Theme of Past and Dreams in the Great Gatsby

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Evidently, there is a great deal of realism in The Great Gatsby. For example, many aspects of Gatsby’s status are real. Like Tom Buchanan, who’s standing Gatsby is trying to achieve, Gatsby possesses a large amount of wealth. In this sense, his status is high and factual. Howbeit, Jay Gatsby is undeniably, an illusion created by James Gatz. Jay Gatsby is supposedly a well educated gentleman who inherited his fortune from his family in the middle-west.

However, it is revealed that he obtained his wealth immorally through illegal sales of alcohol, and was able to attend Oxford University only because of an Armistice program awarded to him after the war. Furthermore, Nick says, “the truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself.” (Fitzgerald 98). This shows that Gatsby has projected into the ideal way his life could exist and then avidly pursued that end. As a young ambitious boy, Gatz envisions his love with Daisy, and paints an image which fools many.

Another interesting point that undeniably exposes the illusion of Gatsby is from the awkwardness of his actions. Although he is considered in the Upper Class, Gatsby sticks out like a sore thumb. For instance, Gatsby is unable to understand the social interactions with people old money. As Mr. Sloane and a lady prepare for departure, the latter invites both Gatsby and Nick for dinner. While Nick kindly reject the offer, Gatsby does not understand the insincerity of the invitation and absurdly agrees.

While Gatsby leaves to prepare, Tom comments, ‘My God, I believe the man’s coming. Doesn’t he know she doesn’t want him?’ (Fitzgerald 103). This response verifies that Gatsby has not mastered the subtle interactions of the social class, suggesting that the entire persona of Gatsby is an illusion. Interestingly, Gatsby’s party guests draw a parallel to the facade of Gatsby.

Admittedly, many of Gatsby’s possessions are real. Gatsby owns a grand mansion, hosts big parties, and possesses many valuable items which are tangible. A house guest by the name of Owl-Eyed remarks that Gatsby’s library is “absolutely real—have pages and everything. [He] thought they’d be a nice durable cardboard. Matter of fact, they’re absolutely real.”(Fitzgerald 45). This shows that Gatsby’s assets are all palpable, rather than illusions which would fool many.

However, Gatsby’s friendship with the party guests is shallow, and is indeed an illusion. A man named Klipspringer is an excellent portrayal of the party guests. Nick describes, “[He] was there so often and so long that he became known as ‘the boarder’.” (Fitzgerald, 63). This demonstrates how seemingly close the guest is to Gatsby, so close that they reside in his mansion. Yet this apparent friendship deteriorates when Gatsby dies. After his death, Kilpspringer calls Nick, saying, “What I called up about was a pair of shoes I left there” (Fitzgerald 169).

Instead of calling about attending Gatsby’s funeral, as a real friend would, Klipspringer rudely asks for his shoes. Clearly, the friends who seem the closest to Gatsby are illusions created by his luxurious parties. This dialogue also suggests that many of the guests never received an invitation despite their frequent attendance. Many of the fickle party guests only care for his their wellbeing, and as a result does not even attend the funeral of someone who benefited them a great deal. The party guests are corrupt at heart. They always surround Gatsby, and yet when the worst happens to Gatsby, they do not even bother to pay him the respect he deserves. Similar to the illusion created by Gatsby’s disloyal friendships, Gatz also create pipe dream for himself of Daisy.

Gatsby’s judgement is clouded by his perception of Daisy and the past. Gatsby continues to believe that the world is still the same as it was five years ago. He believes that the past, alongside Daisy’s affection for him, have remained untouched. This pipe dream is what motivates him to amass an empire to attain Daisy, the pretty girl from his childhood. However, Gatsby has put Daisy on a pedestal so high that she can never live up to the expectations he has of her.

This goes to show how Gatsby is so wrapped up in his desires and expectations that he never stops to realize that Daisy feel the same way anymore. After Daisy attends one of Gatsby’s party, Nick says, “[Gatsby] talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy.” (Fitzgerald 110). Nick suggests that Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy does not come solely out of his love for her, but rather arises from Gatsby’s nostalgic investment in how he remembers the past and his younger self. Gatsby is trapped in his dream of recreating the past.

While conversing with Nick, he says, “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” (Fitzgerald 110). This is a direct reference to Gatsby’s belief that money can recreate the past. Gatsby has dedicated his entire life to recapturing a golden, prosperous, perfect past with Daisy, and foolishly believes that money will be able to turn back time and manifest any desire.


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Theme of Past and Dreams in the Great Gatsby. (2021, Feb 06). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/theme-of-past-and-dreams-in-the-great-gatsby/

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