Free Great Gatsby Essays: Philosophic and Political Contexts

697 Words3 Pages
The Great Gatsby: Philosophic and Political Contexts Attempting both a sustained close reading of the novel, and the relocation of that reading within wider philosophic and political contexts, one must therefore consider the impact of a broad mystical strain of Western thought upon Fitzgerald's political analysis. For while it is a commonplace that Fitzgerald was fascinated, throughout his life, with what is variously conceived as the "ideal," "the Dream," "inspiration," the "visionary," or "Desire," a tradition with which the book opens, the political uses of the ideal have largely escaped notice. It seems hard to believe in our period, when a three-decade lurch to the political Right has anathematized the word, but F. Scott Fitzgerald once, rather fashionably, believed himself to be a socialist. Some years before, he had also, less fashionably, tried hard to think himself a Catholic. While one hardly associates the characteristic setting of Fitzgerald's novels, his chosen kingdom of the sybaritic fabulous, with either proletarian solidarity or priestly devotions, it is clear that a tension between Left and religiose perspectives structures the very heart of the vision of The Great Gatsby. For while Gatsby offers a detailed social picture of the stresses of an advanced capitalist culture in the early 1920s, it simultaneously encodes its American experience, at key structural moments, within the mitigating precepts of a mystic Western dualism. Attempting both a sustained close reading of the novel, and the relocation of that reading within wider philosophic and political contexts, one must therefore consider the impact of a broad mystical strain of Western thought upon Fitzgerald's political analysis. For while it is a commonplace that Fitzgerald was fascinated, throughout his life, with what is variously conceived as the "ideal," "the Dream," "inspiration," the "visionary," or "Desire," a tradition with which the book opens, the political uses of the ideal have largely escaped notice. Fitzgerald's excitably visionary sensibility, nourished in high school years by Catholic mysticism, fashioned him into a superbly perceptive critic of the appropriation of human need of the ideal by developments in American capitalism in the 1920s. In response to economic crisis in the early years of this decade, the national advertising media developed and promoted a new cult of glamour, seeking through its allure to create a mass consumer market and revivify the foundering work ethic. Fitzgerald's entrancement by the suggestive power of beauty sensitized him both

    More about Free Great Gatsby Essays: Philosophic and Political Contexts

      Open Document