The Great Gatsby

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Great Gatsby

In the world today, there exists an array of different people; most content with the situation they are in. However, there are some, in society, that possess ideals and dreams that transcend themselves. Those characters, occasionally known as Romantic idealists, portray qualities as true today, as 100 years ago. American society, in the 10’s, as depicted in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, (Simon & Schuster, 15), is no exception. Jay Gatsby is literally portrayed as a Romantic idealist; however, the figurative motifs implemented throughout the novel further distinguish him as a unique and imaginative character.

Fitzgerald explicitly establishes a literal definition of Gatsby throughout the book. Subsequent to narrator Nick Carraway’s condemnation of society, he exempts Gatsby, describing him as possessing “…a romantic readiness such as [he has] never found in any other person…” (6). Indeed, Gatsby is unlike any other in that he has a higher goal or quest for himself. In order to achieve that goal and establish a distinguished and ‘proper’ life, Gatsby invents a new identity. Rejecting his former life along with his mother and father, whom “ his imagination had never really accepted… as his parents at all” (104). The once James Gatz changes his name to, “…Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long

Island, [who] sprang from his platonic conception of himself” (104).

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To further establish his new identity, Gatsby goes to great lengths to create a history that exudes prestige and ‘old money’. He lets on the fa├žade of being a British scholar, educated at Oxford, by almost forcing the phrase ‘old sport’. He also claims to have lived like a “…young rajah in all the capitals of Europe” (70). Gatsby’s idea of greatness means an overabundance in extravagance always surrounding him. Believing that life is a fantasy world, he purchases an extremely elegant mansion, straight from a fairy tale, “…with a tower on one side…a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden” (). Along with a breathtaking house, Gatsby also possesses an automobile of the same fashion, “…terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns” (68). He flaunts his money in order to be important, and dresses in expensive, ostentatious clothing as well. Gatsby utilizes this altered persona in order to attain his dream of greatness, which is his first goal, until he eventually weds his dream to his love Daisy Buchanan. Gaudy, and boisterous parties everyday, ornate collaborations merely to entertain others, and attract Daisy are staples in Gatsby’s routine. Gatsby even believes that he could get Daisy to abandon her family to be with him and revive their previous life that passed five years before. Fitzgerald further illustrates this desire when he notes that Gatsby “…wanted noting less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say ‘I never loved you’” (116), thus erasing all that happened during the time she and Gatsby had been apart. Fitzgerald provides many instances in which Gatsby factually resembles a quixotic character. It is with these literal examples that Jay Gatsby is initially revealed to be a Romantic Idealist.

Although literal imagery is used, Fitzgerald applies figurative description to further develop Gatsby as unique and separate from the rest of the world. He successfully realizes this by employing several motifs throughout the novel. Time plays an important role in the story, as Gatsby fails to realize that things change. In an attempt to relive his cherished past with Daisy, Gatsby is determined to “…fix everything just the way it was before” (117). The only way Gatsby feels that he can truly be happy is by reverting back to when he and Daisy were once together. During the conversation with Nick and Daisy, Gatsby knocks over “…a defunct clock, on the mantelpiece…and sets it back in place,” (1). Gatsby’s obvious desire to turn back time is also prevalent, when he recalls, precisely, the last time he and Daisy were together, and states, “Five years next November,” (). Acting as though it all occurred the day before, Gatsby shocks both Nick and Daisy to the point that Nick says his statement, “…set us all back at least a minute” (). Gatsby’s naivety allows him to believe he can return to the relationship he once shared with Daisy and insists, “Of course you can! [turn back time]” (116). His disillusionment with time is further revealed with the elegant period rooms throughout his house. All chronologically mismatched, and chaotic, the rooms represent the very muddled quarters of Gatsby’s mind. For a majority of the novel, Gatsby is constantly combating against the passage of time and remains in a state of confusion as to what is real and what is not.

The use of the chivalry motif serves as a major underlying factor that develops Gatsby’s character as a neo-knight with noble qualities. His house, a “…factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy…” (), may be interpreted as his castle, especially

as the first knights came from Normandy, France. His “…cream colored,” and, “…flashy” (68) car represents his noble steed, as it becomes his companion during his quest for Daisy. Gatsby is likened to a knight by committing himself to the “following of a grail” (156), which is shown to be the dream he weds to Daisy Buchanan. During Gatsby’s ‘holy quest’ he verbally jousts with Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s husband, in the Plaza Hotel for the fair Daisy’s hand. Like a true chivalric character, Gatsby makes sure that they ‘combat’ on neutral grounds, similar to knights. During the heated battle, both men vocally exchange blows, both inveterate on their morals and causes. Gatsby also keeps an all night watch over his damsel in distress when she became in danger after Myrtle, Tom’s mistress, was killed. Even despite the counsel of Nick, Gatsby “want[s] to wait…till Daisy goes to bed,” and dismisses Nick, “as though [his] presence marred the sacredness of the vigil” (15).

The heavenly bodies motif becomes another important figurative implement throughout the novel, by signifying Gatsby’s to transcendence of earthly matters. The heavenly bodies symbolize Gatsby’s virtue and higher dream. When Nick first sees Gatsby, he is seen “regarding the silver pepper of stars” (5), while reaching towards the green dock light of Daisy’s house. Moreover, Gatsby’s flashback to the first time he and Daisy kissed includes a “…stir and bustle among the stars” (117). The heavenly bodies are able to represent Gatsby’s emotions and inner turmoil over his love, as well as the true high merit he possesses. Even during his all night vigil, he is left, “standing in the moonlight” (15), waiting for the dream he had wed to Daisy to come back to him.

In addition to the numerous references to chivalry and knighthood, and the heavenly bodies, many allusions to the Bible are made when portraying Gatsby as a romantic idealist. Fitzgerald makes an allusion to the Old Testament story of Jacob’s ladder, and the reassurance of Jacob’s covenant from God that he will reach the Promised Land. In a flashback, “Gatsby [sees] that the blocks of the sidewalk really form a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees;” if he decides to follow his dream, he’ll be able to “suck on the pap of life,” and “gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder,” (117). That wonderful milk is a reference to the possible future Gatsby has before he commits his divine vision to a mortal and material entity. When Gatsby “…forever wed[s] his unutterable visions to [Daisy’s] perishable breath” (117), he was sent to Daisy, rather than live in the Land of Milk and Honey. Gatsby’s noble purposes and virtues liken him to a Christ-like figure, as he eventually suffers the same fate. “He was a son of God” who “…must be about his father’s business” (104). He comes to Daisy, in order to be with the one that he loves, and soon becomes a sacrificial lamb. He was betrayed by Daisy, who resembles Judas, a close friend to Jesus, and condemned to die for her sins. Just as Christ fell victim to a conspiracy, as did Gatsby, for Daisy chose to stay with Tom and leave town. As he waits for Daisy to call him, he lingers, still hopeful, for her as he walks to his pool. “Shoulder[ing] the [inflatable] mattress” (16), which resembles a cross, he marches towards his death, dragging the cumbersome ‘crucifix’, as Christ did before he was sacrificed for the sins of all others. Gatsby’s unutterable visions die, as his romantic ideals are decimated by life of the East and West Eggs.

In the world, there exists a certain type of person, a person whose ideals and beliefs transcend themselves. F. Scott Fitzgerald successfully depicts Jay Gatsby as a Romantic Idealist by presenting the literal actions done by him, and the figurative imagery laced throughout the book. Some may denounce such ideals, as they are foolish or senseless; however, such dreams should be prized, as they are rare if not lost forever in a world of perversion and indolency.

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