The Great Gatsby: Make Plain the Reason Harrowed Humanity, Is Baited by Fickle Fortune

Read this book a while ago in AP Lang, but thought I should post a review. Title is based off of a life from Countee Cullen’s poem YET I DO MARVEL.

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Fitzgerald was not an advocate for explosion of consumerism of his time, as evident in his novel. ‘Gatsby shows how materialistic wealth blinds people, and gives them false hope of a wonderful and prosperous future. Since its birth, America has been known as the “land of opportunity.” It was, as James Adams Truslow put it, “[a] dream of a better, richer, and happier life for all of our citizens of every rank…” Though this dream is still the firm pillar of America, the outward image of it has changed vastly, from an exciting New World to a wild west frontier to a land of economic opportunity. However, the hidden, true face remains the same: the endless aspiration for wealth. 

Jay Gatsby’s vision of fortune physically takes the form of Daisy Buchanan, narrator Nick Carraway’s second cousin. Poor, delusional Gatsby’s entire life comes crashing down when he fails to attain the fantasy that he has been so desperately chasing after. His obsession with Daisy has badly blinded him; he invests all his time and energy into creating a persona based on the Daisy in his head, and, for a moment, believes that he has achieved his goal through his affluence, blissfully unaware of the transience of his own life: while wealth may be present forever, people are not.

To others, Gatsby represents their dreams of affluence: he is a rich, seemingly happy man who throws elaborate parties and drives a fancy car. He has everything people hope for, and yet he is not satisfied. Initially, our narrator Nick is enraptured by Gatsby as well; Nick comments that Gatsby’s adoring smile “faced– or seemed to face– the whole external world for an instant…” Though on the outside Gatsby’s grin appears to be confident and self-assured, boldly confronting society, we get a flicker of what’s deep down– what “seemed” to happen– a sense that the smile is not truly genuine, and that, behind the armor of grandeur and magnificence there is a pitiful human soul yearning to be recognized. Just as Nick is basking in Gatsby’s godly aura, the divine light “vanish[es]– and I [Nick] was looking at an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd.” Nick then sees Gatsby for who he really is: a guileless young man struggling to fit into the high-class society by going out-of-his way to impress others by acting overly sophisticated and acquiring excess materialistic wealth. Though Gatsby is ornate and pretentious like a man of old-wealth, Nick is able to see through his demeanor. Through this almost satirical depiction of Gatsby as a woefully comic character, Fitzgerald criticizes American society’s obsession with status and affluence, and many Americans’ lifelong yet fruitless attempts to craft realities out of dreams.  

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In ‘Gatsby, society values and honors those who possess materialistic wealth, physical embodiments of dreams and splendor– and to this day, we still do. Through Gatsby’s tragic fall from deity to mortal, Fitzgerald reminds us that in the end none of us are God, and that heaven on earth is ultimately unattainable, even through affluence. The original creed of America, to create a place of freedom and happiness for all, has been demoralized by the dark yet promising light of gold and materialistic wealth.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is timeless, and is still prevalent today, as much as we refuse to acknowledge it. We are still on the move, searching for that ideal life promised by the American Dream. Exposed to the tantalizing beauty of luxury, we will always yearn for more. Our dreams are perfections of reality, but there will forever be a fine line between what is real and what we want. Yet we will always keep chasing, always keep stretching our arms out towards our own green light that we continually force farther and farther away, until it is finally extinguished, and we become lost in the bay… America is indeed borne back ceaselessly into the past.

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