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Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald -Passage Analysis on Major Themes

Updated on November 22, 2017

A commentary on Major Themes in The Great Gatsby

Throughout the novel, Gatsby refers to the “green light” at the end of Daisy’s dock, but it isn’t till chapter five,later in the novel that we witness the “colossal significance” of this light. We suddenly realize that the green light embodies Daisy, whom Gatsby longs for. It is also the distance between them that the green light symbolizes; the vast difference in social class and mannerisms. It becomes apparent that distance had “vanished” and the green light - an object that seemed so ‘enchanted’ as it signified Gatsby’s hopes and dreams for a future with Daisy, is now only a light that ‘burns’ at the end of Daisy’s dock. This becomes apparent as Gatsby who is now ‘near’ Daisy and , ‘almost touching her’, in comparison to the ‘great distance’ that once separated them. It is with this that the narrator expresses that Gatsby’s ‘enchanted objects’ had now ‘diminished by one’.

Gatsby’s dream is an ‘illusion’ he had created for himself, just as his illusion of Daisy that ‘had gone beyond her’, ‘beyond everything’. Gatsby had dedicated an unrealistic expectation to beginning again with Daisy and Fitzgerald illustrates that Daisy will “always stumble short of his dreams”. The author infers that when one has such idealist illusions that one will surely be disappointed. Just as Nick faithfully narrates to us that Gatsby had a ‘heightened sensitivity to the promises of life’, and tells us that he had a ‘romantic readiness’, we see this firsthand in the text. His ‘romantic readiness’ had been the cause of this idealistic perfection which he dedicated to Daisy which we see when Nick wonders whether “that afternoon”, “Daisy had tumbled short of his dreams”, and affirms that Daisy herself was not at fault, but it was the ‘colossal vitality’ of Gatsby’s dream that was the source of this. Nick illustrates to us ‘the creative passion’ with which Gatsby has ‘thrown himself’ into crafting this image of Daisy that he had perhaps added to everyday in those ‘five years’, ‘decking’ her with every ‘bright feather’ that drifted his way. Nick finally suggests that nothing and ‘no amount’ of ‘freshness’ would be able to compel Gatsby to come to the realization that the Daisy he had ‘stor[ed] up in his ghostly heart’ was not Daisy in reality.

As the novel progresses we are shown a clear depiction of the upper-class by Fitzgerald. It is especially evident when we realize the shallowness of the upper-class and their moral standings. Fitzgerald almost draws a line between the likes of those like Tom, and our protagonist Gatsby. While Tom, a ’hulking’ man with a ‘cruel body’, has achieved his wealth through inheritance and not immoral means, he is careless and inconsiderate of others. We see this at many occasions during the novel- when he goes on ‘sprees’ despite having a wife and a child, when he exerts his power over people and when he draws a line between his worth and that of Gatsby’s, which ‘bite[s] physically into Gatsby’. He does not consider Gatsby’s love for Daisy or her reciprocation of this love- only that he is ‘going to take better care of [Daisy] now’ because he views her as his possession and realizes that she can be taken away from him.

We see this characteristic of carelessness and inconsideration in Daisy too, especially towards the end of the novel after Gatsby’s death, it becomes blatantly obvious to the audience that Tom and Daisy are so used to the ease which money provides them, that they don’t worry about hurting others. We see this so clearly, when Daisy doesn’t concede to attend Gatsby’s funeral, despite having claimed that she ‘loved [Gatsby] too’, only days before. It is with this shallowness that Fitzgerald separates Gatsby, who despite having gained wealth through immoral means, has a sincere and loyal heart, compared to the fickleness and selfishness of the Buchannan’s.

Towards the end of the novel, it becomes quite apparent to readers that Fitzgerald places emphasis on the illusion which Gatsby has created for himself in order to help him achieve his ‘ambitions’. In the third passage we are given a glimpse into Gatsby’s shared past with Daisy; the ‘deep memory’ of her which he ‘stor[ed]’ before their ‘parting’. We immediately compare this ‘tranquil afternoon’ and ‘month of love’ to that of their meetings previously and we know for sure that the times when ‘they had never been closer’ ‘nor communicated more profoundly’, had passed, and no amount of ‘great things’ done by Gatsby would bring them back. Although readers realize this almost instantly, our protagonist, who we are told at the beginning ‘had an extraordinary gift for hope’, doesn’t grasp this notion, and his blinding hope eventually ‘prey[s]’ on him, leading to his demise.

It is quite apparent to readers that while Fitzgerald exposes the shallowness of the upper-class to his audience, he also simultaneously draws a line between Gatsby and Tom. He implies that although Gatsby had immoral means by which he achieved his dream, Tom Buchanan and Daisy were no better in moral conduct as their inconsideration of others and their reliance on money to ease them, seeped through their actions. Finally, Fitzgerald warns readers, suggesting that there is no saying what a ‘ghostly heart’ will ‘store up’, and that ‘colossal’ illusions such as that of our protagonist’s, will delude us, and will lead to a destructive end.


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