gatillus Unattainable Illusions in The Great Gatsby

gatillus Unattainable Illusions in The Great Gatsby

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Unattainable Illusions in The Great Gatsby

    The work of Fitzgerald is the product of the "Jazz" era, a time when all gods had been declared dead, all wars fought, and all faiths in men had been shaken.  Fitzgerald's style is a combination of American idealism and nihilistic pessimism.  In The Great Gatsby, whose originally proposed title was 'Among the Ash-Heaps and Millionaires,' we also find a narrator and style that make moral judgements through the narrator Nick, a constant overseeing moral vision that is symbolized by the ever-watchful "eyes" of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg.  Despite the glittering appearances and material ostentation of West Egg, something is perceived as being not quite right with the conventional American dream and those who achieve it.  Nonetheless Nick opens the novel by remembering his father's advice:  "Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.  I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth"  (Fitzgerald  1).


The main character Gatsby, despite the appearance that he has achieved the American dream, is actually a man alone who tries to turn back the clock and win his true love Daisy.  However, despite the glittering parties and material luxuries of Gatsby's world, Fitzgerald's style admits a serious stream of cynicism that is pervasive throughout the novel.  When Daisy tells Nick her baby might be a girl she says "And I hope she'll be a fool-that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool"  (Fitzgerald  17).  This cynicism and world of false appearances are significant to Fitzgerald's style, especially because the author discovered in his own existence that all that glitters is not necessarily gold.  As much as Gatsby loves Daisy, she is far from a paragon of virtue.  As much as Gatsby is admired for his material success only two people attend his funeral.  The cynicism and nihilism in the novel are products of an era that was discovering that even the "American dream" is an illusion.  In Fitzgerald's style this is true even for heroes like Gatsby, a man who is described at the beginning of the novel as being in control of life to the point where he even owns a piece of nature: "Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that it was Mr.

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Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens" (Fitzgerald  21). 


Nick is more realistic than either Tom or Gatsby, a person who does not passionately dream of secret love affairs and one who cannot romanticize reality.  Though Fitzgerald's style is more romanticism than realism, the era in which he wrote and the wealthy circles in which he traveled, well taught him that reality despite is appearances contained many "ash-heaps" among the dreams of daisies.  We see this when he becomes close to Jordan:  "Suddenly I wasn't thinking of Daisy and Gatsby any more, but of this clean, hard, limited person, who dealt in universal skepticism, and who leaned back jauntily just within the circle of my arm.  A phrase began to beat within my ears with a sort of heady excitement:  'there are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired'" (Fitzgerald  81).  Like Fitzgerald's style, anything that appears to good to be true typically is.  If Gatsby comes to a tragic end, like the society in which Fitzgerald lived, it was because his character, like the American dream, was a self-created myth:  "So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end" (Fitzgerald  99).  The inability to adapt to realities because of unattainable illusions brought down Gatsby as much as Fitzgerald thought the same concept was destroying society.



Fitzgerald, F. S.  The Great Gatsby.  New York, Collier Books, 1980.
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