The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is one of Scott F. Fitzgerald’s best works published in 1925. Although it did not sell well during the first year of its release, the novel became famous after World War II when, upon his death. The novel highlights the disparity of the society based on the effects of the Second World War. In the book, one of the main characters, the Buchanans stay on East egg, a side that particularly belongs to the rich and socialite. However, Nick and Gatsby lives on the other side, the West Egg. The Buchanans are socialites but they lead meaningless lives. Furthermore, the idea of the American Dream motivates Gatsby to attempt at fitting in with the socialites. However, Nick acts as a contrast of Gatsby since he does not relate with the past criminal activities that Gatsby engaged in for purposes of living up to the American Dream.
The themes explored in the novel represent the Jazz age that was regarded as cautionary account concerning the American Dream. In exploring the themes and his character Gatsby, Fitzgerald does not introduce him until the third chapter. This highlights the mysteriousness of his wealth where the reader only learns about him from other characters in the first two chapters. It was an era of unprecedented prosperity economically, an age when jazz music evolved, a time of flapper culture where women wore short skirts and listened to the new music, and an age filled with criminal activities such as bootlegging and car crimes. The author uses the social context of the era to explain his character and depict the acquisition of his wealth.
Gatsby is the main character in the book ‘The Great Gatsby’ and he makes his first appearance in chapter three. At the beginning of this chapter, the reader understands that Gatsby is famous in New York mainly because of the lavish parties he throws at his mansion every weekend. The author supports this by stating,
“On week-ends his Rolls Royce became ominous, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long-past midnight while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains…” (Fitzgerald 39).
This quote illustrates the lavishness of Gatsby’s parties. The inclusion of Rolls Royce indicates Gatsby’s wealth since the model gained association to the wealthy socialites. One day, his chauffeur hands Nick Carraway an invitation letter to one of the parties. At the day of the party, Nick attends but feels somewhat out of place in the midst of the jubilant strangers. Guests to the party seemingly do not know how their host amassed his wealth. They only exchange rumors amongst themselves.
Luxury characterizes all Gatsby’s parties. Guests marvel at his swimming pool, vehicles, and his beach. Gatsby’s parties represent the glamour and wealth of the 1920s. They reveal the upper class and its lavish opulence. The author intentionally delayed the introduction up to this chapter. The reader only hears characters talking about him in the previous two chapters. Primarily, this chapter focuses on the introduction of Gatsby, his character, and his lifestyle. Despite this introduction, this chapter continues the mystery and enigma surrounding Gatsby. When Nick gets direct contact with Gatsby for the first time, he awes at the marvel and mystery that Gatsby exudes. Nick acknowledges, “He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it that you may come across four or five times in life” (Fitzgerald 48). Despite displaying his lavish expenditures to the public, Gatsby still raises curiosity about his true nature in this chapter.
In the fourth chapter, Nick seems to be making a list of all the guests who attended Gatsby’s parties in the summer. This is a response to a roll call of the wealthy and powerful people in the nation. He then reminisces about his trip to New York with Gatsby. Along the way, Gatsby opens up about his accomplishments, which to Nick seem incredulous and unimportant. Thus, Nick states,
“With an effort I managed to restrain my incredulous laughter. The precise phrases were worn so threadbare that they evoked no image except that of a turbaned ‘character’ leaking sawdust at every pore as he pursued a tiger through the Bois de Boulogne” (Fitzgerald 64).
At this point, Nick seemed to scoff at Gatsby’s statements. To Nick, Gatsby seemed like he was trying too much to show how wealthy and sophisticated he seems only to end up embarrassing himself.
Upon reaching New York, Gatsby takes Nick out for lunch. After the lunch, Nick meets with another character in the book, Jordan Baker. Baker informs Nick of her conversation with Gatsby in one of the parties. Baker asserted that Gatsby lied especially regarding his past life to Nick.
“He looked at me sideways-and I knew why Jordan Baker had believed he was lying. He hurried the phrase ‘educated at Oxford’, swallowed it, or choked on it, as though it had bothered him before. And with this doubt, his whole statement fell to pieces, and I wondered if there wasn’t something a little sinister about him, after all” (Fitzgerald 64).
This quote indicates that Nick further believes that Baker misinterpreted the things Gatsby communicated to her.
The fifth chapter starts after Nick parted with Jordan in New York. As he walks home, he meets Gatsby. In this occasion, Gatsby persuades Nick to invite Daisy for a cup of tea. Nick manages to organize the meeting between Gatsby and Daisy. Thus, Nick states, “I talked with Miss Baker. I’m going to call up Daisy to-morrow and invite her over here to tea” (Fitzgerald 69). He depicts the efforts Gatsby attempts to make in dating the socialite by assisting him to arrange a date with Daisy. However, after Nick arranges the meeting, the scenario between Daisy and Gatsby turns out terribly awkward especially for Gatsby and he decided to ask Nick to leave them in private. Nick leaves and comes back a while later to find Gatsby and Daisy engrossed in a good mood. Gatsby seizes this moment to confess his longing love to Daisy
This chapter is pivotal for the novel as the reunion between the two past lovers hinges on the book’s plot. Prior to this event, their relationship story only exists in a prospect dream that Gatsby can only discern. After the revelation of the history between Gatsby and Daisy in the previous chapter, their meeting became inevitable. Gatsby’s character in this chapter is pure and most revealing. This is because his desire for Daisy is satisfied ever since he confessed his love for her. This is evident where Gatsby tells Daisy that, “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock” (Fitzgerald 78). This statement by Gatsby depicts the struggle to acquire Daisy, and the fact that he has her, makes the light insignificant. Additionally, his normal theatric quality fades away, replaced by a more genuine appearance perhaps because he is around Daisy after many years.
Rumors surrounding Gatsby in New York continue to spread in the sixth chapter. After learning the truth about Gatsby’s past, Nick narrates to the reader the apparent past about Gatsby. We get to learn that Gatsby is a college drop out after quitting his janitorial duties that sustained his college fees. He later landed a job at a lake port digging for clams and fishing. His expeditions on this port lead him to meeting Dan Cody with whom they become well acquainted. Cody is drunkard but well-established man. “And it was from Cody that he inherited money-a legacy of twenty-five thousand dollars” (Fitzgerald 83). The statement asserts that Cody played the role of mentoring Gatsby into becoming a wealthy and successful man.
Scenes unfold, and Tom becomes suspicious about Daisy’s regular visits to Gatsby’s house. Nevertheless, Tom agrees to Gatsby’s party invitation and tags Daisy along with him.
“She has a big dinner party and he won’t know a soul there. I wonder where in the devil he met Daisy. By God, I may be old-fashioned in my ideas, but women run around too much these days to suit me. They meet all kinds of crazy fish” (Fitzgerald 86).
Furthermore, even though Tom agrees to come for the party, the quote proves that he still dislikes the thought of his wife’s association with Gatsby.
We see Gatsby preoccupied with his desire to win over Daisy towards the start of the seventh chapter. As a result, he calls off the weekend parties. He also replaces all his workers with shady individuals to curb gossip. This is evident where Gatsby states, “I wanted somebody who wouldn’t gossip. Daisy comes over quite often-in the afternoons” (Fitzgerald 93). This chapter reveals the conflict between Gatsby and Tom as their confrontation over Daisy brings out troubling aspects of their characters. In the course of the previous chapters, suspicion has been accumulating regarding Gatsby and criminal activity. Investigations into the matter reveal Tom’s suspicions and use this knowledge to disgrace Gatsby in front of a multitude.
The relevance of time and the past come through the confrontation of Tom and Gatsby. Gatsby is obsessed with recovering a blissful past, and this compels him to order Daisy to renounce Tom. Similarly, Tom pleads with Daisy, sparks their love history, and reminds her of the situations they have gone through together. With this, Tom purges Gatsby of his vision to get Daisy back. The fact that Tom is confident enough to let Daisy travel with Gatsby back to East Egg demonstrates further Gatsby’s dream is eradicated.
Gatsby further recounts his initial advances to Daisy, and this gives Nick the chance to recollect Gatsby’s love for Daisy. This recollection reveals the various traits in Daisy that Gatsby finds attractive. Her privilege and wealth are the central components that fascinated Gatsby. Thus, the author states that, “…and Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes, and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor” (Fitzgerald 124). The reader now understands that the two are intertwined in Gatsby’s mind. Even though the reader sees through this, Gatsby does not. For him, he cannot comprehend losing Daisy. For a long time, he dwelled in the thought of re-creating his past with her. Now, he can only keep this thought alive by talking to Nick about it.
Through this chapter, the plot established a relationship with emotional atmosphere and weather of the story. In this chapter, we understand that Gatsby considers Daisy’s world a world full of naivety and fantasy. Thus, Gatsby illustrates Daisy’s life as a life full of too much happiness.. Gatsby states that, “For Daisy was young and her 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” (Fitzgerald 125). This is because to him, Daisy’s world is an artificial world and, therefore, mocks her wittily that her world is too surreal and bubbly to imagine
In exploring the contrasting themes presented in the novel, Fitzgerald uses the Nick character to describe America two years after Gatsby’s demise in the ninth chapter. To Nick, America is a geographical entity that embodies contrasting values. This chapter reveals that the Midwest seams pedestrian and dreary in comparison to the excitement in the East. In contrast, however, the East is lacking in moral standards.
“I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all-Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan, and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly inadaptable to Eastern life” (Fitzgerald 135).
This statement shows that Daisy and Tom, similar to other upper class members betrayed the democratic ideals of America by exhibiting a rigid class structure.
A person’s way of life, dreams and means of becoming wealthy undergo exploration in this theme through the Gatsby character as well as social upheavals. Among Nick’s thoughts, Gatsby alone showed the nobility and audacity of creating a promising future for himself. Even though he can better his life, he fails for a number of reasons. Even though he was a wealthy successful man, the attainment of such riches was through criminal means. Hence, he cannot attain any acceptance from American aristocracy. Gatsby’s failures reveal the aspirations and dreams of Americans. The problem with American dream has a close relationship with the problem of dealing with the past. Thus, Nick states, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (Fitzgerald 167). This depicts the problems concerning Gatsby and the American Dream. In his effort to attain it in the current, his past life only made his efforts to live by the Dream bleak and unobtainable.
Fitzgerald, Francis S. The Great Gatsby. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.
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