The Great Gatsby Essay
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The Great Gatsby essay example:
The Great Gatsby by Francis Scott Fitzgerald is a unique book in that it addresses the audience of its own time period while defining yet pointing out the ambiguity in the American Dream in the American dream which was to remain true for years to come. Fitzgerald wrote the book at the peak of his career and it very much reflected the life he was having at the time and his very accurate perception of the beliefs of the people around him. The innocent (e.g. government, and old money class) were corrupt, and the corrupt (e.g. public) were innocent. I will explain what I mean by this apparently contradictory statement later on.
Nick Carraway is the next-door neighbour to the incredibly rich Gatsby. He and Gatsby are living in a new money part of Long Island during the Jazz age. They’re called new money because they’re either into technology or trading counterfeit securities while the old money people such as Tom Buchanan and Daisy (Nicks wife) enjoy the roaring twenties as “they were careless people Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness”. This tells you the American character has become careless with the ideal of freedom.
The thing that attracts Nick to Jay Gatsby is his aura of mystery which came from Gatsby’s work in the organised crime circles, and his mysterious past that was brought on by him not being able to tell “people” about his humble origins. These were such that they showed Gatsby didn’t care about his clients, only what he got out of them leading us to the conclusion that he must be a morally corrupt man. It is only later we discover his dream to reunite with Daisy, and this make all his crime seem innocent in the face that he had done all of it with an innocent goal in mind. You could say he was making use of the opportunity that arose when the fresh government “innocently” made laws banning the use of alcohol and other drugs. This would then lead us to the point where we could say the government was corrupt by taking away peoples freedom, and Gatsby happened to restore it in his innocent quest to get daisy back.
Innocence is, as you can now probably guess, the pretence of being guileless or in a more serious manner the fact that a person has never sinned or done anything wrong. The problem with this statement is that it is ideal (Platonic) like Gatsby’s dream of finding Daisy. In the real world someone can sin by killing another yet they may still, morally have done no wrong if they believed the person was a true threat to society and had to be eliminated. This was how Tom thought when he told Wilson that it was Gatsby’s car that ran over Myrtle “without even stopping”.
In another case someone may be under the influence of drugs by no fault of their own, and end up doing something stupid which shames them because everyone else believes their actions were stupid, and this couldn’t be justified by the affect of alcohol or any other drug. The drunkard who crashed outside Gatsby’s house was a fine example of this as he being drunk didn’t know what he was doing was wrong.
Finally the third case of innocence is the one of false accusation. The man who was sitting next to the drunk driver during the crash was blamed for the crash as he got out of the car first. When he tried to explain he wasn’t driving, his audience took a while to catch on because they were having so much fun making him feel guilty. This Is the only form of true innocence, but it may not be true in the case that he could have acted to prevent the drunkard from driving and saved tem from all this future drama.
In the movie The Matrix, the humans are made to appear innocent at the present time. This was probably true because at present they weren’t doing anything morally wrong but their ancestors had committed several crimes against humanity and machinery. This is the same way Gatsby is innocent upon finding Daisy, he is doing no wrong now, but he did sin in the first place to get himself to this place. The American dream was also made to appear innocent of causing any trouble, while it was the stem from which the corruption was brought around, as it was too idealistic, like the idea of having intelligent machines be your slaves in the Matrix.
To think he did all of this based on a few words Daisy said seems pretty amazing, but eventually when he finds her, she isn’t quite what he expected, and Nick sees this. This is the point where Nick manages to Hint the flaw in Gatsby’s plan, and that is that Daisy is already married to Tom Buchanan. Gatsby sees no problem with this and arranges for himself to confront Tom and tell him that Daisy had never loved him, that she had only ever loved Jay Gatsby.
As part of this argument, Gatsby reveals a whole lot about his history that he had told Nick before, but only in a very superfluous manner. Here we find out about his true past where he shows his pointless life that only had an aim once he met daisy. This renews Nick’s faith in him, as everyone feels more comfortable around someone they understand. This highlights how similar Gatsby is to the typical American dream of freedom. In this manner his character in the novel is allegorical and can be read as America while his dream can be viewed as a symbol of the American Dream. This shows the novel is more than a criticism of the Jazz age as it does explore the nature of the American character and dream. Once he finds his goal, which sets him free from struggling to achieve it, he is left not knowing what to do about it. This is just like America as a whole, because once they free themselves form Britains rule, they cant just live freely, so they decide to put in place a government of their own, and write their own constitution. Nick could see Gatsby’s depression at Daisy’s attitude, and now he had nothing to look forward to in the way he used to look forward to one day meeting that green light in the pile of old money. The American dream is a state which America is striving towards as we can see from their constitution which is very much centralized about freedom.
The old money resembles Britain in that their better than the new money, and want nothing to do with them while the new money resembles the new America that was still undergoing the process of change and setting new goals, unlike Gatsby who “did not know it was directly behind him”. As Nick Caraway says “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us” Gatsby never quite realises the enormity of what has happened now that its all over.
Fitzgerald wrote the novel while pondering about the false joy of the years that came before it. He tries to incorporate as much of himself into it as he can, so in the novel he becomes through as Nick the narrator, but his life is portrayed exactly like Gatsby’s In the real world nick undertook all the hardships that Gatsby did, but he never quite achieved Gatsby’s level of wealth. Regardless as we can see from the novel he knew the outlook had changed with the American Dream. Something that you had strived for for several years had changed by the time you got it leaving you confused. This is like the Romantic vision of America Gatsby experienced before the war that he lost but never quite realised it after the war. Now America was “A new world, material without being real”.
In Gatsby’s world the Illusion of his life changing dramatically and becoming orgastic is changed as the illusion extends further than reality could ever reach. Again this is symbolic of America as it passes out of the Jazz age into a “hedonistic and sadistic world” according to Fitzgerald. Gatsby is stuck because he has “lived one dream for far too long” and now has no way of taking the next step into the future. For him the past is real, the future is real (while its an illusion) and the present is bleak and desolate.
Daisy’s character on the other hand is like Gatsby’s dream, superfluous. Its empty, like the green light like she acts more than she is, in the sense that she is ethereal/untouchable. America’s hope of money turned decadent just like Daisy who was the “money”. In America this has caused the mind to separate from the body, leaving a mindless materialist country in its wake. Tom Buchanan is one of the mindless, cruel, old money aristocrats. He has self pity for himself yet he symbolically murdered Gatsby. He identifies his corrupt spirit but he hides from the fact and refuses to change it.
Tom killed Gatsby on purpose, although he knew his argument would hold, and be perfectly valid on the outside. Wilson, whose wife Daisy killed in Gatsby’s car was just the tool Tom used, which shows how cheap and dirty the old money class is like Jordan who cheats at golf and is a “rotten driver”. She believes everyone else is careful so they will get out of her way, but it would only take one more person like her to get them both killed. This also shows the class conflict, back then the richer you were, or the longer you stayed rich, the more power you had.
All this corruption started to change the American cultural identity of total freedom. The government was corrupt in this case because it was the one who imposed prohibition laws in a supposedly free country. This started a wave of corruption throughout the country as distributors made use of the black market and sold alcohol to anyone they could. Gatsby was into this business, and also he was into selling fake securities and bonds to townships one at a time, so he could milk each one for all its got, then move onto the next where he would be unheard of. Back in those days communication was difficult and expensive so rarely was it someone could ring a friend in a neighbouring town and tell them the story.
The novel Great Gatsby was both a criticism of the Jazz age in all its corruptness, and an allegory of the American cultural identity which includes the transmogrification of the American Dream. Fitzgerald was one of the few authors who managed to write a lasting piece about tis era, and he did it very successfully. Unfortunately for him, he died as he was writing another of his brilliant works, with the activities he undertook in his younger years catching up with him.