AN EXPLORATION PROJECT,
THE GREAT GATSBY 2018
- Describe three key characters and explain how they change throughout the novel.
Throughout ‘The Great Gatsby’ novel, Jay Gatsby does not change. Gatsby starts with hope and ends with hope. This hope was for him and Daisy to one day be together. He stays true to this, to the end, with no sign of deterioration. Gatsby is a mysterious character throughout the book, but towards the end, he opens up to Nick and more is revealed about his true character. The truth was that Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He changed from a poor farm boy into a rich, self-made man, all for Daisy. This change isn’t shown through throughout the story, but he does reveal this to Nick, the night of his murder. This is a show of a change in Mr Gatsby on paper, but not his true character as he always believed he was never the son of poor farmers. This is shown when it is said; “I suppose he’d had the name ready for a long time, even then. His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself… So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen−year−old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end”. So in truth Gatsby, as a character, has not changed, but his wealth and social acceptance (although limited) has expanded/changed.
Daisy, Tom Buchanan’s Wife, doesn’t show any change throughout the book. The reader starts off knowing not too much about her, but what the reader picks up is that she lives in a dream; a surrealistic world. Daisy, at the beginning of the book, says: “She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘all right,’ I said, ‘ I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.’” Daisy must have been hurt in the past to want this for her daughter, as we later find out in one of her flashbacks to the night of her wedding. Daisy looks at the world in a delusional way, that everything revolves around her and that nothing but her wealth and wellbeing matters, yet, although so self-absorbed, she is superior to other the other characters. In other words, from beginning to end, she acts like a fool because she believes that is the best thing a girl can be in that world. This was shown when she said, “…a fool that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool”. She sees the world as though there is nothing more than wealth, perfection, her status and everything else about herself; she is a beautiful little fool.
Nick is the narrator and therefore is the influence of the reader’s perspective. He finds out more about Gatsby and this lifestyle, his perspective changes, influencing a change in ours. Nick changes in ways of lifestyle, he starts to fit the way Tom, Gatsby and Daisy live in riches, thus losing sight in the small, yet still important things in life, such as his birthday. Upon realising the way that he has started to get caught up in the drama of Gatsby and Daisy and the rich lifestyle, Nick starts to pull away; stand back and watch from the sidelines. By sanding back, just a little, Nick was able to see what he’d been dragged into; allowing him to reflect. That one summer and Gatsby’s death had such a big impact on Nick that he had to start seeing a specialist. So, from beginning to end Nick changes from a good, reliable bondsman, to a man that cannot support himself and needs the help of a specialist.
2. Identify how each of the characters you have explored above presented the idea of illusion in the text. Describe how they concealed their true self from other characters in the novel. Explain what helped you uncover their illusion in the text.
Daisy has a facade, made up by a simple illusion. An illusion of perfection and purity, as symbolised by white. Daisy is often dressed in white, this is to create a sense, to those around her, that she is perfectly untouched. This illusional sense that she gives off, makes her appear as superior, as she is described by Nick to be “High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl”. Daisy was born into the American dream; she was born rich. But her greed, like the rest of mankind, sought her to seek more materialistic objects: preferably money or gold. This is definitely what brought her to Tom Buchanan and, later, Jay Gatsby because she embodies everything that comes with wealth.
“Her voice is full of money…
That was it. It was full of money – that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it…
High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl.”
Although fake, Daisy was desired by many. Nick couldn’t figure out what it was until it was described to him that her voice was ‘It was full of money – that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it…the golden girl’ Money is, naturally has an inexhaustible charm therefore enticing mankind, so like a siren, Daisy draws them in with just the slightest ‘jingle’ of her voice. ‘The golden girl’ referring to her supposed perfection, riches and voice of money. This illusion was spun to further close herself off from the real world and to further fit into the ‘perfection’ of the much desired American Dream. But in the end, Daisy’s illusional facade started to wear away and Nick saw her for her true self, a woman with closed off feelings, (little remorse?) and love for nothing but objects and her own well being. This was shown when she killed Myrtle and never showed up to Gatsby, her lover’s funeral. Who Daisy is, is a girl, lost within her own illusional facade with not wanting to ever leave it, or have anything merely break the surface of her unfulfilled life. All she desired to be was to be rich, and perfectly untouched.
Nick doesn’t give off an illusion, but he is enticed by those who live the ‘American Dream’: Gatsby, Daisy and Tom Buchanan. Tom starts off by moving into West Egg, a place of new money, where people are considered to live the ‘American Dream’. Here, he gets involved with his next door neighbour Gatsby, of West Egg, and Daisy, his cousin, and Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s husband. They open his eyes to their world, made up of illusions of riches and perfection. Nick, caught up in all of this started to lose touch with the important things in life: the real world. “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life,” Nick said this as he realised that he would never truly be apart of the American Dream in which Gatsby, Daisy and Tom live. He was ‘within and without’, he was living as if he was in the American Dream, yet he was always kept at arm’s length: not fully accepted. Enchanted as if he was bewitched by the outward charm and illusion of Gatsby, Daisy and Tom’s lives. Yet when he sought deeper he was able to see past the illusion and break free of the ‘enchantment’, ergo repelling him and allowing him to go back to ‘the real world’.
Gatsby doesn’t give off an illusion: he is an illusion. At the age of seventeen, Gatsby left home and created a Platonic conception of himself. This ‘new Jay Gatsby’ became his life, his delusional life, his illusional self. As a boy he always lived in an illusion that he was rich but when started creating that life for himself: showered in riches and his plans to ‘seduce’ Daisy into a life with him, Gatsby lost sight of the real world and, in-turn, lost who he really was. As said by Nick “The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself… So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen−year−old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end” The invention – an illusion – was all he had and became his life, a life that he was faithful to, until the end.
3. Describe three important relationships in the text. Explain how these relationships were presented as being “false”.
Gatsby and Daisy – based on both of their illusions – not their true selves even though their illusions are, now who they are – this is built on false foundations
Daisy and Tom – cheating – not fully in love with each other – use each other for status and wealth – only care about – retreat into their riches when they needed to hide from the touch of imperfection – false because they are only in it for the wealth and social status/image
Nick and Jordan – Jordan is sort of from the elite society and Nick loses himself in it and starts to subconsciously lose touch with the important things to him in life (his values) so he can fit the social bar but that isn’t who he really is and that is all Jordan knows him to be – False due to different values and peer pressure? Because Daisy has sort of pushed them together?
Fitzgerald “accurately shows life and its problems” and he like to address the “moral dilemmas in the society”. One way that he does this is through the ideas (or themes) that he presents in his work. We have talked about the idea of “illusion” and that all of the characters and places in The Great Gatsby are hiding something from the outside world. Fitzgerald comments on people’s need to present a persona to the world, rather than risk revealing and being rejected because of their true self. He also presents the following ideas in The Great Gatsby:
- The inevitability of time
- The myth of the American Dream
- For each of the ideas above, make a list of the ways that Fitzgerald presents it to us as his readers. Be specific and use examples from the text to support your judgements.
The inevitability of time
- Water or rain. An example of this was when Gatsby saw Daisy for the first time in five years and when they reconnected, at that moment, the rain stopped. But it started again and the momentary stop in time ended and reality came crashing back down
- The flow/movement of water guides them, it is unknown and unpredictable, as are the characters e.g. Daisy and Gatsby
The myth of the American Dream
- East Egg seems and appears perfect and everyone is living in a dream, what more could they want? Yet, even with all they have they still have a first for more, more power. Daisy and Tom show this
- West Egg, like East egg, is the same and Gatsby is an example of this.
- Explain what you think Fitzgerald is saying about each of the ideas above- what is his opinion on each one. Why do you think he holds the view he does? Comment on why you do or don’t agree with him using the world you live in as a reference.
Fitzgerald shows, throughout his novel The Great Gatsby, in the symbol of water, the inevitability of time. From beginning to end water is associated with time. Gatsby has this idea, a fantasy that he can’t break out of, that he and Daisy will be together and that the last five years will be erased. Wiped clean. Gone. forever lost, as if they never happened. Although in moments it appears that time has stopped and the entire concept has been erased, but it is only an appearance and in The Great Gatsby appearances are never what they seem. An early example of time stopping was when Daisy and Gatsby were reunited for the first time in five years. The rain was pouring down, but as soon as Daisy and Gatsby became engorged/enveloped in the others stories, the rain stopped and in that moment time did too, as if the last five years never happened. Of course, it wasn’t to last, and when the rain finally started again it was just as Daisy was leaving.
The current of water also has a little to do with the concept of time. Water flows and has a current and that can’t be stopped or controlled with ease. The current is the direction in which time and fate flows. “Go with the flow” is a commonly used expression, in the modern time of now. To go with the flow means to just go with what happens and let fate lead you, your feet will find their own path, just have fate. Gatsby says something similar in the text, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”. By this Gatsby means to go with the flow and let time lead you as a current would. “So we beat on, boats against the current” in other words, we go on as time continues because the fate of it is inevitable. “…borne back ceaselessly into the past.” here the reference is that the back of a boat is faced to the past because nothing can be done about it; it is behind us.
Overall, Fitzgerald believes and has expressed, the inevitability of time. In the end, time will never stop, it just keeps ticking away. I agree with him, time is forever going, forever moving, forever changing. He has referred to the ‘real-world’ by talking about water and the current because like the characters of the novel, we too must ‘go with the flow’ because no matter how hard we try to go against it we always end up going with it. The fate of time leading us to where we must, is inevitable, because, unlike many things, time goes on forever.
The American Dream is made up by the set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.
The Myth of the American Dream is interlinked in the story from its very roots. From the beginning, it is talked about how East Egg is from old money and lives in the illusion of a perfect life, in comparison to West Egg and the rest of New York. West Egg is a place of new money and New York is for all else. Those of East Egg live in this magical bubble that all that matters is their own wealth and status. And why would much else matter? They have everything they need and all they want (save more power, but that is just part of being human) but do they really? They are miserable being that only want more for themselves and will do anything to get it They are also bored, and want a bit o spice, for instance, Tom went to Myrtle and took her as a mistress to add a little more interest to his life. Those of East Egg have everything at the tip of their fingers because they were born into the position, with success, wealth and high status given to them for simply being born. This is the myth of the American dream and Tom and Daisy Buchanan are living it, or so it appears. Those of West Egg have truly earned their position. They are of new money because they have worked hard and struck lucky, in turn becoming rich enough move to West Egg. Yet, they still have no completed the American Dream because they aren’t socially accepted by the ‘elite class’ of East Egg. Gatsby is an example of this, although he had his riches and success in his underground business, he was never full socially accepted, he was always held at arm’s length, as was Nick.
Fitzgerald has a very poetic way of presenting language. He uses the same devices consistently throughout his writing.
- Select three passages from the book (about a paragraph or two in length) that we have NOT annotated as a class. Annotate these passages and identify the language features that Fitzgerald uses. Explain the effect of these features and why he may have chosen to use them.
- Fitzgerald uses many allusions throughout the novel. Select three of these allusions and explain the connection between it and the book. Explain how Fitzgerald uses his allusions to create a story that could take place in the real world. Comment on how the allusions help to support the development of illusion throughout the novel.
Fitzgerald uses allusions in The Great Gatsby to reference people, events and social conditions because they allow the reader to connect to the novel, and better understand the setting. Here are three following examples of allusions used in the text:
- “Meyer Wolfsheim? No, he’s a gambler.” Gatsby hesitated, then added, coolly: “He’s the man who fixed the World’s Series in 1919.” In the book, The Great Gatsby, we don’t know much about Meyer Wolfsheim, beyond the fact that he’s a business associate (and a friend) of Gatsby’s, all that is revealed is that he’s a member of New York’s crummy underworld and an exact character replica for the real-life Arnold Rothstein*. By making Meyer Wolfsheim a replica of the real Arnold Rothstein, the reader is able to better understand and relate to the book and character. Meyer Wolfsheim, although a remaining mystery, reveals a lot about other characters. This is an example of a historical allusion. First of all, his business ‘gonnegtion’ with Gatsby shines a rather dubious light upon the real, hidden, dealings. Even though Gatsby wants everyone to believe that he’s the ‘real deal’, we begin to wonder how he really earned that fortune. Wolfsheim also reveals some rather unfortunate things about one of our other main characters, Nick, like that he’s innately judgmental. Nick is clearly intrigued by the guy, but he also acts like he’s got a bad taste in his mouth around him. The 1919 World Series, is a reference to the ‘real-world’ sports world series. It became popular around the 1920’s, in fact, it became such a big thing that the Chicago players were bribed to intentionally lose. Arnold Rothstein (Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby) was a businessman and a gambler, that was involved in the 1919 world series. This is, once again a historical allusion because it refers to racism, Nordicism, the rising tide of the colour against the white world supremacy. This is related to The Great Gatsby, because Fitzgerald implemented racism into the novel, by making Tom look like a racist because racism was common in the late 19th century.
*Arnold Rothstein is the man who really did fix the 1919 World Series – “one of Meyer Wolfsheim’s impressive accomplishments”
- “I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities, they stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets that only Midas, Morgan, Maecenas knew”. This is a mythological allusion because it refers back to ‘real-life’ mythology. Mida is a very rich and successful god. Everything he touched would turn to gold. Morgan is king in banking and finance. Maecenas was a political advisor to Octavian. Maecenas is trusted with extreme administrative control in Italy. This relates back to Jay Gatsby, Tom Buchanan and Nick Carraway. All three of these mythological gods represent The Great Gatsby because of their wealth, status and greed for more. Like Midas, Gatsby would love to throw parties and show off his wealth: his ‘new money’. He also likes to tell stories of his accomplishments and his past, this is a trait he shares with Maecenas. Jay Gatsby is also referred to as “Son of God”, further backing up his allusional ties to the mythological gods. Tom Buchanan grew up in a family of wealth, status and power, yet is greedy for more money, as each of the listed gods are. Nick Carraway wishes all of his studies and hard work would pay off, one day, and he’d be remembered as a brilliant businessman like Midas and Morgan. “The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself.” This allusion quote supports the theme of appearance versus reality. The reality is that Jay Gatsby is, in fact, a farmer’s son with a background of little money. Unhappy with his background and wealth, Gatsby set out and made a new appearance, an appearance that sprang from a “Platonic conception of himself”. Although changed Gatsby’s nature is still sincere, as is further supported by the quote.
- Create a map of the settings in the novel either digitally or on a piece of A3 paper. Next to each setting (there should be four in total) list at least two quotes from the novel that described that setting.
- Each of the settings in the novel comment on an aspect of The American Dream. Explain how each of the settings reveals a reality about The American Dream and how this message is reinforced by the characters that live in each setting.
The American Dream is to start with little and rise to the top with riches. East Egg, where Daisy lives is a place for people who were born rich. They don’t much like people who have actually worked for their money. East egg has created their own “elite” group. “But the rest offended her and inarguably, because it wasn’t a gesture but an emotion. She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented “place.” Daisy and the rest of this ‘elite’ group shunned those of lower class or new money. These are the ones that are living the ‘American Dream’ although they have been born into it and have not had to work and rise into the riches.
On the drive from East or West Egg to New York, you have to drive through The Valley of Ashes, here is when the American Dream is momentarily broken and the harsh reality of life is all that there is. The Valley of Ashes is a place for the people who are considered to be more lower class and are, therefore, looked down upon by those of East Egg. These ‘lower class’ citizens work hard for their money and to stay ‘afloat’. Their eyes were set on getting out of that place and into a nicer place (eg. West or East Egg); this is the American dream. But the reality was that for these people, such as Myrtle and her husband Mr Wilson, they would never get out of there since they weren’t born into that life, with only a little money to spare. Even if Mr Wilson or Myrtle made it out of The Valley of Ashes they would never be socially accepted into the ‘elite society’.
Those of West Egg are the people with ‘new money’, and like East Egg the are quite secluded from the rest of New York. People of new money are those that have fully experienced the American Dream; they started with little money and rose to the top. This is why they are said to have ‘new money’. Gatsby is an example of this. He was born into a poor family, but left at seventeen out of shame for them and made his own way. Eventually, he made his way into the drug/dealing business and struck lucky as he rose into new riches. Gatsby amongst the other people of West Egg was not socially accepted into the elite group from those of East Egg. Gatsby, immersed in riches did not mind for his eyes were only set on Daisy, but even then he was never fully accepted.
The people of New York are living in a ‘bewitched’ illusion of what is thought to be the American dream. “…Everything seems possible in New York” this is a quote from The Great Gatsby, that is referring to the American dream and how in New York it is possible.
Overall, The American Dream has been shown to appear in the more secluded areas of New York; East and West Egg along with some parts of New York. ‘The American Dream’ has not, however, been shown to be in achieving The Valley of Ashes, as it is out of reach and was merely the delusional dream. Mr Wilson and Myrtle are good examples of this (refer back to paragraph two).
- FILL IN THE SYMBOLS TABLES