The Great Gatsby
The Ruin of Characters in a Book and Movie Adaptation of The Great Gatsby
Money, alcohol and power are aspects of the American Dream in the 1920’s, The Great Gatsby a fictional novel by, F. Scott Fitzgerald and the film by Baz Luhrmann depict, what life is like having all three. The novel and movie take place in New York City and Long Island, West Egg and East Egg in America. During this time, the economy is booming but, prohibition which is, the ban of alcohol is enforced. The narrative outlines a world of wealth and prestige where status separates who excels and who fails. In the novel and movie characters have idealized goals and they do not care how they achieve them; this is seen as the overarching theme of decay. This comparative essay will explore how characters in the book and movie equivalently demonstrate decay through having affairs, showing signs of corruption and murdering other characters.
To begin, during the 1920s people love to rebel against their partner and have affairs making monogamy and marriage unwanted aspects in one’s life. For instance, in the novel Tom Buchanan a wealthy man who loves to proclaim his wealth, is married to Daisy Buchanan. Tom Buchanan is only with his wife for the status she provides as she is wealthy too, he states, “once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself” (Fitzgerald 132). This alludes to his actions of adultery while being married to Daisy, with other women such as Myrtle Wilson his mistress. Furthermore, decay is seen in characters like Tom in the act of having affairs with other women. In the movie, Tom is with his mistress Myrtle after their get-together in his apartment located on 158th street. Tom and Myrtle have an argument, and she begins to repeat his wives name ‘Daisy’ several times. Out of frustration, Tom then proceeds to break her nose (The Great Gatsby). This relates back to the theme of decay because, Tom is supposed to be in a monogamous relationship but, he fools around with other women like Myrtle. Tom’s need for satisfaction goes so far that it affects those around him, he lashes out on those who attempt to disturb his goals. One of his goals is to maintain his relationship with Daisy. Myrtle repeating Daisy’s name several times can be her trying to wither at Tom’s marriage with Daisy. Tom does not like the idea, so he breaks her nose. Thus, characters having affairs relate back to the theme of decay because, characters only want to fulfill their goal of having a satisfactory love life by any means necessary. Even if the mean involves cheating on the one, they committed to which is seen similarly in the book and movie.
Secondly, in the 1920s the goal in life is to fulfill the American Dream, the novel depicts this but also, shows how trying to attain it can corrupt the character. Jay Gatsby is a primary example of this, as in the novel in a heated argument over Daisy’s love between Tom Buchanan and himself. Tom states, “I found out what your ‘drug-stores’ were.” (Fitzgerald 134) And that, “He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side street drug-stores… and sold grain alcohol over the counter… I picked him for a bootlegger the first time and I wasn’t far wrong.” (Fitzgerald 134) Tom confirms the rumors about Gatsby’s methods of gaining wealth by confirming to the reader that Gatsby is a bootlegger. In the movie, corruption is even seen morally amongst people like Tom and Daisy Buchanan. When Gatsby ends up dying the only person who shows up to his funeral held at his mansion is Nick Carraway not even Daisy his ‘love’ appears (The Great Gatsby). This relates to the theme of decay because, people in the novel and movie are willing to anything to achieve mass wealth or status which can be seen as their goal. Some characters even go as far as entering an illegal career to fulfill their need to attain someone’s love like, Jay Gatsby. Others like Daisy become corrupted through playing with one’s emotions and only staying in relationships for one’s wealth to sustain her dream of living a wealthy lifestyle. Daisy makes Gatsby think she loves him but, after hearing his story from Tom she does not want to risk having a short love life with Gatsby and stays with Tom for his money. Thus, characters become corrupted through trying to gain one’s attention through illegal means and playing with other emotions to sustain their status.
Lastly, killing is prominent throughout the end of the novel which can be seen as decay from the reasoning behind the murder. In the novel, after the argument Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan have with Daisy, Tom tells Daisy to go with Gatsby home. While driving back to Long Island in the valley of ashes they come across Myrtle Wilson running from her husband. At the time, Daisy and Gatsby were feeling stress from the argument at Tom’s mansion. Out of immorality according to Gatsby, “Daisy stepped on it. I tried to make her stop, but she couldn’t, so I pulled the emergency brake. Then she fell over into my lap and I drove on.” (Fitzgerald 145) Meaning Daisy killed Myrtle Wilson by accident. In the movie, George Wilson becomes depressed from the murder of his wife and wants vengeance. At the crime scene Tom gives George the name of the owner of the yellow car who murdered his wife which is Gatsby. The next day Nick Carraway is at Gatsby’s mansion keeping him company, he departs, and Gatsby decides to go into his pool. As he exits his pool, he is shot by George Wilson who then, kills himself out of depression and guilt. (The Great Gatsby). This demonstrates the overall theme of decay because, characters are seen slowly losing their morality as the story continues so much so that they murder another character.
For example, with Daisy she is seen throughout the beginning of the novel and movie as a bright, happy and caring person but as it continues, she slowly corrodes into a dishonest, backstabbing, ingenuine person. She does not end up owning up to her actions of murdering Myrtle, she is rich, so she easily gets away with it. Gatsby on the other hand, deteriorates the most over realizing the one he loves does not love him back harshly and the drudgery he goes through in the novel and movie for her is for nothing. George Wilson, Myrtle’s husband is seen crumbling slowly throughout the movie and novel but at the end decays so much that he results to killing to feel satisfaction. However, he still ends up killing himself over the loss of his wife and the action he commits. Therefore, characters decay through the killing and motives behind their murderous actions in both the book and movie.
Ultimately, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the movie by Baz Luhrmann demonstrates the theme of decay through characters like Tom and Myrtle having love affairs, people becoming corrupted like Jay Gatsby and people losing moral through killing like George Wilson. In the book and movie, Tom and Myrtle are both intimate with each other but not with their spouses. Jay Gatsby becomes corrupt trying to become wealthy through illegal means for Daisy. Finally, George Wilson cannot control his vengeful feelings and wrongfully murders Gatsby. To conclude, these points they relate back to the theme of decay throughout both the book and movie and are shown similarly in both.
The Accuracy of Movie Rendition of the Book, The Great Gatsby
In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, an classic American novel about a young man in the pursuit of love during the 1920’s or “Roaring 20s” in New York City. This novel is nominated as one of America’s most iconic stories. Many film adaptations of this classic story have been produced with the first being a 1926 silent film (now lost) created a year after Fitzgerald published the book, and the most recent and well-known one being Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the protagonist Jay Gatsby. The story is centered around the ambitious and relentless character of Jay Gatsby, a man who tries to cajole his old love, Daisy Buchanan who is now a married woman, with his new exceptional wealth and status. More than a simple love story, The Great Gatsby challenges the spirit of “The American Dream” and the nature of people in the Roaring 20s, more specifically, the social difference between new money and old wealth, and the prestige and power that comes along with it.
Fitzgerald writes vicariously through the main narrative voice of Nick Carraway who tells the story from a peripheral perspective. This narrative projects Gatsby as a man who worked hard to achieve this American dream concept of acquiring wealth, status, class, respect, etc. and become a gentleman among the top social tier all for appealing or being good enough for Daisy to go against her marriage for. Carraway beings to realize that although Gatsby has achieved the highest means of the American dream to extraordinary lengths, he never found contentment with himself as he avoids confronting who he was before he met Daisy and who he wanted to be after Jaber 2 he fell in love with her. This identity struggle between his authentic and inauthentic background is well depicted by DiCaprio in the 2013 film adaptation as he impatiently tells Carraway, played by Toby Maguire, his scripted story of how he was entitled to his wealth.
Luhrmann had cinematically recreated some of the important settings of the original novel as written by Fitzgerald. For example, the Valley of Ashes, a setting in the book that represented the lowest tier in society, an imagination opposite to the American dream, a “fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and are already crumbling through the powdery air,” (Fitzgerald). Although, Baz Luhrmann replicated the novel with a 21st century touch, the book and movie have parallel descriptions which makes this setting correspond to the imagination created by the book. In both, it is intently referred to the ashes through repetition. Yet, in the movie the display of ashes is rather limited, whereas the eyes are very much the focus point. The movie has successfully followed the very detailed description of the book. Throughout this specific scene in the novel and movie, Fitzgerald’s vivid imagery represents the vital theme of corruption and unfaithfulness is clearly evoked and this is vital to our understanding of the messages included in the story. While reading the book and watching the movie afterwards, I felt as though the movie includes a very detailed display of the Valley of Ashes while the book keeps it short, which therefore movie resonated with me more than the novel.
The director intended viewers to notice the movie set, creating it to be a symbolic setting within the novel as it symbolizes the moral and social values that fade away as someone relentlessly searches for wealth and power, as the rich give regard to nothing other than their own pleasure. It is a colorless, deserted area as a result of it being a dumping ground for ashes. Jaber 3 This novel and movie can be applied to my own design process by creating a setting that is detailed with not only objects but with a concept that will mentally and physically attract people. The novel used a design that is gloomy and depressing. Allowing readers and viewers to understand the motif of their story line, using symbols such as images, sounds, and words. Applying this to my thesis project I will create a concept with a storyline that will exceed people’s imagination to make them feel and visualize the end goal of my design.
Gender Disparity in Lives of the Saints, The Great Gatsby and Hamlet
John Stoltenberg once said, ‘Finally, the dirty little secret about sexual objectification is that it is an act that cannot be performed with any attention to its ethical meaning.’ This quotation proves that even males can value women’s rights because women’s rights should be considered equal rights. Throughout history, humans have existed in a gender binary with specific roles allotted to men and women. In Nino Ricci’s Lives of the Saints, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and finally William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. These three works of literature share the commonality of women as objectified and oppressed; since time, women within these texts have no power to stand against social expectations and are continually conforming to patriarchy. Conversely, Ricci’s Lives of the Saints illustrates a strong female character that defies the laws of patriarchy. Moreover, Shakespeare and Fitzgerald present a society that enchants females and binds women to norms that are degrading. Thus, throughout the three texts, the authors present gender disparity that segregates and oppresses women by keeping them in stagnant positions within life.
Leves of the Saints
Throughout the novel, Cristina rejects the traditional roles and values of patriarchy. Cristina is an independent woman as she does not rely on others, and especially not men. Cristina’s resilience is particularly prevalent in her affair. Ricci explores a female character trapped in an abusive relationship that subjects her to female roles that are unattainable. He illustrates Cristina’s affair and the consequences that arise as Cristina’s son, Vittorio, hears moaning and muttering of an unfamiliar male voice from the barn. Vittorio states, ‘Someone opened the door of the stable. Two dark eyes staring down at me from the shadows.’ (Ricci 6) The man in the stable is assumed to be the subject of Cristina’s affair, with his dark eyes representing society watching. Ultimately, Ricci’s use of ‘two dark eyes staring down’ at Vittorio illustrate a society with a corrupt sense of morality in regards to women (Ricci 6). Furthermore, it represents society’s inability to view men and women as equal, deeming the village to have an oppressive darkened perspective. This is evident when Giuseppina states, ‘I do not have to tell you that name everyone is calling you? You have to make a gesture.’ (Ricci 54) This quotation exemplifies the dark eyes and the constant overwatch of society that expects women to be submissive. One can assume that Cristina’s big gesture was evident in the affair to liberate her from the control of her husband. Therefore, freeing her from society’s immense grasp that controls a female’s life. Ricci portrays Cristina’s affair as liberating in regards to female evolution. Cristina represents the opposition to patriarchy, and the idealistic expectations women must fulfill. Her affair represents a movement away from patriarchy, and her escape from an abusive relationship. Overall, Cristina goes against the typical role of women who are imprisoned within the walls of patriarchy.
Similarly, in Hamlet, Shakespeare portrays gender disparity that isolates females towards the bottom of the social hierarchy. The society painted in Shakespeare consists of women that must exploit their femininity to achieve status. Consequently, women are subjected to idealized, unattainable roles. This is evident in the form of an affair for Gertrude. Gertrude hastily married her husband’s brother months after his death. However, one can assume the affair had been rooted earlier before King Hamlet died. To illustrate, Hamlet states, ‘Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears Had left the flushing in her galled eyes. She married-O most wicked speed!’ (I.II.154) Hamlet curses his mother for marrying his uncle only two months after his father died. Shakespeare demonstrates the strain on women to maintain their position at the top. Additionally, Shakespeare portrays women as overlooked and judged by society; as represented through Hamlet. In The Lives of the Saints, Hamlet takes on the role of the ‘dark eyes’ that attempt to conform women to their role as laid out by society. Likewise, both authors represent female characters imprisoned within patriarchy; both women are willing to tarnish their reputation within society in order to achieve freedom. Moreover, Shakespeare and Ricci allude to the idea that women’s status in society is attached to a male counterpart. Therefore, both text’s prove the mere nature of a patriarchal society that pressures women to engage in sexual relations to pattern their movement away from patriarchy. Overall, Hamlet and Lives of the Saints represents patriarchy’s ability to force women to exploit their sexual characteristics and confine themselves to roles that are subjective and degrading.
The Great Gatsby
Next, Fitzgerald depicts a post-war world which carries very subjective values and customs towards women. In Fitzgerald’s novel, women remain prisoners of patriarchy. They are either commodities to be possessed and discarded by brutish men such as Tom Buchanan or embodiments of an ideal for romantics such as Jay Gatsby. The theme of gender disparity is illustrated through the character Daisy. For example, Daisy resists the maternal duties she is depicted as fake, in her pursuit of wealth. Similar to Cristina, both women are viewed as fake because of their pursuit away from patriarchy. This is evident in Daisy’s affair, like Cristina, both women, through the use of the affair, attempt to liberate themselves from abusive relations. One can assume the authors are attempting to prove abusive relationships are directly correlated to patriarchy; ultimately form due to male superiority. Moreover, gender inequality is illustrated in Daisy’s comment about her child. She states, ‘the best thing a girl can be in this world is a beautiful little fool.’ (Fitzgerald 17) She implies that she is not a fool herself, but would be so much happier if she was one, this relates to her abusive relationship and the duality between roles of men and women. Furthermore, Fitzgerald illustrates through Daisy that even women are aware of the idealistic role women must take on, and by being a beautiful fool, one becomes oblivious to society’s inequality. Fitzgerald evokes the idea that conformation to society is the best way for a person to be happy. Ricci compares a female character who takes on the means of rebellion to evolve as a female in society. Unlike, The Lives of The Saints Daisy alienates herself to society, allowing men to degrade and objectify women. Thus, alluding to male superiority as a commonly accepted practice during that time.
Finally, through these works of literature, the authors depict gender disparity that acknowledges men and women as unequal. The troubling treatment of women, from the patriarchal society in The Lives of the Saints, Hamlet and finally, The Great Gatsby results in the female characters being belittled, and being expected to conform to unrealistic expectations. Moreover, a patriarchal society causes a great deal of suffering towards women as they are viewed as weaker and inferior to men. In a world where the mistreatment of women is a commonality, change must be made to create a peaceful society.
The Great Gatsby: Expectations of Women character, Hard fate and an Interesting denouement
Inequality of gender is a repeated problem in society that expects women to overcome when placed in that situation. A woman who respects and cares for her husband, has beautiful features, and who does not question but only obey, is the ideal woman in the 1920’s, in society. In Scott Fitzgerald’s book, The Great Gatsby, the author explores the male expectation of perpetuating unfair gender equality, which leads women to feel degraded. Therefore, due to the degradation, women ached in pain physically and mentally.
To start, in the 1920’s, a married women is not allowed to show any dominance; only obey her husband and not have a mattered opinion. This shame is shown when Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, is thankful that her baby is a girl and says, “I hope she’ll become a fool because that is the best thing she can be, a little beautiful fool”. This quotation shows Daisy’s perception of a woman’s subordination towards men. Daisy knows that males “do not value women’s intelligence” and so she hopes that her daughter is a ‘beautiful little fool’ as she grows. It also expresses Daisy’s compliance towards women’s standards in society; women have less experience of work and school compared to men and therefore Daisy hopes her daughter is a fool. Women are not allowed to have a voice and they are considered property owned by their husbands after marriage. This is shown as Nick Caraway, the narrator, goes to Daisy’s and Tom’s house for dinner. Later on after the dinner, Nick describes the situation as having “dinner with the Tom Buchanan”. This is evident to the male prejudice perpetuating the idea of gender inequality as once Daisy is married to Tom, her individual identity gets lost. When Nick visits Daisy, as they are related by being cousins, he calls her by not her name but by her husband’s. Gender inequality is strongly present here as women are no longer called by their birth name once they get married.
Another significant problem women have to face in 1920, is unhealthy relationships. In relationships, men are considered the dominate one; leaving the women physically and mentally scarred. In the novel, Tom Buchanan starts a fight with Myrtle Wilson, his mistress, she then yells, “I will say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!” causing Tom to punch Myrtle’s nose, breaking her nose. Tom punches Myrtle, applying the rule that a man’s responsibility is to control his wife and be the dominant in the relationship. Society, in the 1920’s, promotes the idea that husbands should turn to consequences for ‘bad’ behavior because women are not allowed to “ask him questions about his actions nor question his judgment and integrity”. Men are able to aggressively control their wives without any consequences. In the book, Myrtle ends up emotionally scarred and significantly hurt after Tom decides to fight her to gain control. Furthermore with this point, men are also able to treat their partners like an object and take over them and their lives right after marriage. Applying to Myrtle again as once George Wilson, her husband, learns about her affair with Tom, Myrtle goes missing. Michaelis, George Wilson’s friend, investigates about where Myrtle is and George answers calmly, “I’ve got my wife locked in up there… she’s going to stay there till the day after tomorrow, and then we’re going to move away”. During the interrogation, George feels expresses no guilt for locking Myrtle upstairs. In the 1920’s, it is so common for women to get treated like property by their husbands, to where it is considered part of the norm. George locking Myrtle away for his turn to idea, demonstrates how difficult and scary it is to be a married woman in the 1920’s. George locking Myrtle away, leaving her scarred, proves that men’s prejudice of their wives, and her duties as a partner, results in women degrading themselves and other women.
Continuing from this idea, in the 1920’s society expects and teaches women to obey and listen to what their husband says. Once married, the wife has no say in the relationship and has to agree and support her husband’s actions and what he said. The change from unmarried to married is difficult due to a significant change; having less freedom and having to just look pretty and say nothing. Daisy Buchanan’s life is noted as an “Artificial world was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery and orchestras which set the rhythm of the year, summing up the sadness and suggestiveness of life in new tunes”. Daisy manages to hide her sadness by using an ‘artificial world’ while being married to Tom by replacing the hole in their marriage with her beautiful surroundings. Daisy creates this ‘artificial world’ because she knows that she is powerless against Tom and therefore finds a way to just cope with it. There are so many expectations women have to follow once they are married because men have placed what they want an ideal wife to be like. For example, after Daisy finds out about her husband’s affair with Myrtle, Tom’s “hand [falls] upon and hers. Once a while she looked up at him and nodded in agreement”. As described, Daisy’s experience is her obeying Tom without question. She knows about the affair with Myrtle, however she can only agree with him because he is use his dominance to make her and to make her feel powerless. Furthermore, Daisy would not be able to get a divorce because Tom would not agree and go through with it and also because Daisy would be “frowned upon within the community” for the rest of her life, also since she wants best for her daughter. Daisy takes on a lot of emotional abuse in her relationship with Tom and is not able to escape because she is caught up in the idea of how society sees women and how she should act and think.
In conclusion, living in the years around 1920 is difficult for women. Men are the dominate ones in the relationships; given the ability to physically and mentally abuse their wives and have affairs. The male prejudice sustains gender roles for women; must be abiding, loving, considerate, caring, and a kind wife. In many cases, this problem places women in difficult and complicated situations, in which gives them physical and mental problems.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde vs. The Great Gatsby
In the book, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Stevenson captures the attention of the readers around the idea of a highly respectable man fighting a deeper inner conflict with his “second persona”. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby includes many of the same issues in their life. Multiple characters in The Great Gatsby so face personal challenges of not know and being their true self. The two books were published almost 40 years apart, but it shows that it doesn’t matter who you are and the way people view you as doesn’t matter because they can’t see what is truly on the inside. The topics mentioned in both of the novels are still being talked about today, and are carried out throughout the course of literature. Both authors know how to capture a reader using many writing techniques, which will be mentioned later in this essay. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Great Gatsby are completely different in many aspects.
The two novels have little similarities that they share. The themes are not the same, which is to be expected when Stevenson wasn’t writing for any one to be able to relate to, he was writing a more fiction novel. The writing styles of Fitzgerald are very different to Stevenson’s writing preferences; along with the language used in each novel. Seeing that Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, and setting the book of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in London, England, it was the opposite of the American author, Fitzgerald, that was all about the “American Dream” in the busy business area of New York City. To begin, every writer has their own unique writing style, and it is blatantly obvious that Stevenson has a different writing style, even only reading one of his novels. Fitzgerald uses a lyrical writing style in The Great Gatsby. He uses imagery, symbolism and many metaphors to help the readers achieve the perfect picture of the story in their heads. For example, a metaphor Fitzgerald used in the story is “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”. This metaphor describes the condition of the people in the book.
The characters in the book try to experience life and keep on moving forward like a boat on the water, but get pushed back in the end. He also writes a lot about love and follows the romantic story of Jay Gatsby and his image of the perfect woman named Daisy Buchanan. Stevenson on the other hand, writes about a mysterious terrifying story of a doctor with an evil persona. “Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm”. He used many metaphors, which is one of the only ways Stevenson and Fitzgerald’s writing styles were similar. He wrote and published the book in the Victorian era, filled with manners and gruesome images. He wrote the book to suit the audience of that era, so to the modern world of literature, it seems “old”. Every sentence he wrote was described in great detail, making the reader feel as if they are in the story. In continuation, the setting between The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Great Gatsby are on completely different sides of the spectrum. Robert L. Stevenson set his story to be on the busy streets of London, England. F. Scott Fitzgerald set his novel in the high-end world the rich in Long Island and New York City. It was no trouble to see the difference in characters language between the two books. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde took place in Soho, London, where there was grim alleyways, dark corners, and a population that seemed to have never found a reason to smile. “He would be aware of the great field of lamps of a nocturnal city; then of the figure of a man walking swiftly; then of a child running from the doctor’s; and then these met, and that human Juggernaut trod the child down and passed on regardless of her screams”. The town is gloomy and bad things tend to happen more times than good, which gives the people in it a sense of uneasiness, which makes the story a dreary tale.
Also, there were many servants, and a major difference between the rich and the poor in the book. There was also repression, as well as religious allusion as the Victorian era was a highly religious time. An example of this would be when Dr. Jekyll become more caring towards others and it tells us why he decided to let Hyde come out; because repression was a big part of this book, and the development of characters. The Great Gatsby is set in New York City and on Long Island, in two areas known as ‘West Egg’ and ‘East Egg’. The people that live in those two areas are rich and spent a lot of time worrying about how others perceive them than anything else. They are very judgemental and have a house full of servants that are not as rich as them. They also care more about partying and having a great time, which is nothing like what you see in Stevenson’s novel. But they do share one similar factor, the conflict between the rich and the poor, although in the Great Gatsby it seems to be more violent. Like Tom hitting Myrtle, and Wilson murdering Gatsby. The two authors indeed have a similar setting, like the barrier between the rich and the poor, but they both view it differently, which is portrayed in the novels.Lastly, there are many important themes in the two books but no theme is similar in the two novels. Since both writers were writing different genres in different time periods, and were trying to reach to different audiences, not many things in either of the novels were similar. Dr. Jekyll and Hr. Hyde’s biggest theme is Good vs. Evil. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is easily seen as asymbol about the good and evil that exist in everyone, and about the struggle with the two sides of the human personality.
In this book, the battle between good and evil boils inside the main character. The question the author is trying to get the readers to consider is which is stronger. Since the evil side, Hyde, seems to have most of the control over Dr. Jekyll’s life for most of the novel, it shows that evil may overcome good. Mr. Hyde ends up dying at the end of the story, which suggests the opposite of the previous statement, now showing the weakness amongst evil. On the other hand, F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of the Great Gatsby, wants you to see the American Dream, which is freedom. Freedom is the main theme in The Great Gatsby. These themes carry out from the beginning to the end only becoming stronger and more influential with every page. Many of the characters in novel want to achieve their best possible life, which they call the American Dream. They do so by partying and living life like it’s your last, which in today’s society doesn’t seem like a dream. But, in that time it was the Roaring Twenties, the war had just ended, and they didn’t want to slow down. In previous decades before the 20s, it was taboo to see women living so freely and so open to men around them. They were starting to do things on their own and not rely on anyone; which is a dream for many.
Fitzgerald’s book was written for people to be able to relate, and to get inspired by what to do with possibly the best decade of your life which was a non-stop party, but Stevenson wrote to create a terrifying, yet, touching story of a man quite literally trying to fight his “inner demons”. In conclusion, Robert Louis Stevenson and F. Scott Fitzgerald both wrote a book that touched and inspired many people to this day. Although completely different, they both had a certain way about them that drew the readers in. Whether it be the way Stevenson was able to make a horribly gruesome line into something poetic and beautiful, touches the readers hearts and scares them. Or, it be the way Fitzgerald is able to drag you into the forbidden love between a rich girl and a poor man that is inevitably doomed from the moment you read the beginning of their love story. Both authors are quite unique in their own ways, and are able to create a world that is emotional and disputable all while being beautiful, and insightful. The books indeed have a few similarities but they have countless differences. As previously mentioned, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Great Gatsby have different themes, which is to be expected when set in different time periods. Also, that the writing styles of Fitzgerald are very different to those of Stevenson’s; along with the language used in each novel.
An Unusual Gift of Hope – What Page Is The Quote
In 1925 American author F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the story of The Great Gatsby. It follows a variety of characters living on Long Island in the fictional town of West Egg, the summer of 1922. The novel is narrated by Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate who rents a small house on Long Island, next door to the mansion of Jay Gatsby. Jay, who I have chosen to study, is a young millionaire, clouded in mysteries, who holds wild, massive parties without participating in them. As the story progresses Nick receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties. At the party, it is revealed that the reason Gatsby bought the mansion he lives in and holds these extravagant parties is because across the bay lives a girl named Daisy. Jay met Daisy earlier in his life when he was enlisted in world war 1, he fell madly in love with her. She was also attracted to him and they even thought about marrying each other and running away, but her parents stopped their plans. When Jay gets sent to Europe to fight the war Daisy stays faithful to him for a while but then later marries another guy named Tom. When Gatsby receives a letter from her explaining this, he is crushed. He vows to spend the rest of his life getting her back. She becomes his sole purpose for being and he believes he can get her back by amassing a large enough fortune, which he manages to do through questionable means. Throughout the story Gatsby never losses sight of his dream and he is often found reaching out towards the green light across the bay, shining at the end of Daisy’s dock. I might not not relate to the money and the lush lifestyle of Jay Gatsby. But I find his obsession extremely interesting and can relate to falling madly in love.
Jay Gatsby is the namesake for the story of “The Great Gatsby” His story is for sure the main part of the novel, but you get to follow it from the eyes of the narrator who is Nick. This makes one’s perceptions of the characters filtered through Nicks own opinions. Nick admires Jay and he would absolutely have chosen him as the protagonist, and I would absolutely have to agree. When you get to meet Gatsby for the first time you will be left pondering; Who he is? What does he do? Has he killed a man just to watch him die? Despite being left with these questions, Gatsby quickly ends up filling the role of protagonist for me. He’s the one who has a goal and dream, he is interesting, and he gives the story an objective. He also gives us an antagonist in Tom a man you quickly grow to dislike.
- The embodiment of the American dream
- He is a self-made man
- Lack of caring for rules and people
- Realistic world view
You can easily describe Jay Gatsby as the embodiment of the American dream. He was born as James Gatz, the son of an unsuccessful farmer. Unable to come to terms with the lot he was dealt in life, he reinvented himself at the yacht of a wealthy man named Dan Cody whom he had saved from a storm. As he was employed by Dan he chooses to change his name to that of Jay Gatsby and learned the manners of the rich. He could now imagine whatever past for himself he desired as he was no longer tied to his yearly years. He then meets Daisy and falls in love; this incident would change his life forever. Everything from there on out is for the sole purpose of being with her. At the start, money was, essentially, what prevented them from being together. Because of that Jay made it so that money would never again be a problem. It is here some of his qualities as for example; his drive and perseverance show. He achieves what he wants, and he is truly a self-made man. But as all people have good traits they also have bad traits and it is easy to see how his obsession with Daisy has led him down a path of questionable decisions. Such as his way of getting rich by doing shady business.
“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.”
Also, Gatsby’s obsession of reclaiming the past, which although is a trait that is easy to feel for, as many people are probably longing for those perfect and beautiful moments in their past when you were about as happy as you could possibly be, is not healthy to be obsessing at it. I feel his obsession with his past and future with Daisy is not only about love but of control, control of a life that for a long time has been focusing on achieving something that is out of his reach that he not truly feels in control over.
When I’m assessing the story of Jay Gatsby, it’s hard to not return to his blind pursuit of Daisy. Everything he does, every purchase that he makes, every party he throws, is all for his pursuit of bringing Daisy back into his life for good. Depending on how you chose to look at it, it could be seen as a romantic gesture, or as a childish illusion and a dream. By being so focused on his dream of Daisy, Jay Gatsby moves further and further into his fantasy and his refusal to deal with reality eventually leads to his death. His passion and obsession make him completely unable to realize his dream is not a reality and that the Daisy he loves is an idea of Daisy and not Daisy herself. I have never myself been in this position, but I believe this story is perfect to take wisdom from. Such as money can’t buy you love or friends and that unbridled passion isn’t always a good thing, but to have focus on what you want can lead to great things. As with Gatsby, he left a poor life behind and achieved a lot in his life, but in the end, his mad passion was his own undoing and he couldn’t appreciate what he had because of it.
Ambition in The Great Gatsby And in Macbeth
According to Aristotle, a Tragic hero is an exceptional being who possesses hamartia, a tragic flaw, which leads the hero to make fatal mistakes causing the hero to suffer which then ultimately leads to their own downfall.
Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, predominantly examines the wealthy young man, Jay Gatsby, and his obsession for Daisy Buchanan, the golden girl of his dreams. Fitzgerald illustrates the Roaring Twenties which encompasses the American dream. The play Macbeth by William Shakespeare takes place in Scotland in the 17th Century. Shakespeare describes Macbeth, the King of Scotland, and his ambition to strive for power. Although both, the novel and the play portray different time periods, the themes of the literature works relate to one another.
Fitzgerald and Shakespeare both characterize and distinguish Jay Gatsby and Macbeth as tragic heroes because of their vaulting ambition towards their dreams and identify their change in fortune from happiness to misery led by their hubris. Jay Gatsby and Macbeth are similar because their tragic flaw is their ambition. Gatsby’s dream is to reunite with Daisy, his lost love and is willing to do anything to attain this dream. While Macbeth’s dream is to become king and is determined to do anything to achieve it.
Gatsby’s motive in life is to achieve the American dream, which for him consists of wealth, power, and Daisy Buchanan. Daisy refuses to marry Gatsby because he did not have any money nor any status within society. Upon being rejected by her, Gatsby seeks to reinvent himself as a rich man of high status in an attempt to court Daisy’s approval. Gatsby achieves this through the means of illegal activities, such as bootlegging, to attain wealth to attract Daisy’s attention. He is described as a criminal that is involved in an underground bootlegging industry who “bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores… in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter” (Fitzgerald 133). Gatsby did this so he could get closer to Daisy because he knew that she would not accept him as a poor man. Gatsby also tries to get Daisy’s attention by throwing lavish parties in the hopes that she might show up. Extravagant parties and other pretentious displays of money and power are ways for him to show off his high status and a way for making others think he is just like any other rich man. When Gatsby obtained his riches through illegal activities, he started surrounding himself with the luxurious lifestyle he never had before and which his love demanded of him. He hoped Daisy would find her way back into his life by creating the lifestyle Daisy is accustomed to. He seeks for Daisy’s attention alone. During a conversation between Jordan Baker, Daisy’s friend, and Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s neighbor, Jordan says that the only reason Gatsby bought his house is “so that Daisy would be just across the bay” (Fitzgerald 78). Jordan’s declaration assures that Gatsby’s reasons for buying a house is so he can be close to Daisy. This confirms that Gatsby is so determined on being with Daisy, that even though she is a married woman, he still wants to pursue her by being in close proximity to her.
Jay Gatsby’s obsession for his superficial love for Daisy exposes his motives as it signifies the great American dream for him. When Gatsby is alone in the night in front of his house, he tries “reaching into the distance,” reaching for the “single green light” (Fitzgerald 21) at the end of Daisy’s dock. The green light represents his dreams of reuniting with Daisy and trying to win back her love. Obtaining fortune by becoming a bootlegger and throwing sumptuous parties are ways Gatsby attempts to woo Daisy, as he would put everything on the line for her. Furthermore, to attain Daisy, Gatsby goes to an extent by taking a blame for her. While in New York, Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s husband, switch cars with Gatsby on the way home. Daisy drives the car while Gatsby sits in the passenger seat. Earlier, Myrtle, Tom’s mistress, saw Tom driving the same car. Assuming it was his, she ran out to the street in attempt to stop the car. Daisy could not control the car, resulting in the death of Myrtle. Gatsby became so obsessed with the notion of the American dream and the notion of being with Daisy, he is willing to take the blame upon himself. When Nick asks if it, “‘Was Daisy driving?” Gatsby replies, “Yes… but of course, I’ll say I was”‘ (Fitzgerald 137). Gatsby takes the blame, so Daisy does not get in trouble. His ambition to attain Daisy is so great, he saves her so she does not face consequences and also for her to see how willing Gatsby is to protect her. He is so fixated on having Daisy, he does not even comprehend what occurred. For example when Myrtle was killed, Gatsby only “spoke as if Daisy’s reaction was the only thing that mattered’ (Fitzgerald 137). This evidently shows that he is more concerned about his feelings for Daisy than the fact Myrtle has just been killed. Jay Gatsby’s obsession was his love for Daisy. The love and ambition drives his persistent pursuit for Daisy’s attention on his tactics to ‘win’ her back from her husband, Tom. It is clear that Gatsby will do anything to achieve the American dream to win Daisy over with his materialistic possessions and status. Gatsby is so eager to attain this ambition that he is ready to risk anything and everything for Daisy. He has aspirations of being opulent, and by throwing parties every week and taking the blame for Myrtle’s death all show how Gatsby would do anything to acquire Daisy.
Both Gatsby and Macbeth spend their lives chasing an impossible dream because of their ambition. Macbeth is shown to have great ambition as he longs for power, after finding out about his prophecies of becoming king. Macbeth proposes horrible ideas, for example, the murder of Duncan, King of Scotland. Macbeth is fully aware of what is morally right and wrong, yet he chooses his desires over his honor. The three witches greet Macbeth by hailing him and tell him his prophecies. They state that from the stance he currently is in, he will soon become the Thane of Cawdor and later King of hereafter. This is the start of where his ambitions to gain power and status develop. Macbeth chooses to see what he wants to see and ignores the rest. His mindset is put forth in attaining the position of many thrones, even if the prophecies may lead him to a destructive way. Macbeth tells himself, “Two truths are told/ As happy prologues to swelling act/ Of the imperial theme” (Shakespeare 1.3.127-129). The two truths: Thane of Cawdor and Glamis, are the positions Macbeth already obtains, and the imperial theme is the promise of more positions and thrones in the future. This reveals Macbeth’s aspirations as he wants to become king and gain full dominance. This foreshadows that it is possible to be king since two of the truth have come into reality.
It seems that once Macbeth gets the taste of power and strength that comes from being king, he cannot see anything else as he is obsessed in securing his kingship. This is similar to Gatsby because when Daisy rejects Gatsby, he does not see anything but her. He moves across the bay from her and starts doing illegal activities to gain the wealth and status to attract Daisy in hopes she would go back to him. Gatsby became so obsessed with his American dream, Daisy, that he based his whole life around her. Moreover, Macbeth takes the prophecy and its matters into his own hands by committing murder to achieve his desires. Macbeth and his wife, schemed to kill the King of Scotland, in their own home, and betray the trust the king has put in Macbeth. He tells his wife, Lady Macbeth that he is “settled and bend up/ Each corporal agent to this terrible feat,/ Away, and mock the time with the fairest show,/ False face must hide what the false face heart doth know” (Shakespeare 1.7.78-82). Macbeth’s allusion to his strength and power gives an idea that he is prepared to kill King Duncan. He approves of his wife’s plot as he is ready to do whatever it takes to fulfill his goals to become king. Macbeth’s motive for killing King Duncan clearly shows vaulting ambition as he begins to trade humanity for the sake of his aspirations. The evil side of Macbeth is present when he is willing to kill King Duncan just to take the crown. The ambition is the tragic flaw of Macbeth which later leads to his downfall because Macduff, Thane of Fife kills him, even though he did not entirely deserve to die. This is similar to Gatsby because he wanted to obtain Daisy, and he would do anything for her, including taking the blame for Myrtle’s death, for which George Wilson, Myrtle’s husband, killed him for. Gatsby did not seem to care about anything but Daisy, as he did not even care for the death of a woman. This lead Gatsby to spend his life chasing a dream that is impossible, which ultimately leads to his death.
Like Gatsby, Macbeth did not see anything but his desires: power, status, and the throne. To him, those were the things that mattered to him the most as he spent his whole life trying to fulfill and protect his desires. He sacrifices everything to achieve his ambition; his close friend, Lady Macbeth, and in the end his own life. His hopes for power caused the reversal of fortune from a noble person to a man that was driven by ambition, who eventually died trying to keep his titles. Both Gatsby and Macbeth experience change of their fortune from happiness to misery led by their hubris and ambition.The Great Gatsby written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Macbeth by William Shakespeare both express a character that is a Tragic Hero because of their aspirations and downfalls. Gatsby and Macbeth display many characteristics of a Tragic Hero, as they both have an ambition for their dreams. Although Jay Gatsby and Macbeth are driven by distinct desires and come from different time periods, their goals encompassed every idea and pushed themselves beyond their limits. Gatsby and Macbeth did not care who would suffer for their actions or who would pay for their mistakes. They were both caught up on fulfilling their goals due to their hope and dreams, they lost themselves in the process. Climbing one’s way towards a goal is essential, but being fixated and obsessed on a can may lead to affliction.
Theme of Transformative Nature of Love in Sonnets from the Portuguese and The Great Gatsby
Texts are cultural snapshots representing their era – they reflect and develop the values, ideas and attitudes of their context. Two texts, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s (EBB) suite of Petrarchan form sonnet’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s modernist novel “The Great Gatsby” explore the transformative nature of love and also the desire of an individual for a transcendental love. Both authors draw on their own interpretations of love and infuse the context of their time to help represent these values of love to the responder. It is from these different interpretations that an in depth comparative study can insight the responder about the notions of love and how they have impacted on our contemporary society.
EBB is able to display the transformative nature of love through the contrast in her sonnets throughout her suite. The contrast is seen between Sonnet I, where love is indecisive and unknown, and the penultimate Sonnet XLIII which proclaims a female declaration of love demonstrating the transformative nature of love as the persona accepts love, reasoning its capacity through the dialectical nature of the Petrarchan sonnet form. The unexpected nature of love is shown in Sonnet I in the comparison between the intertextual reference to the Greek Pastoral poet, “how Theocritus had sung of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years’, contrasted against her earlier life as seen in the octave, “I saw, in gradual vision through my tears, the sweet, sad years, the melancholy years”. The personification of love, “a mystic shape” which “from behind… drew me backward by the hair”, in the sestet, demonstrates the full power that love had over EBB. In the final couplet, the assurance that it was “Not death, but Love” that had come for her is an unexpected relief to an invalid in her 40s. By Sonnet XLIII, the persona is completely resolute in her love exclaimed through the anaphora, “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height… I love thee to the level of everyday’s… I love thee freely… I love thee purely… I love thee with a passion”. Her exclamation completes the contrast that the responder sees throughout the suite and demonstrates how EBB was able to capture a mutual experience of love. EBB’s Victorian era context has a demonstrative impact on the transformative nature of love as this subverts and contradicts the traditional way of love in her society.
Similarly, Fitzgerald is able to express the transformative nature of love in “The Great Gatsby” through the characterisation of Jay Gatsby. The 1920’s Jazz Age was filled with prosperity and wealth, where the American Dream played a huge role in sculpting people’s lives. Fitzgerald uses the narration of Nick, the unreliable narrator who embodies the voice of the novel, to describe Gatsby as a “Penniless man without a past” engaging in characterisation to highlight how the American Dream allows Gatsby to believe that he could achieve anything, his past excluded. Gatsby always had the aspiration to achieve the American Dream, highlighted through his father’s dialogue, “He knew he had a big future in front of him”. However, Gatsby’s flaw of naïve idealism expressed through his reassurance to Nick that you, “can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” reinforces how Gatsby fell in love with a false dream that he had envisioned those five years ago, transforming his whole life in a façade of expectation, “he wanted to recover something, perhaps some part of him that had gone into loving Daisy. ” Gatsby’s transformation, through his pursuit of love, became caught up within the corrupted material world with which he lived in and led him ultimately onto the path of death as opposed to EBB who cared more about the purity of love that she shared leading to the path of life.
The comparison between Fitzgerald’s and EBB’s two texts effectively demonstrates the impact that context can have on the transformative nature of love. EBB is able to demonstrate how an individual can be overwhelmed by their desire for a transcendental love through sonnet XXII of her suite, rejecting this desire by the end of the sonnet for a more worldly, material and ultimately human love. The repetition of the inexpressible experience of ‘silence’ throughout the sonnet: “Face to face, silent’, ‘… our deep dear silence” is used to highlight the preciousness of her love, as she compares it to that of a spiritual realm. EBB subverts the traditional gender codes by adopting a female voice to assert her authority in her concern that “angels would… drop some golden orb of perfect song into our deep, dear silence. ” Using imagery of the perfection of their love she conveys at this point the intrusiveness of that notion. Her reasoning at the Volta states, “Let us stay rather on Earth”, preferring a physical, mortal love. EBB’s desire for a transcendental love was rejected, a perspective that those of the Victorian Era (and 1920s) failed to foresee. She preferred a more authentic, pure experience culminating in her decision to elope to Italy against the wishes of her father, further subverting gender roles within her context and in doing so creating an appreciation from a contemporary responder.
Similarly, Fitzgerald is also able to demonstrate in “The Great Gatsby” how individuals can be consumed by their desire for a transcendental connection, through Gatsby’s fixation on the “orgastic future”. Fitzgerald uses symbolism of the “green light” to showcase the idea of Gatsby’s unattainable, transcendental love that he desired. The green light lay at the end of Daisy’s dock across the bay. Fitzgerald encompasses an imagery of yearning, “he stretched out his arms toward the dark water… I could have sworn he was trembling” to demonstrate that it is just beyond the grasp of Gatsby. The reinforcement of Gatsby’s belief that he could achieve his dream comes at the end of the novel “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us”, highlighting how consumed Gatsby had become for his transcendental love unlike EBB, who realized that a more authentic pure love should be desired. Fitzgerald in doing so is able to highlight the major flaw of his society, as Gatsby fails to understand that the American Dream is just a dream, expressing the tragic consequences of a neglectful and hedonistic society during the 1920s leading to the great depression that occurred a decade later. The egocentric context in which Fitzgerald lived in impacted upon his text’s values drastically, creating an appreciation from a contemporary responder today.
Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s suite of Petrarchan form sonnets “Sonnets from the Portuguese” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s modernist novel “The Great Gatsby” are able to display the authors perspectives on the transformative nature of love which in turn is also able to demonstrate to the responder, then and now, how individuals can become consumed by the desire for a transcendental love. Looking at these two texts from the lens of a contemporary responder through a comparative study, allows the values of love that both authors are trying to convey to stimulate the responder into questioning how the intertextual perspectives of both texts, utilizing the impact of their contexts, have shaped the society in which we live today.
Appearance and Disappearance: The Theme of Evanescence in The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is a novel that has been evaluated by countless critics since its original publication in April of 1925. What makes it such an incredible piece of literature is that it seems to contain endless levels of meaning, and the reader has the ability to delve deep into specific ideas that appear in the text. Countless critics have picked the text apart, thoroughly weighing and discussing various aspects of the novel’s multifaceted components. There is one theme, however, that seems to stand out from all the rest: we see it in the evasive quality of Jay Gatsby, or the vanishing of the obscene word scrawled on Gatsby’s steps at the end of the novel—it’s what gives this book its mysterious, ethereal quality that so many are drawn to. The specific theme is evanescence, or vanishing, and countless scholars have focused on it in their critical works.
One of the ways that select scholars explored the theme of evanescence was through the specific language and text of the novel. It’s important to establish the fact that Fitzgerald chose none of the language or wording in this story randomly. Both A.E. Elmore and James E. Miller, Jr. (an author in Lockridge’s collection of essays) discuss the deep intentionality of Fitzgerald’s word choice, and how he consciously thought out the whole process of word selection. In his essay, Miller quotes Fitzgerald discussing Gatsby, in that what he “cut out of [the novel] both physically and emotionally would make another novel.” (Lockridge 27) Fitzgerald went through an extensive editing process for his book, and so what was left in the final product was extensively edited and the language was clearly intentional. Barbara Will discussed the language and theme of “vanishing” in the Gatsby text, and clarified that “’vanished’ is indeed the predominant term in this text,” (Will 129) citing moments such as “at the end of Chapter I Nick first encounters Gat” (Will 129). These are just two of the many instances in wsby, only to find ‘he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness’; or when, after an awkward meeting with Tom Buchanan, Nick ‘turned toward Mr. Gatsby but he was no longer therehich Jay Gatsby’s character is associated with “vanishing”. Additionally, Will discusses more general moments of appearance and disappearance not just in the language, but also in Gatsby’s overall persona. She deliberates on Gatsby’s inability to be present at his own parties, and also the evanescent quality of his past history and his business dealings. She also cites a line from the text describing “his smile, which “assure you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. Precisely at that point it vanished?” (Will 129). There are multiple more instances in which Gatsby’s character engages in other moments of vanishing, but Will addresses the important general prevalence of evanescence in the language The Great Gatsby the novel, as well as Jay Gatsby the character.
However, language is not the only component of The Great Gatsby in which scholars explored the theme of appearance and disappearance. Other authors, namely Arnold Weinstein and Ronald Berman, emphasize Fitzgerald’s personal relationship with the phenomenal, vanishing quality of the world, and therefore its translation into Gatsby. Ronald Berman highlights how Fitzgerald held an intense love and respect of the phenomenal world, and how he worked to enchant everyday things into something remarkable. In his book The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald’s World of Ideas, he observed that, “Fitzgerald seems to simply have a strong and romantic sense of phenomology… [He] evidently, is about the business of making an entertaining illusion, endowing sordid material life with temporary novelistic value” (Berman 72-73). This insight provides a deeper look into the theme of evanescence in The Great Gatsby. If Fitzgerald’s goal in writing Gatsby was to enchant material life and give it temporary value, then the vanishing that exists in the text marks the de-enchantment of whatever phenomenal idea Fitzgerald was trying to make novel.
Not entirely unrelated to his love of phenomology, Fitzgerald also seemed to greatly appreciate the temporary appearance of things and things being made out of nothing, which, when you think about it in a historical context, is inherently the idea of the American dream. Some scholars trace the theme of evanescence to Fitzgerald’s view of the deflation of the American dream that occurred in the 1920’s. Arnold Weinstein explores this notion in his article “Fiction As Greatness: The Case of Gatsby,” concluding “Fitzgerald seems altogether more committed to the project of making things from nothing. Daisy does not measure up, because Gatsby’s dream cannot be outfitted with checks and balances, or any kind of external referent; it is, instead, supremely autonomous, auto-generative, fed from within… ‘Appearance made real,’ is not only an American theme but also a paradigmatic formula for literature itself. The Great Gatsby depicts things being made from nothing, and objects becoming enchanted objects” (Weinstein 26). This idea of “appearance made real” and something coming from nothing is a direct reference to the prevalent idea of the American dream. In the essay “Scott Fitzgerald’s Criticism of America” in Lockridge’s collection, author Marius Bewely informs that, “critics of Scott Fitzgerald tend to agree that The Great Gatsby is somehow a commentary on that elusive phrase, the American dream,” (Lockridge 37). In the 1920’s, the American dream was such a sought-after idea, that it existed as more of an illusion than a reality. For further evidence, in his essay, Bewley confidently stated that, “the theme of Gatsby is the withering of the American dream… as it exists in a corrupt period, and it is an attempt to determine that concealed boundary that divides the reality from the illusions,”(Lockridge 37-38). For these various authors, the theme of vanishing plays out as a commentary on an important historical idea: the American dream.
Though these scholars explore the theme of evanescence through different components of The Great Gatsby, whether they are language, Fitzgerald’s personal ideas, or his views on the American dream, all the authors acknowledge that this theme of appearance and disappearance is vital in the novel. However, that sense of importance should lead us to question why Fitzgerald included so much evanescence in his story. Is there a significant meaning behind this explicit theme, or was Fitzgerald trying to send a message with the inclusion of this important idea? In his essay, Richard Lehan shares his belief that Gatsby is a novel, “the meaning of which refuses to be limited” (Lehan 78). However, other authors hypothesize that the significance of Gatsby’s theme has cultural meaning, such as the previously discussed American dream, or Laura Barrett discusses in her essay the possibility that it could have something to do with the substantial presence of materialism in the 1920’s. To this day, countless scholars still cannot come to a coherent conclusion as to the true meaning behind the theme of evanescence in The Great Gatsby, and we wonder whether it is a question that will ever be answered.
Barrett, Laura. “”Material Without Being Real”: Photography and the End of Reality in “The Great Gatsby”” Studies in the Novel 30.4 (1998): 540-57. JSTOR. Web. 04 Apr. 2015. Berman, Ronald. The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald’s World of Ideas. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama, 1997. Print. Callahan, John F. “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Evolving American Dream: The “Pursuit of Happiness” in Gatsby, Tender Is the Night, and The Last Tycoon.” Twentieth Century Literature 42.3 (1996): 374-95. JSTOR. Web. 03 Apr. 2015. Elmore, A. E. “The Great Gatsby as Well Wrought Urn.” Modern American Fiction: Form and Function. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989. N. pag. Print. Lehan, Richard. “The Great Gatsby– The Text As Construct: Narrative Knots and Narrative Unfolding.” Ed. Jackson R. Bryer, Alan Margolies, and Ruth Prigozy. F. Scott Fitzgerald: New Perspectives. By F. Scott Fitzgerald. Athens, GA: U of Georgia, 2012. N. pag. Print. Lockridge, Earnest H., ed., Twentieth Century Interpretations of “The Great Gatsby” (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1968), 5-8. Weinstein, Arnold. “Fiction as Greatness: The Case of Gatsby.” Novel 19 (Fall 1985): 26. Will, Barbara. “The Great Gatsby and The Obscene Word.” College Literature 32.4 (2005): 125-44. JSTOR. Web.
Commentary on Closing Passage of Chapter 7 from Great Gatsby
The extract from Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby depicts the events that occur after the Buchanans, Nick and Gatsby return from New York, after Daisy drives into and kills Myrtle, while letting Gatsby take the blame. Themes explored in this passage include the façade of the upper class and the American dream.
As Nick makes his way to the “pantry window”, his movements are very gentle, as he “traversed the gravel softly and tiptoed up the veranda steps”. It is almost as if he is being careful to not disturb the perfect quality of the Buchanan residence, which is further highlighted as the “small rectangle of light” from their “pantry window” is the only light shining in this night. However, the mention of the “porch where [they] had dined that June night three months before” is a hint that this perfect façade is disintegrating. “That June night” represents a more innocent time without the problems present at this point – Gatsby and Daisy’s affair and Myrtle’s death. Hence, the vacancy of this porch also signifies the disappearance of this time, and perhaps, the imminent arrival of more problems – Gatsby’s death and Nick’s loss of trust in this society.
This façade is truly dissolved as Nick finds the “rift” in the closed “blind”. Through this “rift”, Daisy and Tom are revealed in their mundanity, their glamour absent. Firstly, the choice of food – “a plate of cold fried chicken between them and two bottles of ale” – is very basic in contrast to the previous extravagance of their meal in “that June night”, where they drank wine and were waited upon. Additionally, there is the “unmistakable air of natural intimacy about them”, as this “earnest” interaction, to them, is safely hidden from the eyes of society, behind the “blind”. They are interacting across a simple “kitchen table” that is implied to be small, as Tom’s hand “fall[s] upon and cover[s]” Daisy’s hand subconsciously, in “his earnestness”.
While it remains ambiguous whether Tom knows about Daisy’s true role in Myrtle’s death, this is almost irrelevant to the matter, as the significance of this interaction is that Tom and Daisy are reuniting, leaving their relationships with Myrtle and Gatsby – who are substandard to them – and perhaps, maybe even discussing their physical leave from this entanglement. On a deeper level, they are “conspiring together” to repair the cracks in their façade caused by their temporary submission to desire for vitality and passion allowed through their respective affairs, by removing themselves from this situation detachedly, neither “happy” nor “unhappy”, but merely objectively. Though it is at the cost of Myrtle’s, and later, Gatsby’s death, perhaps because of the concessions they feel they are entitled to by their upper class status, they are either uncaring or ignorant of these consequences, further emphasised by their detachment from reality behind this “blind”.
The rarity of this insight into the façade of the Buchanans is indicated as Nick leaves this scene just as he entered – he “tiptoe[s] from the porch”. The apparent serenity of the Buchanan residence is reinstalled, as even the taxi is personified to be “feeling its way along the dark road”. The transience of the moment where the Buchanans are unveiled is synonymous with their actions – “they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness”.
Still clouded by his dreams centered around Daisy, Gatsby remains oblivious to Daisy’s faults, perhaps never thinking about the possibility of the transition that Daisy is undergoing with Tom to detach themselves from the consequences of their “carelessness”. His concern for Daisy is evident in how he is still “waiting where [Nick] had left him”, and questions Nick “anxiously” the instant he is back. In an attempt to help Gatsby, Nick suggests that Gatsby should “come home and get some sleep”. This suggestion demonstrates Nick’s care and support for Gatsby, not only literally as he tells Gatsby to take care of his health, but also implicitly, as the word “come” has collective connotations. Additionally, “home” refers to a place of belonging, which in Gatsby and Nick’s case is West Egg, the less glamorous, less exclusive equivalent of East Egg. The reality of the situation is that, while Gatsby yearns to reach that “green light”, represented by Daisy and all that she embodies – wealth, lineage, beauty – he can never truly belong there, as his “home”, symbolic of his family background and his roots, is immutable. Regardless of his accumulated wealth or fame, to them, he is merely a parvenu – eternally second class. As such, Nick’s gentle attempt to help Gatsby “come home and get some sleep”, to relax his obsession with reaching the “green light”, can almost represent Nick’s realization that Gatsby’s all-consuming fixation on acquiring Daisy is rather unhealthy, and foreshadows Gatsby’s imminent death.
However, Gatsby persists, and “[shakes] his head” in response to Nick’s suggestions, choosing to remain faithfully by Daisy’s side, and to “wait here till Daisy goes to bed”. In this instance, Gatsby seems quite desperate, almost pathetic, as any contact with Daisy at all, even just through observing the lights in her house, “watching over nothing”, is worthy of “vigil”. The “sacredness” of Gatsby’s “scrutiny of the house” to him can be associated with how Gatsby views Daisy. Just as how her association with the colour white and light portrays her as a sort of celestial and heavenly being, Gatsby’s view of her as his ultimate goal and the way he worships the idea of her elevates her character as an otherworldly, unreachable, yet irresistible goal. This serves to emphasise the futile quality of Gatsby’s goals – just as a human can never transcend the boundary between humans and celestial beings, Gatsby can also never truly overcome the boundary imposed by lineage, between old money and the nouveau riche.
This extract ends rather poetically, as there is a beautiful quality in the way Gatsby is described to be “standing there in the moonlight – watching over nothing”. This is perhaps an acknowledgement of the positive aspect of Gatsby’s ability to hope, as his blind persistence encapsulates the strength of human determination and will, and the essence of the American Dream. However, poignantly, Gatsby can only shine in the “moonlight” – Fitzgerald specifies this time setting to be at night, so as to describe Gatsby in the “moonlight”, light reflected from the sun, which is perhaps representative of Daisy and the glittering beauty of East Egg and its people. While the sole reason for Gatsby’s determination to succeed is the hope that one day, he will obtain Daisy and elevate his own being to be equal to that of Daisy’s, ultimately, similar to the moon that does not emit light and can only receive the reflected light from the sun, he can never truly acquire “light” of his own, and his aspirations are mere reflections of the people who truly own this “light”, namely, the Buchanans and the people of East Egg. Nick’s description of the object of Gatsby’s “scrutiny” as “nothing” is an indication of his developing disgust towards this level of society, which foreshadows his later detachment from this society and conclusion that they are “careless people”. “Nothing” could also signify Gatsby’s eventual achievement, as in the end, his efforts only result in his own death, and he is reduced to nothing and forgotten in the eyes of society.
This passage is significant as it captures a rare, unrevealed moment of the upper class. Yet, this instance also continues to highlight the insurmountable barrier between Gatsby and his dreams, concluding with a poignant atmosphere enforcing the futility of Gatsby’s desires to conquer the American dream, and foreshadowing the imminent deaths of Gatsby and the hope and dreams he represents.