What does Gatsby want? What is standing in his way? And what strategy does he pursue in order to overcome this block?
Gatsby is crazy in love with Daisy; he’s fascinated by her innocent and glamour image. But Daisy comes from a very rich family, while Gatsby is only a farmer son. Tempted by the idea of prosperity, Gatsby works hard to achieve success in the quickest way. He is a focus and persistent young man, and American vast economical growth gives him chance to do disrespectable business. He succeeds at last, and in five years becomes a wealthy and charismatic man. Gatsby bought a mansion in West Egg—only a bay across to Daisy’s resident—and throws lavish parties every Saturday night only to prove to Daisy that he is worthy for her.
Which point of view does the writer choose to use? What does he gain and lose through it?
The story is narrated by Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s neighbor and (in the end) his best friend; so it’s told from third-person limited point of view. I think Fitzgerald doesn’t lose anything by doing that. If he wants to make Gatsby distinguished (and thus great) from others, he must point out the irony between the ‘old money’ who gain money respectably but their moral is corrupted, and the ‘new money’ (Gatsby) who becomes rich from disrespectable business but has more conscience. That’s why Fitzgerald uses Nick. Because Nick is neither the ‘old money’ nor ‘new money’, he can judge both sides more objectively and thus presented what Fitzgerald wants to criticize.
Further challenge from this question is to do an experiment…
Retell a crucial passage in the novel from a different point of view. How does this change the story?
The most crucial passage of this story is Myrtle’s accident; now let’s pick Gatsby’s point of view. He would have told the accident more vividly, but he won’t be able to describe the chaos in Wilson’s garage after that in intense emotion as Nick tells it. Also, because Gatsby didn’t know that Myrtle is Tom’s mistress, he won’t be able to let us guess why the victim bursts suddenly to the car.
Images and metaphors
There are a lot of images and metaphors here; I think this is a book with the most metaphors I’ve ever read.
Green light—on the East Egg’s dock, to which Gatsby stretch his hands in the first night Nick sees him—symbolizes the dream that Gatsby (and Americans) is longing to reach.
Valley of ashes—where Wilson garage is and where Myrtle died—symbolizes moral corruption. People usually pass this valley of ashes on the way to New York, as if symbolizes that on the way to rapid prosperity, there’s a risk of moral corruption.
The eyes of Doctor T.J Eckleburg—a billboard with a pair of enormous eyes looking through a pair of enormous glasses—symbolizes God who sees everything. Wilson points out the billboard when saying to Myrtle that she can fool him (about her affair with Tom) but she can’t fool God. Nick feels the eyes are following him when Tom is taking him to see Myrtle, because he knows that it is a sin. The billboard’s location in a desolate place can also symbolize how people have been abandoning God and morality in their pursuing of money and pleasure.
Yellowish color—in Gatsby’s car, Wilson’s garage, Myrtle dress, etc—symbolizes moral corruption. The accident is caused by the yellow car, Myrtle’s manner changes completely after she changed to cream-colored dress. To contrast it with purity and innocence, Fitzgerald uses white color (Daisy’s dress when she’s young, Daisy’s car by which Gatsby takes her out, etc.)
Other colors—there are several other colors used throughout the book, including pink—Gatsby’s pink suit; grey—the valley of ashes; and blue. They all symbolizes different things (which I haven’t got time to study :P).
Beginnings and Endings
Fitzgerald opened his book with a hint of mystery. Through his narration Nick already hinted that there would be something that would be disgusting him in the story he would tell, but nevertheless he thought Gatsby was an exceptional at the end: ‘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 shortwinded elations of men.’ This passage intrigued me at the beginning; what happen to Gatsby? What makes him great? And what makes Nick very disappointed?
The ending of this book follows ‘logical exhaustion’ style. There is an infinite repetition in how Americans is portrayed of pursuing false dreams and falling into moral decay. And this situation is still (and will be) going on when Nick ended the story (and that’s why he moved to the west, to his home). In that Fitzgerald wanted to warn us that having a target and working hard to achieve it is good, but there would be a negative excess of moral decay when we become greedy. So, to answer the last question for this second level inquiry:
Do you agree with that philosophy?
I would say: yes, I certainly agree. Modernization does not always walk simultaneously with civilization, there is always the excess of moral decay with it.