The Great Gatsby and the Destruction of a Romantic Ideal In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald tells the story of a romantic ideal and its ultimate destruction by the inexorable rot and decay of modern life. The story is related by Nick Carraway, who has taken a modest rental house next door to Jay Gatsby's mansion. Jay Gatsby is a young millionaire who achieves fabulous wealth for the sole purpose of recapturing the love of his former sweetheart, Daisy Fay Buchanan. Five years prior to the principal events of the story, Daisy broke off with Gatsby and married the vulgar and arrogant Tom Buchanan because he was rich and came from a respectable family. In the years since, Gatsby turns his memory of Daisy into a near-religious worship. He places her on a pedestal and transforms her into his own romantic ideal. In the process, he also transforms himself. He changes his name from Gatz to Gatsby; he invents a past, saying he was from a wealthy family and studied at Oxford; he affects the speech patterns of an English aristocrat ("old sport"), and stages parties that resemble theatrical productions. The irony is that Gatsby's extreme pursuit of materialism is just an elaborate facade that allows him to pursue his enchanted spiritual vision. All of the trappings of his wealth have a sense of the unreal, as having no weight or substance. Our first sense of this occurs in Chapter 3, when Gatsby invites Nick to one of his parties. In Gatsby's library Nick encounters a drunken guest who announces that Gatsby's books are actually real: "What do you think?" he demanded impetuously. "About what?" He waived his hand toward the book-shelves. "About that. As a matter of fact you needn't bother to... ... middle of paper ... ..., boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." Works Cited and Consulted: Bruccoli, Matthew J. Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Carrol and Graf, 1993. Hobsbawm, Eric. The Age of Extremes. New York: Pantheon, 1994. Mizener, Arthur, ed. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963. Posnock, Ross. "'A New World, Material Without Being Real': Fitzgerald's Critique of Capitalism in The Great Gatsby." Critical Essays on Scott Fitzgerald's "Great Gatsby." Ed. Scott Donaldson. Boston: Hall, 1984. 201-13. Raleigh, John Henry. "F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby." Mizener 99-103. Trilling, Lionel. "F. Scott Fitzgerald." Critical Essays on Scott Fitzgerald's "Great Gatsby." Ed. Scott Donaldson. Boston: Hall, 1984. 13-20.
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