“They were careless people,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of the rich couple at the heart of The Great Gatsby. “They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” Some of us are surrounded by destructive people who tell us we’re worthless when we’re endlessly valuable, that we’re stupid when we’re smart, that we’re failing even when we succeed. But the opposite of people who drag you down isn’t people who build you up and butter you up. It’s equals who are generous but keep you accountable, true mirrors who reflect back who you are and what you are doing.
Gatsby turned out all right at the end it is what preyed on Gatsby , what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
Corruption symbols abound in Scott Fitzgerald's timeless encapsulation of the American condition. The valley of ashes appears in every chapter, mentioned eight times outright and poetically invoked more than fifty with terminology such as "wash," "dust" and "powder." Six more counting references to Nick's Finnish housemaid, an alliterative back-flip to remind readers of ashes. The judging eyes of Dr. Eckleburg and the owl-eyed man are mentioned no less than nine times. Crime boss Meyer Wolfsheim's name crops up thirty-two times. Chicago, Al Capone's headquarters, twenty.The main characters are all adulterers. Tom Buchanan has an affair with Myrtle Wilson. Tom's wife, Daisy, has an affair with Gatsby. Nick, the narrator and Daisy's cousin, enables Daisy and Gatsby's affair and has a gay tryst with McKee while dating Daisy's confidant Jordan Baker, a cheating professional golfer who is a careless driver and habitually lies. The only honorable character is Michaelis, proprietor of the cafe next door to the Wilsons. The hard-working, henpecked and cuckolded George Wilson is honest until, driven insane by grief, he guns down Gatsby in his pool for running down Myrtle in his Rolls and failing to stop. Both Michaelis and George saw a man driving, but Nick chooses to believe his "gorgeous" criminal neighbor Gatsby's lie that Daisy was behind the wheel.Despite the mountain of evidence of Gatsby's low character, Nick believes him--bootlegging, securities fraud, his failure to stop and render aid after his yellow Rolls hit Myrtle. Gatsby uses Nick to get to Daisy and even tries to recruit him to sell his illicit bonds. It wasn't his social class that made Daisy reject Gatsby; it was his criminality, revealed to her by Tom at the Plaza Hotel. In front of Daisy, Jordan, Nick and Tom, Gatsby mocks the man he cuckholded: "'I used to laugh'--but there was no laughter in his eyes--'to think that you didn't know.'" Criminals must avoid the law at all costs and the lie about who was driving was so easy, the way Nick trusted him. Besides, a heroic pose might sway Nick enough to join his sales team. Gatsby's execution by Wilson is the righteous result of Gatsby's failure to stop his yellow Rolls--a bullet for running down Myrtle. At the end, Gatsby stunk so badly only a handful of people came to his funeral, not even the ungrateful Wolfsheim, who "made him."Readers idolize Gatsby for his determined pursuit of a dream to be a millionaire and reclaim Daisy. Yes, Gatsby dreamed, of riches, but those lofty ambitions were evident long before he met her. Did he love? In Nick's naive romantically charged mind he did. But how much can we trust Nick's judgment after he fawned over Gatsby, calling him "gorgeous," and swallowed his lies about family wealth and being educated at Oxford? Daisy could be just a trophy, like the castle and the Rolls Royce that ferried gullible guests like moths to his glittering parties through the valley of ashes. Love? If Gatsby truly cared about Daisy he would have asked Nick if she was happy in her marriage before approaching her.As if to obliterate any doubt as to his message in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald alludes in the final jaded line to the Jazz Age's current of corruption: So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.Yes, we keep repeating the same mistakes. Ivan Boesky. Bernard Madoff. There have been dozens like them. In the Twenties it was counterfeit bonds. More recently, sub-prime mortgages and credit default swaps. What will tomorrow bring? We can pursue dreams, but it is a morally bankrupt grail if we are corrupted in the process.
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