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I was lucky enough to study F. Scott Fitzgerald's American classic The Great Gatsby in my final year of high school. I thoroughly enjoyed english in Year 12 surprisingly. To be honest it wasn't one of my favourite subjects throughout school but once I got to my final year I got to study Gatsby, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Hamlet, The Crucible and The Fiftieth Gate. I loved writing about all of these texts and they grew my love for literature.
Recently I got round to watching Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann's 2013 film adaptation of Fitzgerald's work. It was just as I remembered the book. It was interesting putting my study and knowledge of the text into a cinematic context. I would still describe the text the way I did two years ago in my essays.
Below is an extract from one of my essays on TGG:
19th Century America has encouraged individuals to recreate themselves, however this is all based on a myth and thus Fitzgerald explores the detrimental effects in believing in the illusion of idealism and the American Dream will have on people like Gatsby. The American Dream was a notion that allowed Americans to believe in their ability to achieve anything – wealth, class and love. However the damaging part of Gatsby’s dream of recreating himself and to be worthy of Daisy and her love is that he doesn’t know that it’s a fantasy and that Daisy isn’t worthy of him. Fitzgerald is condemning the extreme idea of America’s belief of grandiosity. His censurable attitude to the American Dream is a reflection of the social reaction to WW1; people became insular, turning away from idealism. In one of the most significant scenes of hope, Nick witnesses Gatsby trembling with “stretched out his arms… nothing except a green light” at the end of the dock. This objective correlative is the representation of a state of mind to illustrate the difference between Gatsby and the others as he is looking towards his goal, the green light is ironically his passion and desire: to be accepted in this corrupt society. However, Fitzgerald is alluding that Gatsby is unlike Tom and Jordan, he is solitary and this will allow his society to imprison him in this fantasy that he can reinvent himself. Despite this, Fitzgerald sets the novel through the eyes of Nick Carraway whom composes the events in a manner that allows him to be both within and without that story, distancing the audience from the action, a Modernist technique that Fitzgerald employs to introduce a tone of uncertainty. However, Nick is capable of being an unreliable narrator and by having the narrator commenting on his society, Fitzgerald is being self-reflective and guiding the audience to realise that this is not the truth. Nick’s description of this wasteland is full of symbolic resonance – “the valley of the ashes” – through a literal allusion to T.S. Elliot, Fitzgerald contrasts it to the imagery of what has come to be known as the ‘American Dream’. Gatsby’s dream of achieving class status based on an illusion makes him different to everyone else, as he is the only one to make an effort to achieve his ambition. Nonetheless, Gatsby does not realise that the American Dream is out-dated – “he did not know that it was already behind him; somewhere back in that vast obscurity.” Fitzgerald is pointing out that it is hopeless for a dreamer to achieve his potential in a society that is guilty of trivialisation.
What I loved about this text was that the ideas that were present in the 1920s are still themes that are well and truly still present today eg. money can't buy happiness.