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The Great Gatsby - Trading Life for a Dream
What is life? Life embodies ones dreams mixed in with successes and most importantly, love. Following this definition, Jay Gatsby lives a fulfilling existence while Nick stays put and ordinary like stagnant water. Life is full of risks and Gatsby risks his life for love and happiness. Even though he did lose his life, he didn't pay too high a price for living too long a single and farfetched dream of true love.
Gatsby is the epitome of the American Dream, "his brown, hardening body lived naturally through the half fierce, half lazy work of the bracing days...as a clam digger and a salmon fisher." (104) From this Gatsby became a robber baron, an American capitalist who became wealthy through exploitation and in Gatsby's case, through bootlegging. Anger is what made Gatsby and wealth and power were his means toward the goals of happiness and true love. Gatsby supports this when he says to Tom, "she only married you because I was too poor and she was tired of waiting for me." (137) Gatsby has never forgotten that if he had had the money when he first met her, then she would be his. So this propels him on a quest to make money and use the money to relive the past.
Daisy is currently married and has a daughter. Despite this, Gatsby still wants to make it like old times. After all, his beliefs drive him to do crazy things. Beliefs founded on different principles, "Can't repeat the past? Why of course you can...I'm going to fix everything just the way it was before. She'll see." (116-117) Gatsby's dreams drive him to do the impossible, change the past. Nick struggles to understand why a man would spend so much time and money for something that lasted so short and in no way in favor of Gatsby. "His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was" (117), the idea of a mutual love relationship with Daisy as it was in the past.
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Gatsby must stop living in the ideological world, hoping for a different turn of events in the past so that the future would also be different, and must start living in the real world when time has gone by. He bought his house directly across from Daisy so that he could always be in reach of his dream. He threw wild and extravagant parties in hopes that Daisy would attend, but alas she never came. One finally she comes over, it is almost as it was in the past. Both people are madly in love with one another. However, as always, reality catches up. Reality becomes Gatsby's enemy because it prevents him from reliving the past that he so desperately wanted to relive. He climbed the social ladder just so that he could have another shot at Daisy. But, time changes all. "I love you now - isn't that enough? I can't help what's past. I did love him once - but I loved you too." (140) This shatters Gatsby's dreams and existence.
What is a man without dreams? He is nothing but a parasite living off of others ambitions and achievements. His dream is finished and he enjoyed it greatly while it lasted. For him to have spent that short time with Daisy reliving his past was paradise. There is no price too high to pay for living a single dream too long. Not even a justified death would have been too high a price. However, this is not the case. F. Scott Fitzgerald has changed the perspective by having Gatsby murdered for a crime he didn't commit. For that price is far too high for living a single dream. It was Daisy who killed Myrtle but it was Tom who told Wilson that Gatsby did it. In that sense, Tom saved his marriage, because all he and Daisy ever did was "smash up things and creatures and then retreat back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made..." (187-188)
Fitzgerald end this novel saying, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past." (189) This shows that one can't go back and rewrite history, a contradiction of Gatsby's belief, a contradiction like saying that Gatsby didn't pay too high a price for his dream when in actuality he did. Patterns arise later on in life and it is impossible to manipulate them to the benefit of changing the past because, time changes all.