The Power of the Sun in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

The Power of the Sun in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

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The Power of the Sun in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby


In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby, there is a constant
feeling of movement and the desire to get away. Nick, Gatsby, Wilson,
Tom and Daisy all move, or have the intention of moving. Not only does
this movement seem to foreshadow events in the book, but it also seems
to lead to the conclusion that society as a whole in the 1920's was
rather unstable and was undergoing constant change. Not all the
characters move in the same way, and this shows how different their
backgrounds and lifestyles are. The main movement seems to be from
west to east. Throughout the decades man is said to be progressing
through the steps of evolution and toward the setting sun, or east to
west. The characters move in opposite direction from which the sun
sets, which seems significant to the physical and psychological
patterns of the characters. The two main characters that movement
affects are Nick and Gatsby. The movement of Nick and Gatsby in this
direction shows us how their personalities and feelings change as the
sun goes down. There are also the various meanings that the sun has,
that seems to map out, or affect their near future. The sun
foreshadows Nick and Gatsby's actions and emotions, which in turn are
affected by the many representations the sun has.

Jay Gatsby is a character that the sun affects in such a way that it
becomes a symbol of his ability to direct his will and, when put
together with his dream, this gives him a sense of purpose. Jimmie
Gatz was born in a town in Minnesota. After changing his name to Jay
Gatsby, he moved to West Egg, Long Island in order to start a new life
revolved around impressing Daisy. Here the sun represents a
psychological belief that surpasses time and place, otherwise known as
Gatsby's dream. This means that Gatsby's dream is so important to him
that the sun rises and sets in the sky, but he still doesn't see the

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effect of time on it. Nick says, "[h]e talked a lot about the past and
I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself
perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy." (117) This shows how time
could never change his dream, and that Gatsby feels that if he talks
about the past then he will be able to change the future for the
better.

The sun also stands for power and greatness, which made Jay Gatsby
shine right through Jimmie Gatz. He starts of engulfed in darkness, as
his dream does not exist. From there he seems to be obsessed with this
reverie, and effectively kills off Jimmie Gatz and creates Jay Gatsby.
This new personality is formed when the sun rises, bathing him in
light. Jay Gatsby "sprang from his Platonic conception of
himself"(104), and even with this change he still believed that "the
rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing."(105) This
new light blinds the people that look at him, and covers up his old
self. Although it covers him, some people like Mr. Sloane see him as
Jimmie Gatz, and are disgusted by it. The first time Tom meets Gatsby
is when he, Mr. Sloane and a young woman stop by his house while out
riding. Gatsby tells Tom that he knows Daisy, to which Tom states
later, "I may be old fashioned in my ideas but women run around too
much these days to suit me. They meet all kinds of crazy fish."(110)

Slowly, as Jay Gatsby is formed, the sun begins to shine in the
morning sky. As the sun rises, he becomes happier as he finds out, or
believes that Daisy is in love with him. "'I can't describe to you how
surprised I was to find out I loved her, old sport. I even hoped for a
while that she'd throw me over, but she didn't, because she was in
love with me too."(157) This shows how much they used to love each
other, but as the days go by Gatsby's dream stays just as strong. But,
as his dream comes true, everything starts to go wrong. Slowly as the
sun moves across the sky, Gatsby notices that the day keeps going, and
that he can't bring back the past. He goes to Daisy's window after the
car accident and waits for her to come to him, but she never does.
Still he clings to a small hope that Daisy will still come, but his
irrational emotions go against daisy's 'rational' mindset. The sky
begins to get more colorful as Gatsby's dream and character are,
"broken up like glass" (155), and the pieces fall glittering to the
ground. As the colors die down before disappearing over the horizon,
Gatsby is starting to see the world for what it really is. It was,
"[a] new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts,
breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about…"(169). Soon
Gatsby is engulfed by darkness again. He is dead, physically and
spiritually.

Nick's movement opens up new views of the world to him. He starts off
by moving to West Egg where he is very lonely. He comes out of this
when a man stops him one morning for directions. After Nick tells him
the way, he says, "as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a
guide, a pathfinder, an original settler"(8). This opens him up into
the light, and with this he sees the things around him. In this time
he meets, Daisy, Tom, Gatsby, Jordan and Myrtle, and makes his own
perceptions of them, from other peoples beliefs. At the parties he
learns about Gatsby, and hears that he could even have been a, "German
spy during the war."(48) Slowly he becomes more social, and learns
quickly not to listen to the idle gossip that is passed around the
table. He gets to know more people, but slowly his eyes become
accustomed to the bright, spurious light they hide behind, and he sees
them for who they really are. As the sun rises into the sky, he gets
more distant from them, and sees even deeper into their superficial
values. He even says to Gatsby at one point, "'[y]ou're worth the
whole damn bunch put together.'"(162) But the suns starts to go down
when Gatsby is killed, and he begins to see that people like Daisy,
Tom and Jordan are not what they pretend to be. When no one attends
Gatsby's funeral he sees how selfless they are, and that they, "had
never, all along, intended doing anything at all. But it was done now.
It was too late."(139) Just as the colors begin to bloom in the
dazzling night sky they fade and disappear out of sight, just as Nick
moves away.

The rising sun has been used to describe progress and evolution, but
as the sun travels backwards, it shows people for who they really are.
The light is shone hard on the characters, so much so that they have
nothing to hide behind. This minor action seems to set and change the
entire novel at the same time. It also fits in perfectly with the flow
or plot of the book. It shows how the characters are slowly opening up
to their surroundings, and how much the sun, metaphorically, affects
them. Throughout the novel, the sun has shone light on certain
characters to show the power and hidden creativity of the unconscious
mind.
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