2. The Great Gatsby (chapter 3, p267 on your textbook) The Great Gatsby's Theme Theme Analysis  The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic twentieth-century story of Jay Gatsby's quest for Daisy Buchanan, examines and critiques Gatsby's particular vision of the 1920's American Dream. Written in 1925, the novel serves as a bridge between World War I and the Great Depression of the early 1930's. Although Fitzgerald was an avid participant in the stereotypical "Roaring Twenties" lifestyle of wild partying and bootleg liquor, he was also an astute critic of his time period. The Great Gatsby certainly serves more to detail society's failure to fulfill its potential than it does to glamorize Fitzgerald's "Jazz Age." Fitzgerald's social insight in The Great Gatsby focuses on a select group: priviliged young people between the ages of 20 and 30. In doing so, Fitzgerald provides a vision of the "youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves" (157). Throughout the novel Nick finds himself surrounded by lavish mansions, fancy cars, and an endless supply of material possessions. A drawback to the seemingly limitless excess Nick sees in the Buchanans, for instance, is a throwaway mentality extending past material goods. Nick explains, "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy -- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made" (188). Part of the mess left in the Buchanan's wake at the end of the novel includes the literal and figurative death of the title character, Jay Gatsby. Certainly, his undeserved murder at the hands of a despondent George Wilson evokes sympathy; the true tragedy, however, lies in the destruction of an ultimate American idealist. The idealism evident in Gatsby's constant aspirations helps define what Fitzgerald saw as the basis for the American Character. Gatsby is a firm believer in the American Dream of self-made success: he has, after all, not only invented and self-promoted a whole new persona for himself, but has succeeded both financially and societally. In spite of his success, Gatsby's primary ideological shortcoming becomes evident as he makes Daisy Buchanan the sole focus of his belief in "the orgastic future" (189). His previously varied aspirations (evidenced, for example, by the book Gatsby's father shows Nick detailing his son's resolutions to improve himself) are sacrificed for Gatsby's single-minded obsession with Daisy's green light at the end of her dock. Even Gatsby realized the first time he kissed Daisy that once he "forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God" (117). For the first time in his wildly successful career, however, Gatsby aspires to obtain that which is unattainable, at least to the degree which he desires. As the novel unfolds, Gatsby seems to realize that his idea and pursuit of Daisy is more rewarding than the actual attainment of her. Gatsby recognizes that -- as he did with his own persona -- he has created an ideal for Daisy to live up to. Although Gatsby remains fully committed to his aspirations up until his death, he struggles with the reality of when those aspirations for his American Dream are either achieved or, in Gatsby's case, proven inaccessible. As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in 1924, while working on The Great Gatsby, "That's the whole burden of this novel -- the loss of those illusions that give such color to the world so that you don't care whether things are true or false as long as they partake of the magical glory" (xv).   On one level the novel comments on the careless gaiety and moral decadence of the period. It contains innumerable references to the contemporary scene. The wild extravagance of Gatsby's parties, the shallowness and aimlessness of the guests and the hint of Gatsby's involvement in crime all identify the period and the American setting. But as a piece of social commentary The Great Gatsby also describes the failure of the American dream, from the point of view that American political ideals conflict with the actual social conditions that exist. For whereas American democracy is based on the idea of equality among people, the truth is that social discrimination still exists and the divisions among the classes cannot be overcome. Myrtle's attempt to break into the group to which the Buchanans belong is doomed to fail. Taking advantage of her vivacity, her lively nature, she seeks to escape from her own class. She enters into an affair with Tom and takes on his way of living. But she only becomes vulgar and corrupt like the rich. She scorns people from her own class and loses all sense of morality. And for all her social ambition, Myrtle never succeeds in her attempt to find a place for herself in Tom's class. When it comes to a crisis, the rich stand together against all outsiders. Myrtle's condition, of course, is a weaker reflection of Gatsby's more significant struggle. While Myrtle's desire springs from social ambition, Gatsby's is related more to his idealism, his faith in life's possibilities. Undoubtedly, his desire is also influenced by social considerations; Daisy, who is wealthy and beautiful, represents a way of life which is remote from Gatsby's and therefore more attractive because it is out of reach. However, social consciousness is not a basic cause. It merely directs and increases Gatsby's belief in life's possibilities. Like Myrtle, Gatsby struggles to fit himself into another social group, but his attempt is more urgent because his whole faith in life is involved in it. Failure, therefore, is more terrible for him. His whole career, his confidence in himself and in life is totally shattered when he fails to win Daisy. His death when it comes is almost insignificant, for, with the collapse of his dream, Gatsby is already spiritually dead. As social satire, The Great Gatsby is also a comment on moral decadence in modem American society. The concern here is with the corruption of values and the decline of spiritual life - a condition which is ultimately related to the American Dream. For the novel recalls the early idealism of the first settlers. Fitzgerald himself relates Gatsby's dream to that of the early Americans for, at the end of the novel, Nick recalls the former Dutch sailors and compares their sense of wonder with Gatsby's hope. The book also seems to investigate how Americans lost their spiritual purpose as material success wiped out spiritual goals. The lives of the Buchanans, therefore, filled with material comforts and luxuries, and empty of purpose, represents this condition. Daisy's lament is especially indicative of this: 'What'll we do with ourselves this afternoon?' cried Daisy, 'and the day after that, and the next thirty years?' Fitzgerald stresses the need for hope and dreams to give meaning and purpose to man's efforts. Striving towards some ideal is the way by which man can feel a sense of involvement, a sense of his own identity. Certainly, Gatsby, with 'his extraordinary gift of hope', set against the empty existence of Tom and Daisy, seems to achieve a heroic greatness. [...] Fitzgerald goes on to state that the failure of hopes and dreams, the failure of the American Dream itself, is unavoidable, not only because reality cannot keep up with ideals, but also because the ideals are in any case usually too fantastic to be realised. The heroic presentation of Gatsby, therefore, should not be taken at face value, for we cannot overlook the fact that Gatsby is naive, impractical and oversentimental. It is this which makes him attempt the impossible, to repeat the past. There is something pitiful and absurd about the way he refuses to grow up. Questions: Answer both questions 1 In how far is The Great Gatsby a 'piece of social commentary'? (100 - 150 words) 2 In what respect does the text compare the two characters GATSBY and MYRTLE? (100 - 150 words) 3.What kind of attitude do you think the author holds towards the partygoers? 4.What is the author’s attitude towards Gatsby? Comment Choose one of the two questions (150 - 300 words). 1 Give an account of DAISY as a novel character. How do you react to this character as a reader? 2 Which image of America do you acquire from The Great Gatsby? Does this image coincide with what you think about America at present? Bootlegger Someone who carries and sells liquor illegally. A term that became well known during the Prohibition period when the sale of alcoholic beverages was banned in the United States. The Dream The dream mentioned throughout the novel refers to Gatsby's optimistic goal of romantic fulfillment with Daisy. The Dream is intrinsically linked to wealth and the larger "American Dream" of achieving success through self-improvement. Although the term is significant throughout the novel, it is often presented ambiguously, in scenes of fantasy and imagination. The Eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg Eckleburg's "eyes" are first mentioned in Chapter II. They are "blue and gigantic" and peer out from behind enormous yellow spectacles. The image is painted on a worn advertising billboard in the valley of ashes, just across the road from George Wilson's gas station. George mistakes the advertisement for the eyes of God, and interprets his warped vision of it as a sign of moral judgment and vengeance. East Egg In reality, this is Manhasset Neck, Long Island, in New York. East Egg is where the "old money" families of the East reside. Their wealth is derived primarily from inheritance, and old, well-established businesses. West Egg In reality Great Neck, Long Island. West Egg is where the nouveau riche live: those individuals and families whose wealth has been earned recently. Most of these people started out poor or middle-class, and have become rich through their own struggles and entrepreneurial efforts. The Valley of Ashes This blighted area is based on a borough of Queens. It is a garbage dump, built over a swamp and inhabited by the working poor. Oxford College Gatsby claims to have attended this famous university, located in Oxford, England. Its student body was exclusive, and with some exceptions, reserved for males of the wealthy upper classes. Trimalchio A character from Petronius's Satyricon. Trimalchio is a freed Roman slave who attains great wealth, and lives ostentatiously, giving parties and receiving selfish guests, much like Gatsby. Hopalong Cassidy The Hopalong Cassidy book on which the young James Gatz writes his schedule and resolves refers to a western cowboy character created by Clarence E. Mulford. In later years, the character became a famous on film. The Underground Pipeline This refers to the myth, prevalent during Prohibition, that alcohol was being illegally piped from Canada to the United States. The War Gatsby goes to Europe to fight in "The Great War." This refers to World War I. Because of the war, Gatsby is decorated for his valor, and is able to attend Oxford, briefly. The War also separates Gatsby from Daisy long enough for her to give up on him and marry Tom Buchanan Top Ten Quotes  Nick, on Gatsby: "Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men" (6). 2) Daisy, on her newborn girl: "All right...I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool -- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool" (21). 3) Nick, on himself: "Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known" (64). 4) Nick, on Gatsby's idealization of Daisy: "There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams -- not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion" (101). 5) Gatsby, on Nick's assertion that he can't repeat the past: "Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can" (116). 6) Nick, on Tom Buchanan: "There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind..." (131). 7) Tom Buchanan, on Gatsby: "I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that's the idea you can count me out..." (137). 8) Nick, on Gatsby: "They're a rotten crowd....You're worth the whole damn bunch put together" (162). 9) Nick, on the Buchanans: "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy -- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made" (188). 10) Nick, on resilience: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past" (189).  Characterization  Nick Carraway: Nick provides the voice of the novel, documenting his companions exploits in the summer of 1922. Raised in a wealthy middle-western family, Nick graduates from New Haven, the college he attended with Tom Buchanan. After serving in World War I, Nick -- at age 29 -- moves east to learn the bond business, and becomes involved with the affairs comprising The Great Gatsby. Eventually, Nick acts as a liaison between Gatsby and Daisy, setting up the infamous first reunion at his house. Despite repeatedly insisting that he prides himself on his own honesty, Nick continually aligns himself with next-door-neighbor Gatsby -- whose entire existence is a fabrication -- remaining loyal to his friend throughout the second half of the novel. Jay Gatsby: The invented identity of James Gatz, born the son of poor middle-western farmers, Gatsby "sprang from his Platonic conception of himself" (104). Gatsby's beginnings occurred when the 17-year-old Gatz -- a clam digger and salmon fisher -- sees millionaire Dan Cody's yacht drop anchor on a dangerous stretch of Lake Superior. After rowing out to Cody on a borrowed row-boat and warning him that a coming wind might wreck his yacht, Cody employs Jay Gatsby in a "vague personal capacity" (106) for several years. Later, Gatsby says he worked in the drugstore and oil businesses, omitting the fact that he was involved in illegal bootlegging. Gatsby keeps his criminal activities mysterious throughout the novel, preferring to play the role of perpetually gracious host.Gatsby buys his West Egg mansion with the sole intention of being across the bay from Daisy Buchanan's green light at the end of her dock, a fantasy which becomes Gatsby's personal version of the American Dream. With an Oxford education as part of his invented persona, Gatsby ceaselessly uses his favorite phrase, "Old sport," throughout the novel. Tom Buchanan: An ex-football star from the same college Nick Carraway attended, Tom is described as "one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterwards savours of anti-climax" (10). Now thirty, Tom has become enormously wealthy, yet remains physically powerful with his "cruel body" and "arrogant eyes" (11). Tom has a string of affairs despite being married to Daisy, and is involved with Myrtle Wilson throughout Nick's summer-long friendship with the Buchanans. An aggressive, short-tempered man, Tom wreaks continual havoc by abusing -- physically or emotionally -- Daisy, Myrtle, George Wilson, and Gatsby throughout the novel. Daisy Buchanan: Daisy is Tom's 23-year-old wife, Nick's second cousin once removed, and Gatsby's version of the Holy Grail. For Daisy's romantic history involving Gatsby and Tom, please see Chapter 4. Nick comments repeatedly on Daisy's voice, first describing it as "the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again," (13) and later calling it "a deathless song" (101). Yet, her voice becomes silenced as Gatsby and Tom's battle for her escalates -- rather than choosing one or the other outright she acts helpless, seeming to ultimately remain with Tom because it is the easiest thing to do. In addition, she never acknowledges that she, not Gatsby, was driving when Myrtle was killed. As Nick characterizes both Buchanans, "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy -- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made" (188). Jordan Baker: Jordan, a 23-year-old women's golf champion, becomes involved with Nick during the course of the summer of 1922. Jordan seems "incurably dishonest," (63) a trait enhanced by Nick's remembrance of a rumor that she cheated at her first big golf tournament. Although Nick finds Jordan haughty and careless, he finds himself attracted to her anyway. At the end of the novel, Jordan gets engaged to another man after not seeing Nick for a short time, leaving Nick angry, yet still "half in love with her, and tremendously sorry" (186). Jordan's action seems to intentionally echo Daisy's leaving Gatsby to marry Tom five years earlier. George Wilson: Wilson owns the car repair garage in the valley of ashes, where he and his wife, Myrtle, live. For most of the novel Wilson is unaware that his wife has been cheating on him, prompting Tom Buchanan to remark, "He's so dumb he doesn't know he's alive" (30). After finding out Myrtle's infidelities, Wilson becomes physically ill and determines to move her out west; his illness turns mental, however, once she gets run over by Gatsby's car. The formerly reserved Wilson seeks crazed vengeance for her death and his own pride, ultimately killing Gatsby and himself. Myrtle Wilson: Myrtle is George Wilson's wife, and Tom Buchanan's secret lover. A woman in her mid-thirties, Myrtle is "faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can" (29). Although she apparently detests her husband, her lover, Tom, abuses her, breaking her nose during their drunken escapade in New York City. Locked in her room by George after her infidelities are found out, she escapes into the night, only to be run over by Daisy driving Gatsby's yellow car. Her death prompts George Wilson to undertake his bloody "holocaust" (170). Meyer Wolfshiem: A fifty-year-old gambler, with a history of having fixed the 1919 World Series, Wolfshiem is one of Jay Gatsby's shadiest associates. Nick leaves the relationship between the two men vague, although when he goes to see Wolfshiem the morning of Gatsby's funeral, the old man tells Nick he raised Gatsby "up out of nothing, right out of the gutter" (179). Despite their former partnership -- most likely in the business of stolen bonds -- Wolfshiem twice declines Nick's invitation to attend Gatsby's funeral, stating he "can't get mixed up in it" (180). Owl Eyes: This is a minor character who only makes three brief appearances in The Great Gatsby: first, at the first Gatsby party which Nick attends; second, as a passenger in the car missing one wheel outside Gatsby's that same night; and finally, as the only person -- aside from Nick and Gatsby's father -- in attendance during Gatsby's burial. Dan Cody: Please refer to Jay Gatsby's Character Profile. Michaelis: This character, a young Greek who runs the coffee shop next door to George Wilson's garage, serves as the principal witness in the investigation of Myrtle Wilson's death. Michaelis stays with George for most of the night, then leaves to take a quick nap. When he returns four hours later, George has already left on his fateful search for his wife's killer. Metaphor Analysis  Gatsby's green light: Located at the end of the Buchanans' dock, this green light represents Gatsby's ultimate aspiration: to win Daisy's love. Nick's first vision of Gatsby is of his neighbor's trembling arms stretched out toward the green light (26). Later, after Daisy and Gatsby's successful reunion, a mist conceals the green light, visibly affecting Gatsby. Nick observes, "Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever....Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one" (98). This image suggests Gatsby realizes he must face the reality of Daisy, rather than the ideal he created for her. Valley of ashes: A mid-way stopping point between West Egg and New York City, described as "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 a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air" (27). This depiction, in conjunction with several key turning points which occur at this location, recalls the moral wilderness of T.S. Eliot's poem, "The Waste Land." It is in the valley of the ashes where Tom has his affair with Myrtle, where Daisy kills Myrtle with Gatsby's car, and where George Wilson decides to murder Gatsby. Eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg: These gigantic blue eyes without a face look out at the valley of ashes from behind a pair of yellow eyeglasses. This billboard advertisement -- which provides its eternal presence looming above the ash-heaps -- takes on added significance in Chapter 8, as a grief stricken George Wilson refers to it as God. While looking at the giant eyes after Myrtle's death Wilson reveals he had taken his wife to the window just before she died and told her, "God knows what you've been doing, everything you've been doing. You may fool me but you can't fool God!...God sees everything" (167). Thus, the desolation of the valley of ashes may be seen in Fitzgerald's image of an abandoned billboard serving as Wilson's provider of solace and ultimate judge of morality. Following a central theme of modernism, this new God watches over his paradise which has been reduced to ash-heaps by modern man. Gatsby's house: This image serves as a key symbol of aspiration, reflecting both Gatsby's success as an American self-made man and the mirage of an identity he has created to win Daisy's love. Gatsby follows his American Dream as he buys the house to be across the bay from Daisy, and has parties to gain wide-spread recognition in order to impress her. Yet, Owl Eyes compares Gatsby's mansion to a house of cards, muttering "that if one brick was removed the whole library was liable to collapse" (50). Ultimately, the inevitable collapse occurs, as Gatsby loses Daisy and dies (with the exception of Nick) absolutely friendless, prompting Nick to refer to Gatsby's mansion as "that huge incoherent failure of a house" (188).       setting: a. summer b. Gatsby’s house simile: moths---satire whisperings c. wording: floating, chatter, laughter , people were not invited, they went there purposeless absently casually premature moon I never care what I do, so I always have a good time. If one brick was removed the whole library was liable to collapse Graceless Vacuous bursts of laughter rose toward the summer sky Stiff Gatsby: Old sport Any time that suits you best: agreeable, considerate He smiled understandingly