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The Great Gatsby Assignment Character:
• “I hope she'll be a fool -- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool”
Here Daisy Buchanan shows more depth to her character than the picture Nick painted. The impression made is that she’s shallow and not very intelligent. It shows that she knows more than she lets on. However, she herself wishes upon herself foolishness, as the saying goes ‘ignorance is bliss’. She is aware of the way her husband belittles her, she is aware of the affair. Though these words aren’t about her, they speak in general that it’s better for all girls to be fools. The world appreciates only their beauty and nothing more is what’s meant between the lines. This quote relates to “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen and how the protagonist, Nora had layers to her and there was more to her than meets the eye. Even in today’s society, grown women would talk in baby voices and not seem overly smart to not ‘intimidate’ men. Living with a women who is a little shallow so that she’s easier to handle, that seems to be the conventional perception. At that time and even today, having beauty opens doors, everyone wants to listen and be around a beautiful person. However, Daisy doesn’t seem to be disputing these ideas, she seems to have submitted to the society’s desires and figured out the ‘best’ way of living. The tone does not suggest bitterness but detachment, a silent understanding. A fool is someone who gets deceived, here is Daisy only
wishing well for her daughter advises that a girl should only be oblivious to the faults of men. It’s as if she is screaming ‘give them what they want’ instead of perhaps, ‘you shouldn’t care what people think of you’. She is saying that to be happy one must be foolish, one must be blind from the cruel of reality. This on a broader spectrum can relate to both genders, as the truth hurts and if someone was unaware or numb to that pain they would live less miserable more simple apple pie lives. The smartest people can also be the saddest people. The best part of being a fool is that a fool does not know he’s a fool, that’s for people with a higher scale of intelligence to register. It’s easier to live on a high in a dreamworld than to have a heighten sensitivity to the sad world we live in.
• “Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if
I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parceled out unequally at birth”(1, 1).
From the first few lines, already you get a glimpse into Nick Carraway’s persona. Her father told him to ‘reserve all judgements’(1,1). That is understandable as you can’t really judge one solely on his actions, it is the intention that matters and how is one to judge their intention if there’s no proof for one. All through the book Nick seems to be surrounded by these despicable people but the book is full of Nick’s judgements. He was constantly contradicting himself “I had reached the point of believing everything and nothing about him” (82, 6). Here, Nick says that money isn't the only thing that some people are born to. Some people are naturally just nicer and more honest: they have more "sense of the fundamental decencies." These first two lines establish many of the issues that are running through the book; it’s evident how class, judgement, observation, and identity will all play into the major thematic core of the novel.
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• “Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw that this was because she
felt safer on a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest. She wasn’t able to endure being at a disadvantage and, given this
unwillingness, I suppose she had begun dealing in subterfuges when she was very young in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the world and yet satisfy the demands of her hard, jaunty body.” (47, 3)
If you’re dishonest, whatever anyone thinks or feels or judges you on is based on a lie so affects one less. Jordan doesn’t want to be vulnerable. She dodges all opportunities that might let her fall into that situation by being dishonest. By telling the truth, in her eyes you have opened up and shared a piece of yourself. Her suspicion of people makes her feel safe. People were often dishonest in the East.
• “I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified.
It was all very careless and confused. 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” (147, 9).
The dream that everyone has in life, what everyone wishes for is a carefree life with no hassles and nothing to worry and strain about. However, having no cares is not always a good thing, as there are things you need to care about in life. One can not go about life aimlessly without an absolute care, there has to be something you care about. Too much of anything is a bad thing. An individual has duties to himself and the people around him. Nick does not say that Tom and Daisy are wicked horrible people, he says that they are careless. Nick does restrain on judgements here like his father taught him and tried to actually understand Tom and Daisy. He did not like them but he understood the reasons why they were the way they were. They messed things up out of their infinite boredom and went back to their carelessness. They were empty and did these things to fill the void. By the end of the novel Tom and Daisy were like partners in crime as they understood the emptiness they shared. Even their own daughter held no sincere warm place in their heart, they didn’t even hold that for each other. They just lived in the present, not having to fret about the consequences of their actions because there were none.
• “This is a valley of ashes—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. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud which screens their obscure operations from your sight” (18, 2).
The East correlated with a fast-paced lifestyle, rowdy parties, crumbling moral values, and the pursuit of wealth, while the West and the Midwest are associated with more traditional moral values. It is the East that is seeking wealth and the glory, when it is the people in the West, the people in the ‘valley of ashes’ that need it the most. “One thing’s sure and nothing’s surer/ The rich get richer and the poor get - children” (78, 5). This passage so early on in the novel assists in
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highlighting the disparity between the rich and the poor. When you compare the life of the rich but not satisfied with the poor you see the big picture more. The description of the valley as such a dumping ground is fitting as it builds more contempt towards the ‘sophisticated’ corruption going on in the East. The colors in the East are all associated with yellow, a color which shines and draws attention to itself like the sun. They use the color to symbolize luxury and the extravagance. This contradicts the “ash-grey” men in the West; grey is a color of dullness and depression, it symbolized how they were nobodies that just blended in with the background. Even something that brings beauty to mind, such as a “garden” is shaped into something vile with the word “grotesque” in front of it. The juxtaposition provides vivid visual imagery and even encourages a perception of
degradation. There is a hyphen after “this is a valley of ashes” which emphasizes that line and draws importance to it. When people think of ashes, one would straight away think of death and dirt, this creates a grave atmosphere. The way this place is described (e.g. “ghastly creak”) makes you not want to be there.
• "Most of the big shore places were closed now, and there were hardly any lights except the
shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the sound. And as the moon rose higher, the
inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes- a fresh green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment, man must have held his breath in the presence of this content, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired... face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder..." (148, 9).
The party is over and the “trees” which are a metaphor for people have left. There were no lights except the ‘shadowy’ ‘glow of a ferryboat’. This shows how the area of Gatsby’s mansion had been isolated after his death. All those lavish parties counted for nothing. This demonstrates the
insincerity of the people of the East. They just pick their gear up and move to the next party place. The area was alone just as Gatsby was at his funeral. Once he had no worth, there wasn’t any appreciation for him. The place seems to be avoided as if there’s a disease going about. The passage uses the changed landscape to explain how man has changed. Time goes on even though Gatsby has passed. Man’s loyalties shifts and beliefs wilt, like “houses melt away”people change like the seasons. Colorless people not associated with the real world of work and labor. Fitzgerald again uses green to pinpoint the aspirations of the first explorers so amazed by the promise the new land brought. There is no additional land to obtain no more gold and no more freedom from the
dishonorable society. This passage shows how times change and the American Dream no longer holds the tangibility it once did.
• “And as I sat there, brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he
first picked out Daisy's light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night” (149, 9).
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The new world now is not new and is going into a depression the stock market will soon crash. The green light (money wealth, greed, envy, jealously) conveyed that Gatsby was jealous of Tom. Daisy was Gatsby’s American dream Daisy symbolized that the American dream was unattainable.
Fitzgerald makes Nick seem very wise in knowing the demise of the characters. Nick sees with clarity while the other characters run blind to the faults of their dreams. Nick seems to almost feel his pain and anguish. Nick knew more about Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship than either of them as he knew how it would end. The whole story’s structure had been leading on to that realization.
• ‘Reading over what I have written so far, I’ve given the impression that the events of three nights
several weeks apart were all that absorbed me’(45, 3).
Here Nick wants to make sure that he is giving a trustworthy account and distinguishes himself from the rest. He doesn’t want to be swept away by the excessiveness of it all. Nick is a self-conscious narrator; he is aware of the difficulties of writing a report that would approach the truth. He uses his critical judgement to form an opinion not only on the events but on himself writing these events. He has carefully observed the going ons around him and reports them attempted to not be bias towards any character. He tries to keep clarity of mind, he’s only been drunk a couple of times. He has his feet on the ground so he is aware of everyone being caught in dreamland.
Everyone seems to be so hopeful and blind really thinking that anything can happen. Nick seems to be the only one out of that daze so he must be a reliable narrator. Except for the fact that a reader’s mood and impressions of the character are often made up not by the actions of the character but the subtle remarks Nick makes when he describes them.
Style and Technique:
• “I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight, but each time I
tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life” (28, 2).
Nick wanted to go explore the outside but when he tried he could not. The use of diction the ‘casual watcher’ was indeed God. Nick is ‘enchanted and repelled’ by the events ongoing in the East. Nick relates himself to God in this passage just watching. Personification is used, “entangled in some wild, strident argument’, the argument which is his morals. The simile ‘as if with ropes’ add more emphasis to the struggle Nick was facing. His morals keep him from joining them in their ways. The “yellow” windows contributing that they were the golden windows. This novel as much as it is about dreams is also about life and Nick trying to figure out the meaning of it. What’s the ultimate purpose? Were we put on this Earth just to make do and pleasure ourselves when we wish? Life is unpredictable. The only thing guaranteed is death after all. The juxtaposition of saying I was ‘within and without’ signifies how Nick doesn’t fully understand the going ons around him. The casual watcher which in the story is Doctor T. J Eckleburg, is a symbol for God, watching all that we see/do. The structure of the sentences are very long, almost as if Nick is rambling on to himself.
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• “Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it was 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” (2, 1).
A long way before the conclusion of the book, Nick concludes the book by telling the readers that Gatsby is not the bad guy but the dream which deluded and stifled him. This is extreme
foreshadowing as before the basic plot line unfolds the answers are there. After what happened Nick was no longer interested in the cheap highs that got most men ecstatic. He wanted to understand life a little deeper. He wanted to understand Gatsby’s demise. This reminds me of the saying “all that glitters is not gold”, Daisy seems to be the answer to all his problems but she is not. She is just the problem and he seems to not be able to accept that and thus she symbolizes how the dream is untouchable. “It excited him, too, that many men had already loved Daisy- it increased her value in his eyes” (121, 8). This is the moment in the story when Nick let’s on that this chase for Daisy is more like a game. Yes, Gatsby loved her and fought for her for many years but he persistently views their love as a ‘game.’ Daisy is just his barbie doll.
• “‘Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself.’ ‘I hope I never will,' she answered. 'I
hate careless people. That's why I like you.’” (63, 3)
This quote employs foreshadowing. Jordan is explaining to Nick how she is able to drive badly as long as everyone else drives carefully. This quote represents the writing technique of
foreshadowing, which is being used in one of its finest form. Fitzgerald is foreshadowing to chapter seven where Daisy kills Myrtle Wilson because of her reckless driving. Fitzgerald uses
foreshadowing to strengthen the plot of his book. This dialogue hints that Jordan will meet someone as careless as herself, Nick later says that Tom and Daisy are lazy.
Point of view:
• “He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles
with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey” (38, 3).
This quote represents Gatsby well. Nick was a strange point of view as his opinion of Gatsby kept changing indecisively throughout the novel. This passage is when Nick’s first meets Gatsby. This illustration of Gatsby seizes the theatrical caliber of his charisma and character (e.g. His saying “old sport”). It shows the way that Gatsby would put on a facade to the world, which was broken down by the end of the novel. His smile seems to be a result of a mixture of hope and imagination. Here, Nick describes Gatsby’s way, how he has the ability to make anyone he smiles at feel like a special person out of “the whole external world,” reflecting that person’s most optimistic conception of that person. The way Nick perceives his smile is quite strange, as no rational person thinks that way when another individual simply smiles. This shows that Nick felt a connection with Gatsby and was attempting to see through him and understand what makes him tick. Exaggeration is utilized to emphasize this award-winning smile. Gatsby won Nick over with his smile, however one is not sure that Gatsby doesn’t do this to everyone, it could all be artificial. Gatsby could be doing this so that people don’t ask questions about his past or question his honestness. This way Gatsby makes people
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feel secure about him. It’s obvious by the way Nick feels so comfortable around him, Nick is usually careful with his words yet here he is gushing. It couldn’t have sounded better if Gatsby had wrote it himself. Gatsby’s smile is part of his image.
• “I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others--young clerks in the dusk, wasting the
most poignant moments of night and life” (46, 3).
All the social interactions at parties are just empty hollow words. They are wasting their time with all the socialization, they are filling up the loneliness they feel inside. This is a conflict the majority of people face in their lives should they just ‘live in the moment’ and enjoy the present recklessly or should they prepare for the future? In this quote, the “others” were wasting their time enjoying themselves in the moment. Nick did not seem to look at this with disdain as he felt it too. "Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day of the year and miss it" (10, 1). This quote makes it obvious that the lack of purpose and pointless life in which the unfilled, wealthy society has turned in to. In general, Fitzgerald’s world of excessive debauchery is a mask that the characters wear to avoid the quiet torments that haunt them whenever they are forced to take stock of their actions. Rather than do this, they simply keep moving.
• “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It
eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning —So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (149, 9)
Nick relates the true nature of the American Dream with retrospective sorrow. There’s nothing left of Gatsby; no one comes to his funeral. He’s as invisible as his nameless possessions, as his servants, and as any member of the unseen lower class. Everything he’s worked for has all gone to ‘ashes’. No matter how much you have in the world, once you’re dead you take nothing with you. This is no surprise to any of us, yet still we beat on… Gatsby believed he could reach the green light (his happy place) and even though deep down we know we’re not going to reach our goal. We persist and believe that we haven’t tried harder, reaching for the stars. we think well we haven’t tried hard enough and the next day we run faster and stretch farther. Gatsby believed in the past he believed that he could go back into the past and get Daisy. We keep on beating on to try to get what we think is possible but it’s like swimming against the tide. We spend all our time reflecting on the past in which we’re looking forward to the future. Then before we know it life has passed us and we’ve missed the best moments in life. Man is never satisfied, we don’t know what we have until it’s gone and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Gatsby believed he could reinvent the past but it was impossible, he thought like we once did when we were children that if we wished upon a star hard enough that dream would come true. The tragedy in this scenario is that the dream didn’t and this novel was serving as a wake up call to Americans. The current draws them backward as they row forward toward the green light, they spend all this time building the future. However, when is the future? There is no time set in stone, there is no known finish line; you spend all that time building up your life for the “future” and you look back and you don’t see a success. We realize we want more. What we really want is to go back in time to some place where we felt safe, some moment when we felt content. This is supposed to be the golden days. This dream is not necessarily
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American as it is shared by all mankind. We all share his ambition. The language used evokes sympathy for the “great” Gatsby as we can relate to him on a personal level.
• “‘Well, he wasn’t always a butler; he used to be the silver polisher for some people in New York
that had a silver service for two hundred people. He had to polish it from morning till night, until finally it began to affect his nose-’‘Things went from bad to worse’”(11, 1)
This shows how the American Dream of equal opportunity, ironically harms an actual hardworking man in the story. The main characters who are incredibly rich haven’t worked a day in their lives. This just clearly exhibits the injustice. Surely with the great American dream this man should be rolling in money, but instead he’s at a worse position than before. As the American dream helped some but not all. This created even more imbalance and there can never be balance if it’s still believed that the superiority of some is greater than the equality of all.
• “Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead” (141,
This is said by Meyer Wolfshiem after Gatsby’s death. This quote is all about not appreciating something until it’s gone. You can relate this to the present, you don’t appreciate the things you have right now until they are behind you and it’s an ongoing quest to rewind back to that moment, but it’s too late. Throughout the novel, none of the characters seemed to appreciate what they had enough. I believe the underlying message of the Great Gatsby is to seize the day. We get so caught up by the past that we can’t change or get back to and the future that holds all our wildest dreams, that we forget that there’s still the present. Life’s unpredictable so we should learn to give
appreciation when life is good, not until after it turns to dust.
• “With the influence of the dress her personality had also undergone a change. The intense vitality
that had been so remarkable in the garage was converted into impressive hauteur. Her laugher, her gestures, her assertions became more violently affected moment by moment, and as she
expanded the room grew smaller around her, until she seemed to be revolving on a noisy, creaking pivot through the smoky air.” (24, 2)
Myrtle thought that by acting like a snob, she would fit in and be accepted as part of the elite. By looking down on others she attempts to show that she’s of higher standard. Those with ‘old money’, who were born and their family raised them into a rich family, were taught to act a certain type of way. Myrtle here pretends to be one of them by acting in the way she thinks people of high social class act. She becomes nasty and snobbish, because that’s how she’s been treated by the elite, as a commoner.