Unearthing an Inner Meaning in the Final Lines of The Great Gatsby
In The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, there is a distinct development of emotions and symbols, and one of the key vehicles for illustrating this change is the final line of each chapter. Hidden within each final sentence lies an inner message that either pulls together a major theme in the chapter leading up to the sentence, or is a harbinger of the coming chapters. Beginning with the final word in chapter one, “darkness” (21), and concluding with the novel’s final word, “past” (180), Fitzgerald uses simple closing words to represent a deeper, continuous meaning that pervades the book. By doing this, Fitzgerald is able to outline major themes in the novel, including facial expressions, honesty, and balance. Most clearly and powerfully, however, the outline of lightness through positive imagery and darkness through negative imagery is presented in the final lines of each chapter. By grouping the chapters by hopefulness shown in their respective final lines, a trend is apparent. In chapters one through three, the final lines provide a dark, sullen preview for the chapters to come, while chapter four provides a transition into the final lines of chapters five and six, which signify a brief sense of giddiness that begins to darken. Finally, the last lines of chapters seven through nine mark the development and completion of the violent “holocaust” (162).
Supplying a preview at the end of chapter one as to the violence to occur later in the novel, Nick says he is “alone again in the unquiet darkness” (21). By stating the word “darkness” at the end of the first chapter, Fitzgerald can ultimately emphasize the fact that eventually, the plot will take a cold, deep, serious turn for the worse. Moreover, it shows the ambiguity of the first chapter, as the reader does not yet know much about the characters’ personalities or actions. This ambivalent image can be seen as a means to represent the fact that the reader cannot completely see the characters yet for who they are, and that later on, Nick’s narration will begin to shed some light on them as individuals. The final line of chapter two then continues this foreboding quality, as Fitzgerald employs the words “cold,” “staring,” and “waiting” (38). Though this may be purely contextual, as Nick finds himself in a subway station by the end of the chapter, Fitzgerald allows for them to contribute to the omen that began in the first chapter. The word “waiting” (38) provides a preview of Gatsby’s incessant wait for Daisy’s love. To complete the final chapter in the first “segment” of the book, Fitzgerald provides a subtextual preview of the dishonesty of those around Nick. This line at the end of chapter 3, “I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known” (59), is later manifested in the dishonesty of relationships. For example, Tom’s affair with Myrtle (and vice versa) and Daisy’s kissing of Gatsby behind Tom’s back both constitute very dishonest acts of marital exploitation. Nick’s statement at the end of the chapter contains this hidden meaning because he is singling himself out as the only one who is, and will remain, honest.
Chapters one through three outline the darkness and ambiguity that form the cloudy start to the novel, as this grouping illustrates the absence of clarity in the characters that Nick has, at this point in the novel, yet to fully describe. For example, Fitzgerald does not present Gatsby to the reader until well into the third chapter, and even then, we do not know much about who he is; we only know that he remembers Nick from the war and that he holds large parties. As the book proceeds, Fitzgerald sheds more light on the dreams, personalities and back-stories of the individuals in the novel.
The last line of chapter four provides a buffer between the dark, ambiguous imagery of the first three chapters and the light imagery to come in chapters five and six. In the last line of chapter four, Nick describes how Jordan’s “wan, scornful mouth smiled” (80), and pulls her to his face, an interaction lacking connection and truth. Although she smiles, she does not truly display any happiness or excitement toward her relationship with Nick. Clashing, and contradictory, this imagery has aspects of happiness, but also aspects of futility; Jordan is not really interested in Nick’s gestures. The last line of chapter four is also an example of the continued examples of important facial expressions, constituting an ongoing motif in the novel. For example, earlier in chapter four, Nick describes how just a glance at Gatsby would make anyone understand that he was telling the truth. Chapter four provides an important gradient between dark and light, as its possession of both leads into the more hopeful mood in chapters five and six.
Chapter five brings about a new mood to the novel, and its final lines include very positive, optimistic vocabulary. Though it continues to rain outside, a connection between Daisy and Gatsby is rekindled and their love briefly reblossoms. At the end of the chapter, Nick “walks down the marble steps into the rain, leaving them there together” (96). The word “together” voices this brief revitalization of Gatsby, and chapter five becomes the embodiment of a burst of short-lived light surrounded by the dark and rainy events in the book. Its last line placed directly in the middle of the book, chapter five provides symmetry of light and dark imagery in the novel. Continuing this crest of light imagery, chapter six is all about the joyful past of Daisy and Gatsby, though it ends with equivocal incommunicability as to what to make of the past. Pondering this incommunicability, Nick’s last thought of the chapter is, “but [my lips] made no sound, and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever” (111). What Nick “almost remembered” was the hope that he briefly saw in Gatsby in chapter five, and because it is incommunicable, he is unable to make it concrete in his mind again because the happiness will not last. In these ways, chapters five and six form the crest of the light imagery, and their final lines sum up what to make of this new discovery of light in the novel: it is ephemeral.
In chapter seven, the novel brusquely begins to seep back into darkness and pessimism, and its final line clearly outlines this change. Nick describes Gatsby “watching over nothing” (145), emphasizing the hopelessness in Gatsby’s yearning for Tom and Daisy’s breakup. By setting this line up as the final line of the chapter, the importance and meaning are elevated to a higher level that embodies the change from Gatsby and Daisy’s togetherness to the impossibility of being together. On the final page of chapter six, Daisy “blossomed for him like a flower” (111), but their relationship has become “nothing” (145) in chapter seven, a very sharp shift in mood. The decline into pessimism and darkness reaches its bitter end at the end of chapter eight, when both Gatsby and George Wilson are killed. The final words of the chapter, “the holocaust was complete” (162), mark the culmination of the “holocaust” of despair and darkness. The buildup of intense hostility coming to a close, the final line is indispensible in defining this point as the climax of the plot.
The novel ends with a famous line of hope despite struggle, and accepting reality in the face of desire, and it ultimately wraps up the previous final lines by stating the importance of retaining a state of equilibrium. Jeffrey Steinbrink finds this important overall meaning when he says that,
And so we must, apparently, for according to Fitzgerald man livessuccessfully only in a state of equilibrium between resistance to the current and surrender to its flow. He must accommodate the lessons of his past to his visions of the future, giving it to neither, in order to stand poised for happiness or disappointment in the present (Steinbrink 169).
This idea brings together every final line in the novel; Gatsby fails to understand that without equilibrium between resistance to skeptics and the acceptance of the past and the present, one will not get anywhere in life. “Accommodat[ing] the lessons of his past” would allow Gatsby to understand that there can never be a deep love between Daisy and himself. The last line of the book is beautiful because it not only wraps up all of the final, concluding lines of the chapters and provides an optimistic look at the story, but it also provides an important lesson about balance and equilibrium in life. Even more importantly, it signifies the power of final lines to solidify everything previously stated into one sentence from which the reader may grow.
Looking deeply into the concluding lines of each paragraph tell us a lot about the trend of shifts in mood in the novel, particularly in the positive (light) and negative (dark) imagery. The final lines also briefly preview what is to come in the following chapters. Lastly, they tell us about a range of messages, from specific ongoing themes like body language and honesty to more broad themes such as the balance and equilibrium one must embrace in order to avoid the rollercoaster of emotions that Gatsby confronted, bringing him to a conclusive end. Fitzgerald communicates a wealth of messages and morals about the novel through the final lines of chapters, disclosing more about The Great Gatsby than one would imagine.
"Boats Against the Current": Mortality and the Myth of Renewal in The Great Gatsby. Jeffrey
Steinbrink. Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 26, No. 2, F. Scott Fitzgerald Issue (Summer, 1980), pp. 169.
The Impact of Materialism in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
An important theme of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is wealth and the process of attaining it. This yearning for material wealth and possessions is known as materialism. Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan are both extremely materialistic and put a lot of value into the possessions and wealth of a person while Nick Carraway doesn’t display any materialistic desires and accentuates the contrast between characters. Gatsby’s materialism is driven by his longing for wealth and civility. He loves the idea of Daisy because she is the embodiment of wealth and the ideal lifestyle of continuous excess. Daisy on the other hand represents the ultimate materialistic lifestyle; she doesn’t have the same longing as Gatsby since she was born into an aristocratic family. Instead she takes excessive living for granted and is fascinated with all things extravagant because she wants to maintain the wealth she has and never lose it. Nick is the exception to the rule; he emphasizes the disparity between himself and Gatsby or Daisy. He is the control to whom Gatsby and Daisy can be compared.
Gatsby’s main desire in this novel is to win Daisy back from Tom and to have her all to himself. Before he even meets Daisy, he already wanted to become wealthy in any way he can and live a different life from those of his parents. Creating strict schedules while living with his parents, he tries to better his mind and become a more civilized person (participial). Gatsby’s father knows that “Jimmy was bound to get ahead”(173). As a part of this altercation of his entire being, he changed his name from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby. His resolve to become man of wealth and civility is only strengthened by his obsession with Daisy since he believes that she will take him back if he simply lives in excess as she does. A major component of Gatsby’s obsessive love with Daisy is due to the wealth and status that she represents. She symbolizes the ultimate high life - a life that Gatsby has been struggling to attain for his entire existence. Flaunting his many possessions in hope that she will be impressed is a large portion of Gatsby’s efforts to win her back, which works remarkably well because of Daisy’s similar value of possessions. The rainstorm being over, Gatsby makes his boasting obvious when he demands to show off his mansion next door during his reunion with Daisy in chapter five (absolute). He tries to accentuate the grandeur of his house by saying that “[his] house looks well doesn’t it?”(89), and asks if they can “[s]ee how the whole front of it catches the light?”(89). Not only does he value what he has, but he also wants others, mainly Daisy, to value his belongings in a similar manner and be impressed. Gatsby’s life is driven by a need for wealth and material gain, and Daisy easily fits into that need, since “[h]er voice is full of money”(120). Using extravagant symbols of wealth in an attempt to make Daisy notice him, he throws huge parties and drives a highly visible yellow Rolls-Royce (participial). Gatsby’s dream is to win Daisy back, but a lot of her attraction is the money that she represents.
Daisy is also extremely materialistic, but in a very different way from Gatsby. She already has all the money that she could ever need. She doesn’t strive for more money, but rather the extravagant and classy use of it. She wants to maintain her wealth instead of trying to increase it, as Gatsby does. She is so overwhelmingly attractive because of the money that she represents, which is why her voice is so enchanting and “[can’t] be over-dreamed”(96). The money draws people in like Gatsby, people who want more and aren’t satisfied with their current situation and what they currently have. “[H]er voice is full of money...that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it...”(120). She doesn’t need to work to get more money; she is already able to live the extravagant lifestyle that others would die for, a way of life that she’s used to with the fortune her family already attained. Her house is in East Egg; where everyone with old money lives. It is a place of old fortunes and civilized wealth. She has higher expectations than Gatsby, and wealth by itself isn’t sufficient for her. “She was appalled by West Egg”(107); in her mind the people with the new money of the West Egg are classless in their wealth. They don’t have the civility and education that she thinks should go hand in hand with the elevated status of the wealthy. A woman seeing the use of wealth as an important form of expression, Daisy is easily captivated by extravagant items of excess (appositive). When Gatsby shows off his enormous mountain of shirts during his first meeting with Daisy for five years Daisy exclaims that “[t]hey’re such beautiful shirts...”(92) and “...sobbed, her voice muffed in the thick folds”(92). She has never seen “such beautiful shirts”(92), and that makes her break down and start sobbing. Her actions in this scene make her fascination with extravagance crystal clear; she can’t even hold herself together while looking at perfect pile of dress shirts. She even turns her head away from her true love, Gatsby, since she wants to keep living her materialistic lifestyle.
While Gatsby thirsts for what he doesn’t have and Daisy doesn’t want to lose what she has already attained, the narrator, Nick Carraway, doesn’t feel the same enticing pull of materialism. His lack of obvious materialistic qualities in his character allows Fitzgerald to use Nick to demonstrate the contrast between the more materialistic characters in the novel. Nick is mainly used to show contrast between him and Gatsby or Daisy. The comparison between Nick and Gatsby is very prevalent, since he becomes a good friend of Gatsby during the book and has a large number of interactions with him. Every time Nick is with Gatsby it’s easy to tell that Gatsby simply has more than Nick. As soon as Nick moves to the West Egg he notes that his house is “squeezed between two huge places” and that “[his] own house [is] an eyesore”(5). This immediately shows the difference between Nick and Gatsby and introduces Gatsby as mysterious, rich character. Early on in the book it becomes clear that Gatsby has far greater means that Nick, but that isn’t the only part of Gatsby’s character that can be compared with Nick. There is also Gatsby’s constant hunger to increase his wealth and social standing, which Nick lacks. At one point, Nick respectfully denies a job offer from Gatsby by explaining that “[he’s] got [his] hands full” and that “[he’s] much obliged but [he can’t] take on any more work”(83). Nick doesn’t show much of any interest in the job, which contrasts greatly with Gatsby’s philosophy. His philosophy is to increase his wealth at every possible opportunity. Nick demonstrates that he doesn’t feel the same pull toward money that Gatsby does. This difference between Nick and Gatsby helps to accentuate the materialistic nature of Gatsby’s character. The same is true for Daisy in a different manner. When Nick interacts with Daisy in the novel, his narration becomes more omniscient than it is in the rest of the book. When Daisy is at one of Gatsby’s parties with Nick, he all knowingly reveals that although she thinks that one girl is “lovely”, “the rest [offends] her...” (107). This revelation divulges an unsaid thought and explains Daisy’s view on West Egg wealth; she dislikes the “raw emotion” of it and prefers the class and sophistication that she’s used to from the old wealth of the East Egg. Nick’s narration of Daisy pleasantly portrays her as a beautiful, rich, sophisticated woman who emanates wealth through her every move. Nick’s portrayal of Daisy as such is what so concretely differentiates her from Gatsby. Gatsby seems far more normal than Daisy; Nick has no idea who he is and doesn’t think much of him until he introduces himself. He lacks the same kind of classy wealth that Daisy has so well mastered. Nick plays a huge role in assisting the reader in comparing the alternate varieties of materialistic yearning shown by Gatsby and Daisy in this novel.
The materialistic values clearly exhibited by Gatsby and Daisy have an undeniable impact on the plot on the novel. The entire life of Gatsby revolves around his hunger for wealth, status, and Daisy; the one who already has both. Daisy simply wants to keep what she has and live life in high class extravagance. Although she is still extremely materialistic, as demonstrated by her sobbing over Gatsby’s beautiful shirts, she possesses a different variety of materialistic yearnings than Gatsby. These differences are skillfully divulged to the reader through Fitzgerald’s use of Nick to show the contrast between Nick and Gatsby as well as Nick and Daisy.
THE RAIN AND GATSBY’S HOPE:
AN EXAMINATION OF WEATHER AS A VEHICLE OF GATSBY’S EMOTIONS IN CHAPTER FIVE
A tragic romance between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby takes place in 1922, the “Jazz Age”. The entire novel focuses on Gatsby’s desire to obtain Daisy, to make Daisy love him again and possibly to elope together. After being separated by World War One, the two meet in chapter five for the first time since their separation at narrator Nick Carraway’s house. According to A. E. Elmore in “Color and Cosmos in The Great Gatsby”, when writing his novel, Fitzgerald wrote that he wanted this piece of literature to be “extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned” (427). He certainly achieved his desired effect through his use of the weather. Throughout the visit, showers from above start and stop suddenly, without warning. As the weather fluctuates, so do Gatsby’s emotions, which evolve from anticipation to dread to hopefulness to happiness to dissatisfaction. About half way through Daisy’s visit, Nick comments that Gatsby “had passed through two states and was entering upon a third” (91). Fitzgerald expresses these emotional phases through changes in the intensity of the rain, which symbolizes the intensity of Gatsby’s hope of once again attaining Daisy as his own.
Fitzgerald illustrates Gatsby’s first emotional state, anxious but hopeful, with constant, heavy rain. Quite early on in chapter five, Gatsby is “nervously” running about, preparing for Daisy’s visit to Nick’s house (84). Gatsby even sends Nick to “buy some cups and lemons and flowers”, a bit superfluous, in Nick’s opinion (83). Although he is very concerned about making a good impression on Daisy, Gatsby is also hopeful that he and Daisy will be happy once more. He demonstrates his hope through his putting great efforts into the preparations for the party. During this time, Nick informs the reader that “the day agreed upon was pouring rain” (83). The image of rain pounding down reflects Gatsby’s hope to live in the past once more with Daisy by his side.
Gradually, a transition occurs in the weather and in Gatsby’s hope. Shortly before Daisy and Gatsby interact, Gatsby despairs of Daisy’s coming at all. This loss of hope is reflected by the rain slowly ebbing away. His heart beating despondently, Gatsby decides to leave Nick’s house because “it’s too late” and Daisy has not yet arrived (85). To salvage his feelings and his pride, Gatsby refuses to hope for Daisy’s attendance. In reality, Daisy is not so late as to merit his giving up. Nick notes that Gatsby insists on going home “in an uncertain voice” (84). Significantly, Gatsby is not certain that he is acting wisely because he, Gatsby, has wanted this meeting for so long and so much. Although Gatsby is not completely ready to lose all hope of Daisy coming, he is barely hopeful. Accordingly, the “rain cool[s] at about half-past three to a damp mist, through which occasional thin drops sw[i]m like dew” (84). With Gatsby’s dwindling hope, the rain peters out, the “pouring” rain transforming into a “damp mist” (83, 84). However, he is still hopeful. Moreover, the uncertainty in his voice parallels the fact that although his hope is mostly gone, it still exists, like the thin drizzle outside.
Still later in the chapter, Gatsby passes into a third emotional stage of renewed of hope, and Fitzgerald emphasizes this with an increased intensity of the rain. Because of the sheer awkwardness of the situation and both Daisy and Gatsby’s embarrassment, Nick decides to depart the room containing the two. Once outdoors, he discovers that “the rain continued…like the murmur of their voices, rising and swelling a little now and then with gusts of emotion” (88). Presumably, during Nick’s absence, Gatsby and Daisy have been catching up, sharing their experiences since their separation. The rain is rising and fading because Gatsby’s hope of re-securing Daisy mirrors the flow of their conversation. Additionally, the use of the phrase “murmur of their voices” and the word “emotion” indicates that this personification is intentionally placed here by Fitzgerald to parallel the path of their discussion (88). When Nick reenters the room, he finds that Daisy’s face is “smeared with tears” (89), implying that both Daisy and Gatsby have been feeling strong emotion since he has left. However, she is not crying at that moment, again demonstrating the variability and scope of emotions the pair has been feeling, once again reflected in the rain patterns.
Finally, Gatsby reaches his goal, his green light, and the rain withdraws- Gatsby does not need to hope to attain Daisy anymore because he has acquired her. When Nick reenters the room, Daisy’s “throat… told only of her unexpected joy” (89). Additionally, Gatsby is “literally glow[ing]” (89). Consequently, the reader can assume that Daisy and Gatsby are both utterly happy because, during Nick’s absence, they have apparently resolved their issues. Appropriate to their recently revealed happiness, Nick also carefully notes that “the sun sh[i]ne[s] again” (88). The sun emerging symbolizes Gatsby’s and Daisy’s rediscovered love. Notice that it has completely stopped raining. Just like the green light that appears earlier in the novel, once he reaches Daisy, the magical, idealistic quality of her (and the green light) disappears. The rain, similar to the green light, ceases to be a symbol, and therefore, to exist once Gatsby has attained his goal.
At the conclusion of the chapter, Gatsby passes through a final stage, in which he is disappointed but, as a result, becomes hopeful once more- thus it begins to rain again. Exiting the parlor, Nick comments that an “expression of bewilderment had come back into Gatsby’s face… Daisy tumbled short of his dreams” (95). It seems to Nick that Gatsby had been fantasizing about this reunion for such a long amount of time that once it occurs, the Daisy of reality is not comparable to Gatsby’s imagination. Gatsby realizes Daisy does not remain the exact Daisy of his past and so “adjust[s] himself a little, visibly” (96). Gatsby’s disappointment leaves room for hope for the replication of their past relationship. At the close of the chapter, Nick steps “out of the room… into the rain, leaving them there together” (96). Fitzgerald displays Gatsby’s newfound hope for a relationship with Daisy with the addition of rain, once again, into the scene.
In chapter five, Fitzgerald highlights Gatsby’s changing amounts of anticipation of procuring Daisy through the force of the rain. Not only in chapter five is the intensity of the rain especially noteworthy, but also throughout the entire novel weather plays a significant role, always carefully recorded by Nick. Singularly, Fitzgerald uses the intensity of the rain to represent hope. More frequently, the rain symbolizes negative emotions, like sadness or fear. Although the reader believes that Gatsby’s hope is positive and good at the time, at the end of the novel, we know that his American Dream is hopeless, futile. Could this use of rain in chapter five be a concealed warning from Fitzgerald against Gatsby’s attempts to woo Daisy? At the end of the novel, Fitzgerald boldly states, “Blessed are the dead that rain falls upon” (174). At Gatsby’s funeral, it is pouring rain. This almost certainly confirms Fitzgerald’s purposeful, intentional use of weather in chapter to foreshadow this tragic occurrence.
Color and Cosmos in "The Great Gatsby"
A. E. Elmore
The Sewanee Review
Vol. 78, No. 3 (Summer, 1970), pp. 427-443
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27541823
THE AMERICAN DREAM IN GATSBY
The American dream is a tacit promise given to all citizens in this country, which states that regardless of social class, any individual can aspire to new heights based upon the ideology of meritocracy. The American dream is a “recurring theme in American literature”(Pearson) and in American society. However, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s critically acclaimed novel, presents the American dream as an illusion which can never be achieved, and according to recent events in America, Fitzgerald is evidently correct. The personification of Daisy as the American Dream, the issue of meritocracy, Myrtle’s death, the image of the green light, as well as the manner in which Gatsby is denied entry into the elite class, all represent the invalidity of the American Dream. This delusion of the American Dream is the paramount theme in The Great Gatsby, and it is the main message Fitzgerald attempts to convey in his saddening, but insightful novel.
Daisy is stupefying and elusive, a crucial character who represents the American Dream (appositive phrase); when Gatsby unsuccessfully attempts to woo Daisy back, this unveils the false promise of the American Dream. Gatsby was in love with Daisy a long time ago, and Daisy’s parents disapproved of Gatsby since he didn’t have “pomp and circumstance”(75), like Tom Buchanan, and as a result Gatsby reinvents himself by becoming a financially successful man. Fitzgerald purposely has Gatsby state that Daisy’s “voice is full of money”(120), because it reveals that Gatsby has hope to woo and win back Daisy since he’s affluent; however the irony of the situation is that Gatsby can attain material wealth, but he can’t claim Daisy. Daisy has “an excitement in her voice that men who had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the net”(8). Here, Daisy herself is the American dream, since her voice causes excitement within men in the same manner in which the American Dream provokes excitement. Also, when Jordan elaborates that Daisy never desired to attain love “, yet there’s something in that voice of hers”(77), she demonstrates how elusive Daisy is and how deceiving her voice is, since when Jordan’s analyzing the situation, she suddenly is distracted by Daisy’s voice. This excitement and distraction, which is what Daisy provokes on Gatsby, is the naiveté caused by the illusion of attaining Daisy, and thus fulfilling the American Dream. Daisy is evidently personified as the American Dream throughout The Great Gatsby.
The issue of meritocracy is also prevalent in this novel. When Daisy confesses to Gatsby that she can’t say that she “never loved Tom”(133), it unveils how meritocracy isn’t existent at all in this novel. Gatsby plans for such a long period of time by buying a house in West Egg, arranging their nostalgic meeting, and reinventing himself from James Gatz into the idea of Jay Gatsby, which is a concept he is “faithful until the end”(98), but Gatsby nonetheless subjects to failure in his attempt to claim Daisy once again. It is economically impossible for all of us to achieve the American Dream, which is what Fitzgerald, is saying when Daisy chooses Tom over Gatsby. Tom and Gatsby can’t both have Daisy; only one of them can claim Daisy and truly achieve the American Dream.
Thirdly, Myrtle’s death symbolizes how the upper class hinders the rising middle class from achieving the American dream. Myrtle Wilson is one of Tom Buchanan’s mistresses, a non-elitist woman aspiring to become more than simply Tom’s mistress (absolute phrase). She desires to become Tom’s lover. When Daisy runs “this woman (Myrtle)” over with Gatsby’s car because Myrtle “rushed out at us just as [Daisy was] passing a car coming the other way” (143). This incident symbolizes how the upper class persistently destroys the dreams and hopes of the aspiring middle class to take their place in the elite class. When Daisy runs over Myrtle, Daisy’s first matter of concern is herself and whether she will be able to avoid the consequences, and not whether Myrtle is okay. Myrtle clearly desired Tom; however, she couldn’t have him because Tom is with Daisy. She’ll always be Tom’s mistress, and never anything more because of Daisy’s recklessness. After this incident, George Wilson goes out to kill Gatsby, as his pool is tainted with a “red circle”(162), and he is successful in his mission; however he dies in the process. When Daisy runs over Myrtle, she caused the deaths of Myrtle, Gatsby, and George, which universally resemble the manner in which the upper class’s recklessness leads to the inevitable death of the aspirations of the middle class.
Not only does Daisy symbolize the American Dream, but the green light also reflects the illusion of the American Dream. When Gatsby mentions to Daisy that “[she] always [has] a green light that burns all night at the end of her dock”(92), he unveils his naiveté and false hope in claiming Daisy. He accepts this tacit idea and assumes that he has fulfilled the American Dream, when “the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever,” and thus “his count of enchanted objects had diminished by one”(93). However, in chapter seven, Gatsby is defeated in his goal to claim Daisy, proving he was foolish to accept and not question the tacit agreement in chapter five that he has finally won Daisy back. The manner in which the green light in presented in this novel resembles the evident tacit lie of the American Dream.
Lastly, the false hope of the American Dream is reflected through the manner in which Gatsby is rejected from the elite class. He reinvents himself into Jay Gatsby and consistently hosts parties in order to be accepted into the elite class. However, “people were not invited—they went there”(41), yet they still gossiped about how “he killed a man” and that “he was a German Spy during the war”(44). Gatsby persistently attempts to gain acceptance into the elite class; however, the elitists simply use him for their own fun during the parties and gossip about him for their own amusement, reflecting on how they’re not allowing Gatsby to join their social class (participial phrase).
The American Dream is a persistently celebrated aspect of American society; however Fitzgerald draws from his own life experiences in order to convey that this promise is false. The personification of Daisy as the American Dream; the issue of meritocracy; Myrtle’s death; the image of the green light; and the manner in which Gatsby is denied entry into the elite class, all evidently reflect the significance of the invalidity of the tacit promise of the American Dream. This issue is so surreal and grave not only because the American Dream is false, but mainly because this ideal has been passed down from generation to generation of Americans. This issue is rearing its ugly head with the 99% protests and recent statistics, which prove that our economic environment is very sticky. In other words, the upper class stays in the upper class, and the lower class stays in the lower class, which clearly presented in The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald’s conclusion about the American social classes is unsettling, yet evidently accurate, because of the current social unrest and inflexibility that has been occurring recently in this so called promised land.
The Role of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby
The American dream: the idea that with enough hard work anyone can reach his or her goal, specifically a goal pertaining to money. In the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jay Gatsby and the lesser character Myrtle Wilson both try to reach their goal, their American dream; however, their fate reflects an important statement on the true nature of such a dream. The characters Tom and Daisy have not had to reach this dream because they have always been in possession of it, and thus present a stark contrast to ideals of Gatsby and Myrtle's dream. In the final passage of the novel, the nature of the dream is further defined and extended. Fitzgerald uses his novel to show a pessimistic and futile view of the American dream, yet suggests that striving for it is an essential part of the American experience.
Jay Gatsby is a character who, both figuratively and literally (as the imagined self of James Gatz), is presented for the sole purpose of achieving a dream: Daisy, “the green light.” Daisy herself is a somewhat shallow character, but it is what she represents that is important. Her voice “full of money” (120), she represents wealth, specifically acceptance into the old wealth of East Egg, and as Gatsby's dream, she is the American dream. Gatsby is consumed by this dream and spends the novel trying to win Daisy's heart, spending little effort on anything else. Gatsby's efforts represent the journey for the American dream, and therefore the American experience. However, the final fate of Gatsby shows Fitzgerald's thoughts on the subject. At the end of his life, Daisy has returned to Tom, and Gatsby is murdered. Gatsby's death shows the futility of such a search, and Nick's early comments that Gatsby “represented everything for which [he] has unaffected scorn” (2) further reflect on Fitzgerald's thoughts on the matter. It is obvious that Fitzgerald has a pessimistic view of such a consuming dream.
Myrtle Wilson, like Gatsby, also has an American dream, one that involves going through Tom in order to acquire wealth. Like Daisy, Daisy's husband Tom also represents the old wealth of East Egg. Although we do not see Tom as representation of the American dream like Daisy is, to Myrtle he is the means of reaching her dream: advancing her position from the working classes to the wealthy. Myrtle lives in a poor part of New York, the valley of ashes, and is married to a blue collar auto-mechanic. She is further away from her dream than she realizes; Tom, although plentiful with his gifts to Myrtle, has no intention of marrying her. Myrtle does not seem to know this, as Catherine McKee tells Nick that “it's really his wife that's keeping them apart. She's a Catholic, and they don't believe in divorce” (33), a lie that we can infer Tom is feeding Myrtle. Myrtle is very materialistic, and uses her husband borrowing a suit as an example as to why her marriage was a mistake. Her materialism and characterization makes her an unsympathetic character; as Charles Samuels points out in The Greatness of “Gatsby”, “her “panting vitality” is wholly physical, merely pathetic” (The Massachusetts Review, Vol. 7, No. 4 787). Like Gatsby, Myrtle is killed instead of realizing her dream. The pattern of two characters, hoping to reach their dream yet dying before this could happen (if ever it could), shows that Fitzgerald thinks that the American dream is a futile and perhaps dangerous illusion.
It is important to note that the deaths are not a coincidence, but are a direct or indirect outcome of the striving for the American dream. Gatsby is protecting Daisy when he takes the blame for the car crash (not that he admits to it, but lets Tom infer it). In fact, after the crash “he [speaks] as if Daisy's reaction was the only thing that mattered” (143), suggesting that Gatsby is very reckless in pursuit of Daisy. Gatsby does this in order to reach his dream, however little hope there is left. It is because of this action that he is murdered by Wilson. In this way, Gatsby's attempts for his dream directly cause his death. In Myrtle's case, there is no direct action that leads to her death. However, it is the combination of Daisy's frantic state and Myrtle's searching for Tom, two things caused by a journey to the American dream, that causes her to be run over. In this way, the dream indirectly causes Myrtle to be killed.
Although Tom and Daisy are on some degree representative of the American dream, they are also in another way a direct antithesis to acquiring the American dream. They are of the old wealth, and although the goal of Gatsby is to be accepted into their class, it is doubtful that anyone can truly be accepted into the old wealth. Tom and Daisy were born into it, and therefore did not have to work to become a part of it. In fact, they look down on Gatsby's class and the new wealth of the West Egg. At Gatsby's party, Daisy is “appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented “place” that Broadway had begotten upon a Long Island fishing village” (107), and in the end, Daisy does not accept Gatsby. The fact that this representation of the dream is opposed to the advancement of others shows Fitzgerald's pessimistic view and the futility of reaching the American dream.
Tom and Daisy's antagonistic nature goes further than their hindering of Gatsby's journey to reach his goal. Juxtaposed to Gatsby, Tom and Daisy are truly lazy, frivolous people who, because of their lack of effort to reach their current position, take everything for granted. Nick says that “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” (179). In this case, Myrtle is the smashed up thing, and Gatsby is the one who cleans up the mess, by taking the blame. Tom and Daisy are living what others consider a dream (but of course, they take it for granted), and they end up destroying those who wish to become like them and retreating into their carelessness. Moreover, their entire existence shows the unfair nature of American capitalism: one can work and never become rich, while others who are rich will never have to work. Using Tom and Daisy, Fitzgerald shows how the rich views the American dream in a disdainful, ungrateful, and careless manner and because of this, as shown in the previous paragraph, prevents those who seek the dream from reaching it.
In the ending passage of the novel, Fitzgerald further proclaims the futility of the American dream, saying that Gatsby “did not know that [his dream] was already behind him” (180). However, he also expresses that striving for it is part of our nature, and something that we will always do, when he says “it eluded us then, but that's no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther....” (180). By making use of the word “us” and “we”, Fitzgerald is able to make this story relatable to the audience; this is no longer just a story of Gatsby and Myrtle, but it is a story that we all are going through, that we all can connect to. There is something positive about his message here: that no matter how many times we try and fail, we will keep trying to reach our dream. Fitzgerald's tone here uplifts this impossible dream into a place of honor, where the journey is more important than the dream itself. In these final lines, Fitzgerald states that, regardless as to whether it is possible or not, the journey to acquire the American dream is a fundamental part of the American experience.
Through the stories of Gatsby and Myrtle's failure to achieve their dream, Fitzgerald portrays the American dream in a pessimistic way, as one that cannot be achieved. He emphasizes this by presenting the characters of Tom and Daisy, who represent the buffer that stop Gatsby and Myrtle from achieving their dreams. However, the final passage of the novel shows that Fitzgerald thinks of the American dream as more than just a futile dream, whose realization is not possible. Fitzgerald presents the American dream as a need, and one that we will continue to reach for no matter how impossible it seems. It is this act that Fitzgerald believes truly defines our nature: not the impossible dream, but the fact that we will always continue to strive for it.
THE GREAT GASTBY:
EXAMINING THE LIFE OF FRANCIS SCOTT FITZGERALD
Some of the most upstanding members of society possess unseen characteristics that define them for who they truly are, secrets that they masquerade behind a façade of decorum and extravagance. The casual observer may never know the man behind the mask, but a learned historian can reveal to the world the secrets that some would rather sweep under the rug. One of America’s most celebrated novelists of all time, Francis Scott Fitzgerald has always been viewed as a talented, brilliant author. Although outside accounts sometimes skim over the less tasteful aspects of his life, Fitzgerald cannot help but betray his true nature to the reader, if only unwittingly. Perhaps his most acclaimed opus, The Great Gatsby, is actually more autobiographical than fictional. Close reading of the story, when compared to careful research of Fitzgerald’s life, reveals uncanny parallels. By analyzing the 20th century letters of Ernest Hemingway on Fitzgerald (the two had a famous falling out at the peak of the latter’s career), it is quite possible to establish an accurate portrait of Fitzgerald’s life. Then, one can use The Great Gatsby as a lens through which to examine Fitzgerald, exposing his disposition to the reader. Fitzgerald exposes his own personal character traits to the reader by unconsciously inserting himself into the story, manifesting himself in the Daisy/Gatsby romance, the extravagant lifestyle the protagonists practice, and the flaws that he writes into his characters.
The Fitzgerald-Hemingway connection is unique and essential for understanding Fitzgerald. The two met in Paris in 1925, and the thriving Fitzgerald gave the young Hemingway a helping hand in jump-starting his career, putting him in touch with his publisher. Acquainted with Fitzgerald until his death, Hemingway is able to provide a full picture of the growth and decline Fitzgerald experienced. The two exchanged hundreds of letters over the 1920-1930 timeframe. His pen as the scribe, Hemingway can recount Fitzgerald’s violent turn in the 1930s, along with his unconcealed proclivity for alcohol and lavishness.
Both Gatsby and Fitzgerald fell in love with Southern women, and their respective relationships are strikingly similar. Fitzgerald found his wife, Zelda, at first sight in Montgomery, Alabama, at the tender age of eighteen years old. Although he was deeply infatuated with her, it was unclear if she returned the feelings: she played hard-to-get, continuing to see other men even while Fitzgerald professed his love. In The Great Gatsby, the reader learns that Gatsby too discovered the love of his life at a young age in another southern city, Louisville, Kentucky. Daisy, his heartthrob, was also a mere eighteen years old just like Zelda. Also like Zelda, Daisy was “by far the most popular of all the young girls” (72, Fitzgerald). Gatsby has difficulty securing her attention as Fitzgerald had with Zelda; he knows that “he was in Daisy’s house by a colossal accident. However glorious might be his future as Jay Gatsby, he was at present a penniless young man without a past…” (149, Fitzgerald). Gatsby knows that he does not have the means to successfully woo her, and must find a way to make a name for himself so he can provide for her. This screams of similarity to Fitzgerald’s quandary with Zelda. He too knows he cannot hope to compete with the multitude of other men looking to take Zelda for their own, and realizes that he must better himself somehow first. Fitzgerald does this with the publication of his debut novel This Side of Paradise, which generated enough attention and money that Zelda would deign to resume the engagement. Gatsby conducts similar undertakings: he leaves to serve in the army during WWI, attends Oxford, and builds a fortune from bootlegging. He hopes that this will be sufficient to attract the full attention of Daisy, and he returns to live near her in the anticipation of winning her love. Nevertheless, the parallel is impossible to overlook. Fitzgerald plays the role of Gatsby, and inserts Zelda as Daisy, cribbing strongly from his own experience of courtship. This is, then, more autobiographical than truly fictional.
Despite both Fitzgerald and Gatsby overcoming initial problems with their relationships, they are both confident that when they secure them, they will be set. That is not the case. As it turned out, Fitzgerald’s Zelda was a dominating and uncultured woman, the bane of Fitzgerald’s life. Hemingway describes her negative influence on Fitzgerald: “Almost every bloody fool thing I have ever seen or known [Fitzgerald] to do has been directly or indirectly Zelda inspired” (101, Brucolli). Zelda was often jealous of Fitzgerald’s critical acclaim, and sought to make an artistic name of her own as a ballerina. But the strain proved too much: in 1930, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and admitted into a sanatorium, where she would spend the rest of her life. Fitzgerald’s dreams of a loving wife, crushed. Crushed much in the same way that Gatsby’s dreams of his bride-to-be Daisy were shattered. Gatsby painstakingly planned out his proposal to Daisy, but when she declares “I did love [Tom] once – but I loved you too,” he is shot, realizing that his love is not the woman he thought her to be (133, Fitzgerald). Tom’s philandering behavior exposes Fitzgerald’s desire to leave Zelda, but social expectations prevented him from doing that in real life. Instead, he pours his own troubles with Zelda right into Gatsby, playing out the same scenario with Gatsby and Daisy. Because Fitzgerald could not find love with Zelda, neither could Gatsby with Daisy. Fitzgerald’s personal experiences are prominent in the scene.
Fitzgerald also reveals his enjoyment of lifestyle of the highest extravagance, again manifesting his own inclinations right into Gatsby. Both Fitzgerald and Gatsby idolized the very rich, seeking to join their ranks. At the same time, neither had to work very hard to achieve their goal. Gatsby, after dropping out of college, receives assistance from his benefactor Dan Cody, who funds Gatsby before Gatsby enters the business world himself. Fitzgerald, too, also failed out of Princeton University, but his wealthy family and father’s business allowed him to sustain himself before he published his first novel. Both men dropped out of school to eventually join the army, but it is clear their goal was always to join the rich.
The lifestyle that both Fitzgerald and Gatsby lead is the epitome of lavishness. Fitzgerald does not know another way to write a book – he has no experience with poor farm boys, for example – so he falls back on what he is experienced with, using that experience to enhance the novel. Fitzgerald and Zelda were well known in New York City for the grand parties they would hold. Drinking and merriment all night long. Gatsby, of course, was also distinguished among wealthy New Yorkers for the fortnightly galas at his house. Partygoers “conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with an amusement park” (41, Fitzgerald). This display of wealth and materialism extends beyond just this physical expression. Both Zelda and Daisy wanted riches and the security of wealth; they were both easily wooed by materialism, and in reality, only after the men displayed their wealth did they consider intimate involvement. Daisy actually breaks down in sobs after Gatsby regales her with an entourage of his shirts, weeping, “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such-such beautiful shirts before” (92, Fitzgerald). This apparent mental weakness – that Daisy would be so moved by this act – both exposes Fitzgerald’s fascination with materialism and hints at the fact that Daisy might have been just as addled – schizophrenic, if you will – as Zelda. Fitzgerald celebrates materialism, and is able to comment on it so accurately, because it was such a key aspect of his own life. The connection here between Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby is impossible to miss: Gatsby is more autobiographical, not fictional.
The third way in which Fitzgerald inserts himself into the story is in the character flaws that he writes into subjects in Gatsby. Fitzgerald likes to think of himself as humble and objective, as he writes Nick, but just like Nick, he reveals himself to actually have multiple character flaws. Nick promises us on page one that he is “inclined to reserve all judgments,” but as the novel progresses, Nick loses his objectivity substantially (1, Fitzgerald). Fitzgerald, too, likes to paint a picture of himself as an upstanding gentleman, but as his life progresses, the historian can see that that is far from the truth. Fitzgerald has multiple character flaws that he tries to hide, but that are unwittingly revealed in The Great Gatsby.
Fitzgerald is, undeniably, quite racist – as are the themes in Gatsby. Fitzgerald is a strong proponent of white supremacy: in his novel Tender is the Night, his uses the term Aryan, betraying his beliefs. In 1922, Fitzgerald proclaimed, "I believe at last in the white man's burden. We are as far above the modern Frenchman as he is above the Negro" (148, Bruccoli). In Gatsby, Tom preaches heavily about The Rise of the Colored Empires, and that it is up to them, “the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things” (13, Fitzgerald). Fitzgerald lets this damning ideology into the book because he approves of it himself, and perhaps wants to expose the reader to it. Later into the book, he makes another mention, this time acting as Nick: “… a limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry” (69). Fitzgerald is also strongly anti-Semitic. Meyer Wolfsheim, the only Jew in Gatsby, is described as “small, flat-nosed” with a “large head… tiny eyes” (69). Perhaps even more stereotypically, Wolfsheim is a banker, apparently preoccupied with money. Ironically, Wolfsheim works for the Swastika Holding Company. In another one of his novels, The Beautiful and the Damned, Fitzgerald again portrays Jews in a negative light, using the dialogue “Not so fas’, you Goddam Jew” [sic] (437, Fitzgerald). According to Milton Hindus, “Fitzgerald does not allow a single redeeming characteristic to his Jewish gambler, not even so much redemption as Shakespeare allows to Shylock in his dominantly villainous portrait.” It is understandable if an author occasionally creates a character with alarming principles or views – that is the point of fiction, to create fictional characters. But when something like this is obviously so prevalent, the reader cannot help but assume that Fitzgerald really is racist. And Fitzgerald employs that racism is his books, again indicating autobiography rather than fiction.
Another way in which Fitzgerald extends himself into Gatsby via character flaws is in the supreme alcoholism that the characters practice. Fitzgerald was a heavy drinker himself, stating, “My latest tendency is the collapse about 11:00 and with the tears flowing from my eyes or the gin rising to their level and leaking over” (133, Bruccoli). Hemingway, too, says, “Scott is completely irresponsible when drunk” (146, Bruccoli). The fact that Prohibition was in effect at the time does not seem to have stymied neither Fitzgerald’s nor Gatsby’s affinity for alcohol. Alcohol consumption in Gatsby is tied to things going wrong: after drinking, Tom breaks Myrtle’s nose; immediately after a waiter brings in a mint julep, Gatsby loses Daisy in his argument with Tom in the hotel suite. Alcohol caused the downfall of Fitzgerald as well. Fitzgerald became notorious for his alcoholism and, addicted to it, was never able to hold a job or successfully publish anything after 1930. Even though Fitzgerald could not have known it at the time, he foreshadowed his own problems with his insertion of alcohol into Gatsby.
Fitzgerald exposes his personal character traits to the reader by unconsciously adding them into story, manifesting himself in the Daisy/Gatsby romance, the extravagant lifestyle the protagonists practice, and the flaws that he writes into his characters. Both Zelda and Daisy were Southern women whom Fitzgerald and Gatsby respectively tried to woo, having to do something to earn their attention, and ultimately ending their relationship unhappily. Fitzgerald loved throwing parties just as much as Gatsby did, and the two, along with Zelda and Daisy, share materialistic ideals. Finally, flaws like racism and alcoholism that Fitzgerald tried to deny in himself prevail in Gatsby, if only unwittingly. An educated reader is able to glean much information about Fitzgerald by examining his works like The Great Gatsby. Although historical accounts sometimes skip over important details of his life, it is now possible, by careful analysis, to piece together a picture of who Fitzgerald really was.
Bruccoli, Matthew. Fitzgerald and Hemingway: A Dangerous Friendship. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994. Print.
The Great Gatsby is a famous classic American novel written by Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald in the year 1925. Scott Fitzgerald is an American short-story writer and novelist, whose first career breakthrough was the novel This Side of Paradise made him one of the most promising young writers almost overnight (Biography.com).
The Great Gatsby’s story is told from the point of view of Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner who moves to a little house in West Egg, Long Island, across the river from Daisy and right next to Jay Gatsby’s enormous palace (Fitzgerald, 12). Nick tells the story happened around 1922 following the first World War. He came to the big city to find out about the bond business, but discovered the most exciting story and the lesson of his life.
However, the story’s main character is not Nick Carraway, it is his mysterious neighbor and, possibly, friend – Jay Gatsby – whose personality and history remains a secret for other characters and even readers. Even though he is a public person – no one knows a thing about who he is, except for Nick. People around knows only rumors they heard like the fact that Jay killed a man, studied in Oxford, was a soldier in the 1st World War, he is the devil’s cousin and others.
The reason of Gatsby’s actions and his all life for the past five years is simple – he wants to be reunited with the love of his life, married woman Daisy Buchanan. She cannot even imagine that Gatsby did all the crazy things to attract her attention. All the amazing posh parties with numerous entertainments at his wonderful mansion were arranged only for Daisy to look at Jay. Gatsby kept an enormous house that was extremely well maintained by dozens of servants. “It looked like the World’s fair was here I saw the light miles away.” (Fitzgerald, 87).
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Besides the love story, Scott Fitzgerald highlighted some social issues in his novel. Firstly, the reader gets to know how money influences people and puts the consumer’s values above morality. Moreover, the author is pointing out the conflict between different types of wealth, new money versus old money, as well as the hollowness of the upper level of class. In a certain way, Fitzgerald not only critics the higher class of society for being obsessed with money, but also the lower class for forgetting the true American Dream values. Instead of pursuing the idea of being happy, most of the characters are more interested in money and authority (Lehan 10).
While reading the book you will definitely notice the beautiful way the Great Gatsby’s world is illustrated. Using the best possible lyricism author creates the pitch-perfect impression that the Jazz Age happens in the readers’ mind.
The Great Gatsby is a great book to learn from. It shows the power of love, wealth, power, options in our lives and how our decisions influence us and the world around. The result of Gatsby’s decision was his death. The most tragic part of the novel is the fact that Daisy did not show up to his funeral (Fitzgerald, 167). Moreover, is spite of the numerous guests at his parties, there were few mourners at Gatsby’s funeral. It turns out that, except for friends and few more people, no one is interested at Jay Gatsby when there are no benefits from being around him. However, maybe it was Gatsby’s fault, as he kept only few friends in his life. He thought his reputation and authority would be more perfected if no one around really knew him.
Biography.com. (2016). F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography. [online] Available at: http://www.biography.com/people/f-scott-fitzgerald-9296261 [Accessed 23 Jul. 2016].
Lehan, Richard D. The Great Gatsby: The Limits of Wonder. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2013. Print.