The Great Gatsby is considered prophetic as four years after its publication there were the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. It is considered a staple of its time but, today, it is still read throughout the world, perhaps because its message resonates with so many. The social writer F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby to touch upon many social issues, such as the ever-prevalent American Dream, and human pursuits such as the need for love and the quest for self-identity. His novel served as a warning to people if they continued a consumerist lifestyle. It is one of those books that drew me in with its poetic, cleverly-constructed prose and a timeless message.
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Love towards another human being is undeniably a universal human emotion imbedded in everyone; therefore, this theme remains relevant. The gist of this theme can be summed up by Fitzgerald talking about his love, Zelda, after she broke off an engagement with him because she was unsure if he could support her financially: ‘I love her and that’s the beginning and end of everything’. This notion is reflected in Jay Gatsby’s mannerisms throughout the novel. Gatsby dies when he realises Daisy does not return his love. He waited unwearyingly for Daisy’s call but ‘no telephone message arrived’. Then, shortly afterwards, his life ends after being shot by Wilson. His death is timely because it is a reflection of Gatsby’s psychological, inner state. He lost his purpose of living.
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Love can cause one to ignore red flags
Throughout the novel, Daisy has no holistic, clear description, other than her voice, that seems to continually draw Gatsby to her because it was a ‘deathless song’ and she ‘couldn’t be overdreamed’. Sure, physical qualities are important but his strongest characterisation of her is merely her voice rather than other aspects that really differentiate a person such as personality or his cerebral connection with her. He does not see her in totality and his perception of her is largely made up in his head – ‘a dream’. Surprisingly, Gatsby even pinpoints that her voice is ‘full of money’. This is somewhat unexpected because he is able to critically analyse his love and see her questionable character yet he chooses to ignore the hard facts. Other red flags include Daisy’s acceptance of Tom’s extramarital affairs, which makes it apparent that she prioritises comfort over morality, if she has any. Another example is her lack of consideration for her daughter, Pammy. She kisses Gatsby and confesses her love for him in front of Pammy. Daisy’s love for money makes her overlook basic principles and moral conduct. Likewise, today, we may choose to ignore the apparent red flags under the banner of ‘love’.
Love can cause one to focus on one person and forget the wider picture
Gatsby would do anything to obtain Daisy. Not only does he remember details like ‘five years next November’ but he keeps careful clippings of her collected throughout the years which indicates obsession and that thoughts of Daisy consumed his mind. In chapter 6, the repercussions are apparent. Gatsby does everything to win Daisy’s heart including bootlegging, buying a lavish house and clothes to impress her. He does all this in hope that she would ‘wander into one of his parties’. Note the pettiness of his hope – all that effort so that she may merely walk in to one of his parties. Do we find ourselves readjusting our life for someone to walk in at their convenience? Another indication of Gatsby’s love to the point of obsession is that, after Myrtle was killed, Gatsby had no seeming qualms; instead ‘he spoke as if Daisy’s reaction was the only thing that mattered’. In the process of acquiring his love, he loses touch of humanity – a fundamental part of himself. At the end of the day, Gatsby, the man who created his own façade, dies with none of the people at the parties at his funeral. In other words, Gatsby did not have real relationships with other people other than a small number of his employees and Nick Carraway. Do we neglect the whole picture and grand scheme of things in the quest for love? To avoid Gatsby’s mistake, perhaps one should only invest in someone else as much as they are invested in and to never forget that life exists beyond a single person.
Love can make one feel both extreme ends of the spectrum: ecstasy and devastation
We can see the repercussions when comparing both Nick and Gatsby. Fitzgerald uses the words ‘orgastic’ and ‘green light’ and just overall zeal to describe Gatsby. The word ‘orgastic’ (from the word ‘orgasm’) could be an epitome of Gatsby’s life – one characterised by extreme highs and instability. Contrastingly, Nick does not have a ‘ghostly heart’ or a renewed capacity for love and this is what keeps him alive unlike Gatsby, who died early, metaphysically, before his physical death when he lost Daisy. Gatsby dies right after he loses Daisy whilst losing Jordan has no effect on Nick. Instead, he lives till the end of the novel. Nick is able to think rationally and not act out on a spur because of this quality. Yet, he is drawn to Gatsby because he needs the ‘indirect experience’ of the vigour and passion that comes from dreaming and love. Gatsby lived a life like he was continually on drugs, taking risks and acting on spurs, and when it does not lead to his desired end result, he dies. Is ecstasy and devastation a good or a bad thing? It could be both but self-awareness is important.
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Was Gatsby’s love for Daisy worth it?
Gatsby waited and pushed for Daisy until ‘“more’’ is an impossibility’. All these things show us that the dreams of love were Gatsby’s pitfall. She became a figment of his imagination when he created her in his mind. Daisy left Gatsby to take the blame all alone without a word. Fitzgerald tells the reader of the repercussions that stem from the misplaced energy of unrequited love and also, the ludicrous, aimless depths one would go for love. Perhaps this is an indication for one to fall in love with what is in front of you, and not your expectations.
- Don’t choose to ignore red flags.
- Don’t make a person up so much in your mind that ‘more becomes an impossibility’. See someone for who they truly are.
- Don’t ignore everything else around you and never idolize someone to the point that your life revolves around them. Own your life.
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By Emily Chen Sue Mei