“No – Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is 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.”
Moving to West Egg in New York, Nick Carraway is intrigued by his neighbour, the enigmatic Jay Gatsby. Finding out about Gatsby’s past with his second cousin, Daisy, who is now married to Tom Buchanan, Nick gets entwined in the good, the bad, and the uglies of each of their lives. The Great Gatsby is written as Nick’s observation of how they live.
One of the beautiful things about this book is how the characters and the themes are so deeply intertwined. Therefore, this post shall do the same and merge the two sections together.
Character(s) and Theme(s)
The By-Product of Societal Wealth and Status (#FirstWorldProblems)
The Great Gatsby has constantly been said to be one of the great American novels, the issues of this novel applicable until today. For this post, I would like to view the issues brought up on a general level.
Being a developed, wealthy area usually meant the promise of affluent, convenient lives, which in turn, attract many success-driven and career-minded youths. However, like poverty, excess does have consequence as well – a societal pressure to keep your reputation, status, and assets, that having and keeping more meant one was more successful, and more likely to be looked up to. Interestingly, you could see some “by-products” of relative affluence personified in the various characters.
Nick Carraway is the personification of the American Dreamer – someone who has left the comforts of his own home to pursue the dreams of many, placing New York City as the golden gate, where everything is beautiful and glittery – like how many people view the other side of the bridge.
Tom Buchanan seems to represents privilege – his feeling of entitlement as a white man of “Nordic” descent, and how he feels in the right to say that women still go around too much “for his liking” with no one calling him out on it. He also brings out the scenario of “wealth = above everything”, especially when he uses his wealth to turn Myrtle’s husband against Gatsby without evidence and how he can carry on with his illicit affairs without anyone batting an eyelid.
Daisy Buchanan (nee Fay) could be the personification of resignation – she laments about the deteriorating situation of her life and possibly, the society (like we do), but finds that she is too attached to her comfort zone. While she envisions a life with Gatsby, like she did before she got married, she is unwilling to take action because of the comfort Tom is able to provide her, despite her knowing about his infidelity. At the same time, she does not step up when Gatsby takes the rap for her crime for her, sitting in the entitlement she is unwilling to leave. Similarly, this situation is like the one we find ourselves in from time to time – a cycle of us bashing systems we are part of but are unhappy about, only to return to it because we, in truth, cannot foresee living without the system.
Jordan Baker represents apathy, justifying her actions with the dishonesty and superficial nature of her circles. Her status as a celebrated sportswoman also means that she is able to breeze through her life without much questioning, instead finding pleasure in listening in on gossip and becoming a status socialite – one who seems to be without care, and probably the ideal position many people wish to attain these days.
And lastly, Jay Gatsby, Nick’s neighbour and possibly the most characteristically opposite of him as well, can be said to be the personification of the faithful dreamer. Surrounded by his self-made wealth, he is nostalgic and faithful in heart, faithful to Daisy until this day, despite the many women in his life and parties. In a sense, he can be said to be the optimist of the situation – one who continues to have hope despite the atrocities thrown at him – but one that is quickly snuffed out by the system.
Style & Structure
The Great Gatsby was written as a first person narrative, as if the protagonist, Nick, was telling his story and the background behind the book he had written. True to his role as the observer of all the characters, structure of the story flows linear from one event to the next, so readers are able to track the happenings without deviating from the main story with backgrounders and side plots.
Much of this analysis was greatly influenced by Crash Course Literature. Check out their analysis (more in-depth and detailed) here (Just Part #1).
In the meantime…
And I’ll see you next week!
Note: Thanks to NoQStore Asia, I managed to acquire ‘The Great Gatsby’. You can do so as well and get a 15% discount at NoQStore Asia with the coupon code ‘JOELYN15’ at checkout.