The Great Gatsby
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Transcript of The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby
Interpretation and SignificanceThe Great Gatsby can be viewed in one of three ways:
An autobiographical account of Fitzgeralds life
A criticism of the American Dream
An allegory teaching the sinfulness of greed
I. Autobiographical NovelDedication:Once Again to Zelda.Epigram:Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,Till she cry, Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,I must have you! Thomas Parke DInvilliers
I. Autobiographical NovelFrancis Scott Key Fitzgerald, 1896-1940Born in Minnesota, grew up in New JerseyPrinceton dropout with immense literary talentServed in WWI military, but war ended before he could be deployed
I. Autobiographical (cont.) E. Met Zelda Sayre while serving in militaryZelda is a rich, upper class southernerZelda breaks off initial engagement when Fitzgerald cant bring in enough moneyF. Publishes This Side of ParadiseImmediate literary success.Zelda takes him back; they are wed
I. Autobiographical (cont.)G. Socialite Ex-Patriots, they lived a lavish lifestyle and Fitzgerald was frequently broke.H. Tensions between Fitzgerald and Zelda increasedShe is schizophrenic, hospitalized at HopkinsHe is an alcoholic, moves to Hollywood She dies when her mental hospital catches on fire and she is locked in a room awaiting electroshock therapyHe drinks himself to death; dies of a heart attack after eating a candy bar
Fitzgerald As Gatsby?Both men are haunted by women they could never make happy, women whose greed destroyed them.
II. Criticism of American DreamGatsby had committed himself to the following of a grail.
II. American DreamGrail is an unattainable, elusive mythical/magical object in medieval romances.Desire for the grail has driven countless men to ruin and death.Fitzgerald uses the search for the grail as a metaphor for the pursuit of the American dream. It is full of the promise of the enchanted, but it is ultimately unattainable.
III. Moral AllegoryAllegory: a story full of symbolic people, places, or things designed to convey a moral lessonThe reader is meant to share in Nicks unaffected scorn for the world he sees and in his desire to see that world in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever.The reader is meant to agree that he, like his narrator, wants no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.The reader is meant to understand why God is an observer, not a participant, in human affairs; why he judges but does not intervene.
T. J. Ecklebergs disapproving eyes, symbolic of Gods disapproval. What is Ecklebergs role? What is Gods? What is Nicks?
IV. SymbolismGreat Gatsby is most commonly discussed in terms of its inventive use of symbolism.
Key Symbols in the TextEyes of T. J. Eckleburg1. Gods judging but no less detached perspective on human affairs.The Green Light1. Peoples longing for those things that are most elusive.The Valley of Ashes1. Empty, lifeless valley becomes a symbol for the empty, soulless people who traverse it.Gatsbys Rolls Royce1. The vehicle for displaying Gatsbys wealth becomes an instrument of death. The search for money kills.Pearl Necklace/Dog Collar1. Tom gives to Daisy a pearl necklace, but to Myrtle a dog collar. Myrtle is nothing but a pet to hima plaything that he can buy and sell (or woo and discard). The dog collar emphasizes his greed; most people are like possessions to him.
Key QuotationsNICK on NICK[Nick to reader] I was conscious of wanting to look squarely at everyone, and yet to avoid all eyes.[Nick to reader] I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.[Nick to reader] I am one of the few honest people I have ever met.
NICK on GATSBY HIMSELF[Nick to reader] Only Gastby, the man who gives his name to this books, was exempt from my reaction.[Nick to reader] (Nick says to Gatsby) Theyre a rotten crowdyoure worth the whole damn bunch put together.: Ive always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end[Nick to reader] (At Gasbys funeral) I began to have a feeling of defiance, of scornful solidarity between Gastby and me against them all
Key Quotations Cont.NICK on GATSBYs DREAM[Nick to reader] [He] sprang from a Platonic conception of himself[Nick to reader] He had an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found and which it is not likely I shall find again[Nick to reader] Gatsby had committed himself to the following of a grail.[Nick to reader] Gatsby was prey to the colossal vitality of his illusion.[Gasby to Nick] Cant repeat the past? Why, of course you can! [Nick to reader] So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
DAISY (and TOM)[Gatsby to Nick on Daisy] [her voice] is full of money. [Nick to reader] Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes, and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor[Nick to reader] [It was] as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged [Nick to reader] They were careless people, Tom and Daisythey 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
Gatsby and its Relationship To Major Literary PeriodsAge of ReasonGatsby, like Ben Franklin, believes in careful and consistent self-improvement. However, Gatsby improves not upon not himself (James Gatz) but upon a completely made-up version of himself (Jay Gatsby).RomanticismGatsby is compelled by the power of the Romantic Dream, which makes promises of seemingly infinite potential. Gatsby wishes to be something greaterand otherthan he is, and he is willing to pay. First, he pays with all his earthly fortune; later, he pays with his life.RealismNick (and really Fitzgerald) reveal the destructiveness of an unyielding devotion to the Romantic Dream. All the characters dreams are crushed, and they are left sad, alone, or dead.