The Late Great Gatsby

Sorry. It’s Thursday. I know.

But Wednesdays have gotten really busy for me and I didn’t have time to post yesterday.

The Great Gatsby posts are going to continue, so bear with me. I’ll be done soon, promise.

Lastly, there are a few themes I’d like to explore: the distortion of the American dream, reliving the past, and escaping from the place you’re from.

I’ll start with a question. What is the American dream? Simply put, it’s no matter what your background is, you can make a better life for yourself. Wherever you came from, you can be successful. In the Great Gatsby that dream is distorted by the society they live in: the Jazz Age of New York. The dream was no longer to be successful despite your background, but to be fantastically rich and live a life of parties and debauchery. I feel like this distortion took the happiness out of the final result, which is something Fitzgerald showcases well in the novel. All these people are living the so-called ‘American dream’ and they are all screwed up and miserable. Nick’s haunting description of West Egg after he returns home strikes a chord in me.

“In the foreground four solemn men in dress suits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress. Her hand, which dangles over the side, sparkles cold with jewels. Gravely the men turn in at a house – the wrong house. But no one knows the woman’s name, and no one cares.”

This is the American dream? Shallow, uncaring wealth? I feel like this says something about society – even today, the things society tries to force down our throats won’t make us happy. Why is it that the people we most idolize (i.e. celebrities) are the most unhappy? I’ll let you answer that one.

I think Nick’s realization makes him chuck the American dream – or at least part of it – out the window. He talks about how he’d thought this was a story about the East, about New York and what happened there, but really it’s a story about the West. Gatsby, Nick, Daisy, Tom, Jordan – all of them were Westerners and “possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly inadaptable to Eastern life.”

Nick (and behind Nick, Fitzgerald) is trying to say that you can’t change where you come from. No mater how you chase that American dream, no matter what sort of different life you craft for yourself, you can’t erase that part of you. Your home shapes you, and no matter what sort of façade you craft, no matter how much you forget yourself – rather like Nick did – your past and your former life is always going to catch up to you and affect you in some way.

I have a feeling that Gatsby realized this, too – in the end. He was chasing this American dream, but not for the wealth or the success. Daisy was his American dream – he changed himself, made a new life, thought that she would complete the process – erase his past. This is what Nick saw that Gatsby didn’t.

Gatsby wanted Daisy to tell Tom she’d never loved him and essentially erase those three years with him. Nick remarks, “You can’t repeat the past,” to which Gatsby replies, “Why, of course you can!”

No, Gatsby – you can’t. That’s the whole point.

“I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before,” Gatsby says. He tells Daisy, “Just tell him the truth – that you never loved him – and it’s all wiped out forever.”

Gatsby thinks he can just erase unsavory bits of life. He doesn’t just ant Daisy, he wants her as he almost had her originally. He wants to delete those years without her, those years she spent loving someone else. He doesn’t really realize that it doesn’t work like that – watching it dawn on him is almost painful. His green light slowly winks out of existence.

I’m tired and my fingers hurt from practicing my cello so much. I’m going to go watch Once Upon a Time and eat ice cream or whatever it is I do with my life.



2 comments on “The Late Great Gatsby

  1. Kira says:

    Well that’s depressing.

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