The rapid connection of plot strands which brought into physical incidence the numerous affairs and hostilities that resolved, however bleakly, the novel's various impasses, make somewhat absurd an otherwise brilliantly grounded work. And yet, Fitzgerald has been characterized by his critics as demonstrating the utmost of disclipline with Gatsby for creating a work so fraught with symbolism and yet relayed in so direct and palatable a fashion. As Eble (1964) would observe, "Fitzgerald's clear, regular hand imposes its own sense of order throughout the text. For all revisions, the script goes about its business with a straightness of line, a regularity of letter that approaches formal elegance. " (Eble, 1) To this end, the dramatic events leading to the resolution of the text make this chaotic denouement a tolerable linear progression and an outcome consistent with the general thrust of the text.
To this end, the novel casts an emotive light on an era which, within the context of the author's stunning linguistic dexterity and logical sequencing, is intensely relatable. When Gatsby observes to Nick that Daisy's voice is 'full of money,' Nick undergoes a moving realization. He remarks, "I'd never understood before. It was full of money -- that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals song of it." (Fitzgerald, 120) Epitomizing that which was so attractive about her in a manner as critical and derisive as any in his novel, Fitzgerald is almost satirical in his romantic attachment to the character. This is the strength of his novel, even as it is the suffering lot of his narrator, it is also a treatise to his affections and to the cultural conceits that might have attracted him to such a woman. The author approaches the period without prejudicial judgment, portraying his time as one made indefinable by its contradictions. Jay's contradictions are chief among them in his love for a women who would simultaneously serve as a symbolic vessel to his ultimate rise in status and, throughout the novel, would function of a reminder of why this rise could only take him so far. Thus, in his description of Daisy, as in his dealings with all of his characters, Fitzgerald entitles the reader to formulate an impression which is instructed by the tendencies of his own value system. We are inclined to sympathize with her as a victim of a superficial culture, but we also recognize that she is temptation incarnate for one with Gatsby's ambitions at social ascendancy.
A relevant strength of the novel is the narrator's early assertion then. Nick remarks, "I'm inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores." (Fitzgerald, 1) Almost warranting his own distance from those with whom he consorts, Nick is a reflection of the author's impulse. Each character is a subject of his personal consideration, though this is absent of moral inflection. And yet, the text itself functions to allow the reader to make myriad ethical conclusions concerning the nature of the so-called American Dream. There is a clear sense of ethical meandering in the text that proceeds from the focus on materialism. There is a stunted development of those values which might otherwise be viewed as important, and which seem to be significant considerations to Fitzgerald himself. His characters more generally lack the ability for ethical inflection that we as the reader are afforded.
And the absence of such an inflection seems to be the very gap which preoccupies ?The Great Gatsby and its primary players. As a document to the era from whence it was conceived, the piece is not only excellent as a source of cultural insight, but it is likewise compelling in its translation of the period's more universal themes of social advancement and economic acquisition, two distinctly American themes with universal implications. As the text by Dyson (1963) observes, "any new consideration must now. . . be concerned with it as a work which belongs not only to American but to world literature; not only to the immediate soil from which it sprang (prohibition, bit business, gangsters, jazz, uprootedness, and the rest) but to the tragic predicament of humanity as a whole." (Dyson, 112) Quite to this point, in its sensitive consideration of the effects of materialism, the novel proves a vessel for a real reflection on the human condition, with its content, translating across decades and generations such easy communicable experiences as disillusionment, discontent and vain social ambition.
Gatsby is a compelling American figure who, in and of himself justifies the literary experience. A small man extended by great wealth, an imposing house, elaborately fine automobiles and a life occupied by perpetual festivity, his ultimate emptiness and the tragedy not just of his death but of the neglect heaped upon him thereafter are all indicative of Fitzgerald's low conception of materialism. Nick is left alone to make funeral preparations for his friend, and here finds that Gatsby did not truly have friends. As the truest reflection of the American Dream, he is a ghost. An apparition with a false identity, a purchased lifestyle and an intruded class, Gatsby's lonely death is a telling withdrawal from neutrality. Finally, here, seeing the disregard with which the man's passing is treating, Nick, as well as Fitzgerald, and perhaps his reader, levies judgment. The 'friends' which were so omnipresent in Gatsby's house during his parties and lay-abouts were nowhere to be found for his funeral, leaving the narrator in absolute and final disgust. As a historical document and as a piece of literature, Fitzgerald's novel provides the reader here with a careful consideration of the vagaries of American materialism and ultimately offers a stark indictment of its exclusivity, callousness and cruelty.
Berman, R. (1996). The Great Gatsby and Modern Times. University of Illinois Press.
Boyer, A. (1990). The Great Gatsby, the Black Sox, High Finance, and American Law. Michigan Law Review, 88(328).
Dyson, A.E. (1963). The Great Gatsby: Thirty-Six Years After. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Collection of Critical Essays: Prentice Hall.
Eble, K. (1964). The Craft of Revision: The Great Gatsby. Duke University Press.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. (1925). The Great Gatsby. The Scribner Classic Library.
Kerr, F. (1996). Feeling 'Half Feminine': Modernism and the Politics of Emotion in the Great Gatsby. Duke University Press.