Backpedalling: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gatsby Essay

Submitted By sschweinsteiger
Words: 1567
Pages: 7


The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, delves readers into the thrilling and extravagant world of the American 1920’s. The post war economy of the United States was at a boom; people consequently developed highly indulgent habits. The frequent purchases of luxuries and overzealous spending became common holds. The previously thought well defined line between ‘want’ and ‘need’ began to blur. Perhaps the people indulged as a sort of self-reward for having survived the hardships of the First World War. Or, perhaps it was just because they could. Whatever the reason may have been, the 1920’s in America have been awarded the title of the Roaring Twenties. The idea of an ‘American Dream’ was founded in this time period. The American Dream revolves around achieving happiness. Which paths and choices are taken to reach this goal, however, are entirely dependent upon the individual. Also reliant on the person is the definition of ‘happy’. To some, ‘happy’ could mean having absolutely nothing, but being surrounded by people they love. To others, ‘happy’ could mean having everything, apathetic to whether or not they have contact with society. The key to finding happiness in a nutshell is simply having hopes and aspirations for the future. Jay Gatsby, the namesake of Fitzgerald’s novel, is a prime example of such expectations. Throughout his entire life, he holds true to himself and his own dreams; he goes to great lengths in an impressive attempt to reach them. However, the always elusive American Dream posses staggering powers of evasion; slipping through the grasp, falling through the grates.

“If personality is an unbroken series if successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away” (page 8). Found in the opening paragraphs of the novel, this quote introduces Gatsby to the audience as an almost God-like, mysterious man. Already, Fitzgerald has established an air of intrigue that writhes around him; concealing the truth, fabricating illusions. In the first sections of this book, the reader is forced to gather information concerning Gatsby through secondary sources. Stories and rumors revolve like insects hovering around precious light about this man, who holds extravagant parties each week, and yet fails to actually introduce himself to his hundreds of guests. He is a fraud; he is a bootlegger; he is an adventurer; he is royalty. Thus, a vision of a fantastical man begins to take form before we are even directly introduced to him. It is implied that Gatsby posses some sort of sixth sense; a sense of determined, persistent hope. Hope is a staple point to success; it is hope that drives the will to continue on even when the situation may seem pointless. Indeed, it is a society’s hope or lack thereof that will ultimately determine its own outcome. In the roaring twenties, people had gratuitous amounts of hope. However, this hope was as hollow as the extravagance it was born of. Gatsby was a remarkable exception to this pattern. His hope was not forged as a result of possessions and luxuries. His hope was shaped by love; aspirations of achieving his desires of earning one girl’s affection. Through each day, it was this that kept Gatsby trying gallantly, although nonetheless futilely, to reach his goal; it was this that dictated who Gatsby was.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us” (page 171). This quote was taken from the second to last page of the novel. In the course of the book, we were introduced to the real Gatsby. We learned of his real past, and the real means by which he had attainted his impressive wealth. In the end, it turned out that the rumors were partially true: he had obtained his money through illegal activity; the bootlegging of materials. We watched him ascend