"The Great Gatsby"


"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A phenomenon of writer’s influence on the readers-descendants is well known. There is another side of it: later generations who read the work open new meanings and give it a new life.

Such is the fate of the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby. The novel was written in 1925 at the same time with the Dreiser's novel. Fitzgerald continued American Tragedy in the subject of the novel. However, being close to Dreiser’s novel chronologically and thematically, the novel is internally consonant with the contemporary American prose due to the specific inner relationship marked by Salinger.

Salinger’s character found a sense of loyalty to the words and intonation in Fitzgerald's novel: “I was crazy about “The Great Gatsby “, ”Old Gatsby”, ”Old sport.” “That killed me” (Salinger, p.149). This caused his desire to speak with the author not in the traditional literary form, on the paper, but in an live and natural form, as if by talking on the phone, negotiating and understanding each other perfectly.

Salinger has been comparing the Fitzgerald's novel to a kind of an absolute standard of artistic truth, to other works, and checked the purity and fidelity of the tone (I don't see how he could like a phony book like that (A Farewell to Arms) and still like ... that other one he's so crazy about The Great Gatsby (Salinger, p. 149).

In The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald managed to achieve what he considered the appointment of art, namely to leave a lasting mark in the mind of the reader – “The purpose of a work of fiction is to appeal to the lingering after effects in the reader's mind” (Perkins, p.334).

The Subject of the Fitzgerald's Novel

The subject of the Fitzgerald's novel is not limited to the plot or the story line. It does not match the story of the protagonist, his illusions, disappointment, and loss. Moreover, what remains in excess cannot be justified under the rubric of author’s digressions annexed to the story, framing the action. Here, and in the framework of the plot, a lyrical theme is developed independently, which is the true content of the novel. The subject is present in everything that the lyric writer created. The plot, the external circumstances and the situation of the characters are changing, while the interior, the lyrical theme remains the same. This lyrical theme creates a unity not only within the novel, but between the novels, a work of fastening a lifetime. The lyric writer is aware of his "own" subject, as well as of the limits of freedom and the necessity of self-restraint; "foreign" threads do not tempt him – “Mostly we authors must repeat ourselves that's the truth. We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives ... Then we learn our trade ... and we tell our two or three stories - each time in a new disguise - maybe ten times, maybe a hundred, as long as people will listen” (“One Hundred False Starts”).

In The Great Gatsby the lyrical theme, or the dominant emotion, is given to the main character and defined as "increased sensitivity to all the promises of life," "a rare gift of hope", "romantic ardor, what he is in no one no longer met and probably will not face". However, an emotion that dominates everything is, in fact, not the subject of the hero but the subject of the author, and it manifests itself in what is called the atmosphere, tone and spirit of the work. All Fitzgerald's characters are endowed with a “gift of hope” and “heightened sensitivity to the promises of life” that makes them young. Not a maturity comes to place the young hopes, but cynicism, despair and death. Not without a reason, the author put the list of summer guests and visitors of Gatsby in the opening chapters of the novel. Fitzgerald listed a variety of death and life collapses like random and unrelated to the main action of the novel. Not without a reason, a collection titled “The Crack-Up” is the result of his own life.

American Dreams

The representatives of the "lost generation" were young people who have lost faith in their father's ideals. They desired a momentary pleasure without thinking about the future. They had no time to wait till their American dreams could come true. They just wanted to take everything out of life, believing that their dream is coming true. The author included Jay Gatsby precisely to this kind of people. Gatsby became a symbol of the lost generation in the American literature, since the characteristics of the young people of this age are collected completely in his image. However, it should underlined that the identity of Gatsby consists of several planes. And if the first is an external plane, the one that provides a reader with a carefree young rich man, the second is an internal, which allows a reader to see a secret dreamer who has devoted his life to the return of the woman in the image of Gatsby.

Not by chance Nick Carraway felt this sense of duality when he first saw Gatsby. Nick realized that this is a self-confident owner who treats the world as an object of a possible acquisition: "a laid-back tranquility of its posture, the confidence with which his feet trampled grass on the lawn, I suggested that it was Mr. Gatsby released to estimate how much of our sky is rightfully due to him" (Fitzgerald). A second later, Gatsby’s behavior is unexpectedly changed. Nick observes that Gatsby reaches out to the strait, which is separating the two capes. Looking in the same direction, Nick sees the "green light must have beacon on the edge of the pier" (Fitzgerald). The green light is the light on the dock at the Buchanan house. This house is a home to Daisy, Gatsby's sweetheart. Gatsby seeks this house in his dreams, thus "green light" takes on a symbolic meaning of dreams in the novel, both personal Gatsby's dream and the American dream at all.

Thus, in the image of the main character of the novel, two different personalities get along. Those are: a rich man, unscrupulous bootlegger, and idealist, who puts dream in the center of his existence. Sometimes it seems that the image of Gatsby is too vague and ambiguous. However, exactly such an image was conceived by Fitzgerald, since it expresses the inner state of Gatsby, in which idealism and greed, loyalty and a sense of youthful illegal machinations, the dream and the reality are in constant conflict.

Composition of the Novel 

Composition of the novel is constructed so that a reader meets the main character only in the second third of the novel. Up to this point a reader can imagine the hero only on the basis of the rumors about him. Interestingly enough, before a reader knows nothing about the Gatsby, the author tells about his house in details. A house takes a symbolic value in this novel, allowing a reader to judge about the main character even before the reader meets him. This house was built by a brewer who decided to settle in these lands and build a family nest here. At the same time, "the brewer suggested neighbors to pay for them all taxes for five years, if they will cover their homes with straw" (Fitzgerald). Apparently, the previous owner of the house had intended to build it as the house of a wealthy feudal lord, surrounded by little peasant houses covered with straw. By that, brewer was going to emphasize their belongingness to a number of aristocratic families of the United States and consolidate this position using family house. Jay Gatsby, a man that makes his way into the world of rich and famous with money, to the world of Daisy and Tom Buchanan, buys this house. Only by becoming a part of this world, Gatsby can return Daisy, for which a social position and material well-being are of great importance. So Gatsby chooses this particular house, the appearance of which speaks about the wealth of the owner. Thus, Gatsby hopes to win the heart of Daisy after five years of separation.

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A key to understanding the image of Daisy in this work is a conversation between Nick and Gatsby. "At Daisy indiscreet voice, - I said. - It rings ... - I stopped. - It rings money - suddenly he said. Well, of course. I had not realized before. Money chimed in that voice - that so captivated by his endless modulations, ringing metal paean cymbal ...” (Fitzgerald). In order to win Daisy, one needs money; to keep Daisy, one needs money again. Thus, Gatsby begins to realize the drug gravity of money, on which he is depending. It may seem that by becoming wealthy, Gatsby gains the freedom of an individual in its entirety. However, following the motivation of his actions, a reader understands that his deeds are purports to impress Daisy. In constant thoughts about her Gatsby forgot what seems important to him, having lost his own "I". So, talking to Gatsby, Nick Carraway notices how he indulges in memories, like "... looking hard at them for something, maybe some image itself, entirely dissolved into the love for Daisy" (Fitzgerald). Based on this, a reader can imagine on which stage the process of developing Gatsby’s personality is. He set off too recklessly in pursuit of his dream, not thinking about the moral side of his actions. This is the tragedy of the novel. Gatsby himself created his ideal, and he chose the way of achieving it. Therefore, he had no one to blame but himself when his ideal and his dream wrecked off. So the dream turns to a tragedy for Gatsby. It is a warning for all subsequent generations of young people who are blindly chasing the American dream, which has not lost its relevance to this day.

The American dream is an existing social force. It determines the functioning of American society and of each citizen who, like Gatsby, can believe in "... the green light, the light of the incredible future happiness, which pulls back every year ". This power allows a person to perceive all the failures and disappointments as only temporary obstacles on the way to the final goal. It can make a person work selflessly for the children so that they could begin life on the level their parents reached. Pursuing the American dream, a person can perceive all his difficulties and misfortunes as a test on the way to a huge human happiness: "Let it escaped today, matter - tomorrow we will run faster, will become even further stretching hands ... and one fine morning ... ".

However, it should not be forgotten that the American Dream is the power of ambivalence. This is a goal that can be justified as honest labor or an illegal act, or an act that ruins the moral foundations of the society. Many American writers, sensing the danger, warned the readers of their works about the actions that can result from the American dream in the American tragedy.

Gatsby's personal tragedy points at the need of relating the actions with moral and ethical guidelines of society. Without it, a person who is mindlessly following his dreams can pose a threat to life and welfare of others. Fitzgerald raises another problem in the American society. Millions of people who believe in the fulfillment of the American Dream check their guidelines for those people who have already achieved success. The Buchanan couple is a typical example of such people in the novel. Together, they represent an ideal family, but each of them is playing his own game. Tom Buchanan, despite of the fact that he was repeatedly convicted of adultery, is constantly cheating on his wife. His little interest in the fate of people is only a source of pleasure.

Here is what Fitzgerald assumed about this couple: "They were careless creatures, Tom and Daisy, they were breaking things and people, and then ran away and hid behind their money, their all-consuming carelessness or something groundwork of their union, providing others clean up after them” (Fitzgerald). Gatsby involved the world of these people pursuing his own happiness. It is not surprising that after a while he starts to lose his identity and becomes similar to them. After a meeting with Daisy and a minute of meditation, Gatsby is terrified that the green light on the dock next to Daisy's house – a symbol of happiness that Gatsby chased – has suddenly lost its original meaning: "When Daisy was so incredibly far away, it seemed to him that the flame is lit somewhere close to her, almost touches her. He looked at him like he's a star, twinkling in the vicinity of the moon. Now it was just a green light on the dock” (Fitzgerald).

Nevertheless, there is a trait that elevates Gatsby above all the other characters of the novel and allows the author to call his novel The Great Gatsby. This is Gatsby’s devotion to his immaculate dream, for which he exists. He gets all public goods that make up the American dream only to throw them at the feet of the woman. It is this trait that gives Gatsby those purity that allows it to exist over the public accepted norms, "the garden and walkway then swarmed by people who did not know what he would ascribe fault - and he waved his hand to them with these same steps, hiding all his immaculate dream" (Fitzgerald).

Gatsby is a tragic figure, because he is in love with the image of Daisy; Daisy is different from that exists in reality. Daisy was organically incapable to act as an ideal. She used to live in the world of rich people and evaluate everything in terms of the material value. It becomes clear to which extent Daisy is focused on the wealth when Gatsby takes her to his house, "his head on his shirt, she burst into tears. - Such a beautiful shirt - she was crying, and the soft folds of fabric muffled her voice - as never seen such beautiful shirts" (Fitzgerald). Gatsby actually bought Daisy. His further existence becomes meaningless to Gatsby after he realizes that his dream was not feasible. Gatsby realizes that the boundaries of the world close around him mercilessly, leaving no freedom of choice.

Therefore, the final created by Fitzgerald is a reminiscence of euthanasia, when death is portrayed as a relief for a hopelessly ill person. Wilson’s shot that killed Gatsby gains far more mercy of the author than all the actions of Tom Buchanan, who is the culprit in this tragedy. Thus, the writer draws his favorite hero, Jay Gatsby, away from the overall game, a hero who overcame the distance that separates a man from the dream faster than the others.

Nick Carraway again ponders the causes and circumstances of the death of Gatsby on the eve of departure, in the evening, lying on the sand in front of the empty Gatsby’s house. He compares the green light on the dock at the Buchanan, which seduced Gatsby and nourished his dream, with that "untouched green bosom of the new world," which has captivated people who discovered a new continent and related the dream of getting rid of any and all adversity, on a cloudless happiness forever. Like Gatsby, they believe in the attainability of this unimaginable happiness. Like Gatsby, they are unable to understand that the dream was left behind, that they stretch the hands to a ghost of past illusions and live irrecoverable memories.

"So we're trying to go forward, fighting the current, and it all blows and blows our little ships back to the past." With these words, the novel ends.

The Great Gatsby is the Fitzgerald's Masterpiece

New achievements were accompanied by its very large losses in the future. The reader will find more in-depth observations on the psychology of a modern man in the novel Tender Is the Night; in the fragments of The Last Tycoon appears that an analytical approach to American bourgeois reality that, whether the novel is finished, would be probably a new word in the works of Fitzgerald. But The Great Gatsby has features that are not repeated. Despite the sad events depicted in the book, there is highly embodied jubilant lust for life and boundless faith in our strength, so characteristic of the young Fitzgerald. The writer has not yet entered any bitterness of his middle period, or resignation, or the chill of The Last Tycoon. One can certainly find rudimentary features of both of them in The Great Gatsby, but the whole affair that is still on the rise, a celebration of an artist who created a piece of art, can be heard in the The Great Gatsby is nowhere near Fitzgerald.

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