“The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his own Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God– a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that — and he must be about His Father’s Business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty” (The Great Gatsby Summary.” Shmoop: Homework Help, Teacher Resources, Test Prep. N.p., n.d).
This quote above is one of the strongest and most relevant for me all throughout the book. For me, this is an implication of how Nick finally exposes Gatsby’s life’s background and history that will soon lead readers to understand why he has become such a person that he is described as a character in the book. One element used to portray this meaning would be the comparison done between Gatsby and Jesus Christ, being the son of God which pointed to Gatsby’s creation of his own identity.
An analysis of which would be that the author, Scott Fitzgerald was influenced by a nineteenth century book I also have read, which is entitled “The Life of Jesus” by Ernest Renan. This book presented Jesus Christ as a being who decided to stand up to what he really is, which is the son of God despite knowing that if he did, he will be brought to ruins by refusing to recognize the reality that denied his self-conception. Renan here associates Jesus to be faithful to the dream he created in himself but contemptuous towards the truth that crushes him, which is a very appropriate and consistent description of Gatsby as he was one who was willing to give up everything to win the trust of people and social position if it means winning Daisy, the girl he fell in love with (“SparkNotes: The Great Gatsby: Character List.” SparkNotes: Today’s Most Popular Study Guides. N.p., n.d).
According to some articles, Fitzgerald admired the works of Renan and drew a lot of influence from it in developing his metaphors. However, though the comparison between Gatsby and Jesus is not really a very significant theme in “The Great Gatsby”, it is indeed very helpful in establishing how Gatsby is able to transform himself into the person that he wanted himself to be that was latched from his youthful ideals despite all the challenges he had to go through in society. Indeed, Jay Gatsby was portrayed as being a mysterious character in book. This for me is a symbolism of exploring the real deity of Jesus Christ, one that we need to understand personally first before we get to know the goodness and love He is willing to give. Just like Gatsby, he is the protagonist of the novel. However, this is not immediately realized in the early part of the book because of the fact that he was that person who was a happy go lucky guy, with an unclear background of where he came from, and most especially had a mysterious business of how he made his fortune. However, in the latter part of the book, one realizes that he had to go through all the sacrifices such as succumbing to criminal activity to make a fortune to be able to win Daisy. Just like God, he needed to die and live with sinners on earth and be one with all of us to be able to save us through His genuine love.
From all these said, one could conclude that Gatsby’s personality as a person is greatly similar to the American dream which is basically to pursue the idea of happiness. Americans are known to be people who would go for what they want and would not really mind whether the road they have to pave is rocky or would cost them so much. Today, Americans admit that they are physical, mental, emotional, moral, financial, and political slobs (“The American Dream.” The American Dream. N.p., n.d). They are addicted to shopping, food, and just about any pleasure that they crave for. Comparing this kind of attitude with Gatsby, he was one who threw parties every Saturday nights and spent to treat people with the money that he got from illegal means, though not to satisfy himself but in fact to satisfy the goal to getting everyone on his side to get to his love, Daisy.
Another character that reflects this would be that of Nick Carraway which is the novel’s narrator. He is a young man from Minnesota who was educated in Yale and goes to New York to learn about bond business and later on moves to West Egg, an area of Long Island that is home to the newly rich (“SparkNotes: The Great Gatsby: Character List.” SparkNotes: Today’s Most Popular Study Guides. N.p., n.d.). This is another character that reflects the American Dream mindset of people who always wants to get ahead and have more than what they are being given.
“That’s my Middle West . . . the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark. I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life. (SparkNotes: The Great Gatsby: Important Quotations Explained.” SparkNotes: Today’s Most Popular Study Guides. N.p., n.d.). This is another important quote that I got from the novel which places a clear distinction of how Americans see the East as compared to the West. The East is described as a place with a fast-paced lifestyle, corrupt parties, collapsing moral values, and always in the look out for the pursuit of wealth, while the West is associated with more traditional moral values. Here, Nick realizes that the setting of each character influences their behavior and value choices as a reaction to culture they are surrounded with. Just like Gatsby who was from the West, he was led to succumb to crushing his moral values and embrace the Eastern lifestyle just to be able to reach his impractical dream which a lot of people in America today can relate to, while others still do not realize. In understanding this background of Gatsby’s life and at the same time his heart’s desires, one would be able to slowly unfold the mystery of Gatsby’s character which is sometimes confusing and unreasonable. A large part of why he sacrificed his moral values for his dream was because of the fact that he was surrounded with a narcissistic society that made him a middle-aged man who totally let himself go because of desperation. He became a deeply flawed man whose distinct optimism transformed his dreams into reality even when it means justifying the means to reach an end.
Gatsby at the same time is representative of some American national character. This is reflected in another quote from the novel: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (SparkNotes: The Great Gatsby: Important Quotations Explained.” SparkNotes: Today’s Most Popular Study Guides. N.p., n.d.). For me, this is one way of Nick trying to reminisce the significance of the past events that led people where they are now in the future, being represented by the green light. Here, he emphasizes on the struggle of human beings to achieve their dreams even though it will entail them to transcend and recreate the past that they so treasure that includes moral values and principles they just let go of to be able to get a glimpse of what it would feel like to have one’s dream come true. This analysis could be likened to Gatsby who, though have a good foundation of his character, having grown in the West, he recreated himself to fit into the demands of the society in the East just so he could get Daisy.
Just like Gatsby and many American national leaders today, there are a lot of people who lose optimism because of the past failures and frustrations. These past experiences become their basis now of the ideas that they form in their mind. What makes this dangerous for society is that the negative experiences in the past makes people pessimists in hoping for good to still thrive, thus, resorting to the bad because everyone is doing it or perhaps because nothing good ever comes out from another good. Thus, it is not a surprise that there are a lot of issues of theft, corruption, crime, fraud, and a lot more.
To sum it all up, this quote would be best to look into. “He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself.” (“SparkNotes: The Great Gatsby: Important Quotations Explained.” SparkNotes: Today’s Most Popular Study Guides. N.p., n.d.). This is a quote from the novel that Nick described Gatsby with. He was that guy who did not only use his appearance to get himself what he wanted but at the same time paired it with a character that was the bait for the sweet-toothed society. His charisma allowed him to act out certain roles that certain cliques of society would appreciate. Likening this to American society again, you would see that a lot of people now treasure connections and power more than knowledge and the truth. This is because of the fact that people are becoming more practical and money-driven that wherever they could get the instant benefit, they would easily go for it even when it requires them to do evil. Indeed, principles can now be bought through simple manipulations where the more one gives, the more you can get.
- “The Great Gatsby Summary.” Shmoop: Homework Help, Teacher Resources, Test Prep. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2012. http://www.shmoop.com/great-gatsby/summary.html.
- “SparkNotes: The Great Gatsby: Character List.” SparkNotes: Today’s Most Popular Study Guides. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2012. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/gatsby/characters.html.
- “The American Dream.” The American Dream. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2012. http://endoftheamericandream.com/
- “SparkNotes: The Great Gatsby: Important Quotations Explained.” SparkNotes: Today’s Most Popular Study Guides. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2012. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/gatsby/quotes.html#explanation4.