end, James Gatz finally realizes the even he, with all of his material wealth, cannot relive what is already lost. Three of Fitzgerald’s main characters undergo dramatic changes as they find the seriousness that makes them men. Fitzgerald’s classic work is thus an important example of the bildungsroman form.
Money! Money! Money!
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, as Jay Gatsby delves into his pursuit of wealth and need for materialism, his hopes and aspirations become shattered in a world of unobtainable and unreachable possibilities. While Jay Gatsby confidently believes that material excess will ultimately bring about love, admiration, and prosperity, the audience understands that the possession of material objects does not always lead to the possession of these intangible virtues. As Jay Gatsby dedicates himself to winning over Daisy Buchanan and falls in love with her aura of luxury, Gatsby becomes overwhelmed with an unremitting desire for money and pleasure that eventually triggers his downfall. He has one purpose in life: to attract Daisy with his ornate house on West Egg and with his overflowing sum of money. But there is a danger for Gatsby in this redeeming purposefulness. When he buys his fantastic house, he thinks he is buying a dream, not simply purchasing property (Lewis 51). Obsessing over the certain attraction that links Daisy with Gatsby, muttering the words, “Her voice is full of money” (120), Gatsby emphasizes his growing belief that money, indeed, will entice Daisy. What Gatsby, with surprising consciousness, states is that Daisy’s charm is allied to the attraction of wealth (Lewis 50); he regards materialism as fine bait to lure Daisy into his arms. When Nick Carraway reveals to the audience that, “He hadn’t once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes” (91), Carraway stresses Gatsby’s intense desire to please Daisy and stresses Gatsby’s firm conviction that material objects always construct paths toward love. He drifts into obsession, into possession of the energy required to assemble the money and material things – the house, cars, shirts, and shoes – to aspire to the possession of Daisy (McCormick 32). Unfortunately, the means by which Gatsby expresses his feelings for Daisy – even though those feelings are sincere – is by showing off his possessions (Lewis 45). He does not realize that money does not solve the problems of the world (especially when Daisy is not even concerned with the likes of money) and that material objects do not amount to love and happiness. As Gatsby struggles to charm Daisy with an atmosphere of material excess, Gatsby’s hopes and aspirations slowly dwindle because the same materialistic interests and dreams that dominate Gatsby do not control Daisy. With opulent parties thrown every week at the magnificent mansion of West Egg, Jay Gatsby demonstrates his chase for materialism and his desire to please others before himself. Gatsby worries more about satisfying the demands of his guests than about fulfilling his own wishes. During most of his extravagant parties, Gatsby sits alone, secluded from his visitors, unhappy without hearing the sound of Daisy’s voice. He constantly yearns to please others without first thinking of himself. When Lucille declares to Jordan with enthusiasm, “I like to come. I never care what I do, so I always have a good time. When I was here last I tore my gown on a chair, and he asked me my name and address – inside of a week I got a package from Croirier’s with a new evening gown in it” (43), Lucille highlights Gatsby’s ulterior motives to impress others with objects of materialism. With his thoughtful hospitality, Jay Gatsby (although he may not agree) secures himself a hold on many peoples’ memories – and yearns respect and admiration from all those dwelling throughout the ritzy Long Island. Even when Nick Carraway enlightens the audience of Gatsby’s immense appeal with the words, “Rather ashamed that on my first appearance I had stayed so late, I joined the last of Gatsby’s guests, who were clustered around him. I wanted to explain that I’d hunted for him early in the evening….” (52), Carraway stresses the guests’ fascination with the ever-so-popular Mr. Gatsby. As a crowd of guests surrounds Gatsby, the reader tends to wonder whether Gatsby actually can accomplish his dream of happiness when he, himself, is not truly happy. If a man such as Gatsby is surrounded by his own flashy world of materialism yet is not linked with the woman of his dreams, can a man really live contently in a mansion all alone, constantly impressing others but not himself? Jay Gatsby’s world of materialism slowly causes the American Dream to disintegrate as he constantly flaunts his plethora of wealth and material belongings. When Gatsby eagerly questions his friends in Long Island, inquiring with confidence, “My house looks well, doesn’t it? See how the whole front of it catches the light” (89) and “[This luxurious coupÃ©] is pretty, isn’t it, old sport” (69), Jay Gatsby displays the tragic aspirations of a man who worships status and superiority over building friendships and equality. His obsessive desire for money and pleasure surpasses more noble incentives – his fruitless values cause the American dream to decay in Gatsby’s globe of materialism. For most people of the early twentieth century, the American dream consisted of owning a simple house, a working car, and household appliances in order to maintain a peaceful and prosperous life; for Gatsby, however, the American dream consists of owning a massive mansion, a luxurious car, and material objects that are suitable only for gods such as Zeus. When Nick Carraway announces his own materialistic views, noting that, “I was glad that the sight of Gatsby’s splendid car was included in their somber holiday (69), Carraway’s motives become corrupt during a time when blacks outside of Long Island are just trying to find a simple house which they can afford, while white Long Islanders are not fully satisfied with their acquisition of millions of dollars. The critic Kenneth Tynan presents the audience with his own theory, “Gatsby represents all their aspirations. He represents a nation at the peak of its pride and self-confidence, tainted by corruption by still reaching for the stars. He stands for everything that is uniquely and glamorously American. Gatsby exists as the ideal and exemplary American hero” (Tynan 41). Yet how can Gatsby possess heroic qualities when he resorts to criminal intentions to conquer his self-centered American dream? Barry Edward Gross puts it best when he states that, “In this sacrifice of the self, Gatsby is the greatest loser. He has paid the highest price possible for living too long with a single dream – he has surrendered his material existence to an immaterial vision and once that vision is shattered it is too late for him to reclaim his material identity. In the end [Gatsby] inhabits a material, unreal world: unreal because Gatsby’s only reality has existed on a mythic, immaterial plane” (Gross 25). In conclusion, Gatsby’s intense search for materialism lands him at the bottom of a ditch where he is unable to climb his way to the top and reach his dreams. There exists a tragic nature of love and money that only the audience can fully understand; Gatsby wrongly assumes that the possession of material objects will automatically lead to the possession of love. Gatsby’s extraordinary house, his lavish parties, and his superior status are all means to lure Daisy into his arms, yet his possessions and characteristics are both as intangible and as monstrously tangible as his dream (Callahan 37). The American dream also becomes distorted because Gatsby’s selfish and materialistic intentions overlook the conditions of poor blacks who were just struggling to survive at the time. Throughout The Great Gatsby, Gatsby uses money and material objects to achieve social aspirations and love; he tries (unsuccessfully) to win a place in Daisy’s heart by flaunting his money in order to buy his dream. However, as Jay Gatsby delves into his pursuit of materialism, his dreams and desires become crushed in a world of unobtainable and unreachable possibilities. Works CitedMajor Literary Characters: Gatsby. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea. 1991. Lewis, Roger. “Money, Love and Aspiration in The Great Gatsby.” New Essays on The Great Gatsby, 1985. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 1985, 41-57.
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.