SETTING – MID-WEST SYMBOLISM CHARACTERISATION – DAISY, NICK, GATSBY, GATSBY’S FATHER THEMES – AMERICAN UPPER CLASSES, AMERICAN DREAM
CHARACTERISATION - DAISY “I called up Daisy half an hour after we found him, called her instinctively and without hesitation. But she and Tom had gone away early that afternoon, and taken baggage with them.” The novel ends with a negative impression of Daisy. She has simply dealt with everything by forgetting it and moving away.
Characterisation - Daisy This is even more shocking when we understand that Gatsby was killed because of her She has no loyalty to Gatsby again displaying her shallowness. The fact that she doesn’t even send a ‘message or a flower’ suggests she wants to forget her involvement with Gatsby and move on with her life. This emphasises that she is shallow, weak and careless.
CHARACTERISATION - NICK Nick picks up the pieces after Gatsby’s death. “I found myself on Gatsby’s side, and alone.” Nick has entered into isolation here. He empathises with Gatsby and further isolates himself from East Coast society. This is a further reflection of his identification with Gatsby.
Characterisation: Nick By the end of the novel the reader should understand why Nick thinks Gatsby “turned out all right at the end”. In his eyes, Gatsby embodied an ability to dream and escape his past This dream was possibly (ultimately) impossible But Nick cherishes and values it nonetheless.
Characterisation: Nick “On the white steps an obscene word, scrawled by some boy... And I erased it.” Nick is the writer and he wants his words to define Gatsby. Discuss: Do you think Nick has succeeded in telling Gatsby’s story?
Nick – a reliable narrator? By the end of the novel he is much more outspoken with his criticisms. He may be tolerant of people in public, but on paper he is harsh and critical. The ending of the novel therefore inverts the very beginning of the text as Nick clearly judges people. He describes Tom and Daisy as ‘careless people’ because of the way they ‘smashed up things and creatures and retreated back into their money’.
CHARACTERISATION - GATSBY “Look here, old sport, you’ve got to get somebody for me. You’ve got to try hard. I can’t go through this alone.” Gatsby is isolated, not only in death, but even at his own parties where he was a lost and detached onlooker. Discuss: Why was Gatsby never accepted? What does this reveal about the other characters in the novel?
Characterisation: Gatsby “He took off his glasses and wiped them again, outside and in. ‘The poor son-of-a-bitch,’ he said” We feel sympathy for Gatsby too, deserted by acquaintances and (more importantly) Daisy.
Characterisation: Gatsby Gatsby built himself up from nothing to a position of relative wealth and power. He could therefore be seen to have achieved the American Dream, but the poor attendance at his funeral highlights the hollowness and the emotional cost of his version of the American Dream.
CHARACTERISATION – GATSBY’S FATHER Henry C Gatz is a figure of sympathy rather than admiration “His eyes leaked continuously” “He was on the point of collapse” Nick does not shatter the old man’s illusion of his son “That’s true”
CHARACTERISATION – GATSBY’S FATHER Gatsby’s father keeps talking about the picture of Gatsby’s house In a parallel with his son the picture “was more real to him than the house itself” He is infatuated by an illusion. He is so taken in by the grand display of Gatsby’s wealth that he doesn’t realise his son didn’t achieve his dream.
SETTING – THE MID-WEST “That’s my Middle West...” The Mid-West has been seen to be boring compared to the excitement of the East But the East is just glittering on the surface It lacks the moral centre of the Mid- West This moral depravity dooms the characters in the novel to failure
Setting In the final chapter Nick concludes that this has been ‘the story of the West’ because all the main characters are from the West and ‘possessed some deficiency’. Nick’s view of East and West changes throughout the novel. After Gatsby’s death the East coast becomes ‘haunted’ and ‘distorted’ for him.
Nick’s view of the East A place that lacks morals. Host to a series of ‘gleaming, dazzling parties’ that suggest a glittering surface, but very little underneath.
THEME – SHALLOWNESS OF THE AMERICAN UPPER CLASSES “What I called up about was a pair of shoes I left there.” Shows lack of morals and the shallowness of the upper classes. Klipspringer was Gatsby’s lodger but would rather attend a picnic. He is not even phoning up to offer commiserations but to enquire about a pair of shoes.
Theme: Shallowness of the American Upper Classes “Nobody came” This illustrates the upper class shallowness. They attended his parties and abused his hospitality but have deserted him when he is no longer of any use.
THEME – THE AMERICAN DREAM Gatsby fails to achieve the American Dream – Why?
Some suggestions may be: 1.He is a criminal 2.He can never gain acceptance into the American aristocracy. 3.His new identity is an act 4.His dream was unattainable (why?) All of these question the idea of America as a place where all things are possible if one tries enough.
The American dream is the potential for unlimited advancement, regardless of where they come from or how poor their background is Gatsby’s failure suggests it is impossible to disown one’s past so completely
SYMBOLISM “He knew he had a big future in front of him. And ever since he made a success he was very generous with me.” Ironic – in his father’s mind Gatsby had achieved the American dream His father has no understanding of the intricacies of American society and the fact that his son would never be accepted.
“That’s my Middle West” Nick thinks of America as a place with distinct regions with different values Each area has come to symbolise different values Discuss: What values are symbolised by the Mid-West, East, West within the novel?
Symbolism - Setting “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 …” Throughout history the West has been seen as a land of promise, possibility, a symbol of American ideals But Tom and Daisy, like other members of the upper classes have betrayed American ideals by having a rigid class structure that excludes newcomers from its upper classes.
Symbolism – Gatsby’s House “Gatsby’s house was still and empty when I left” The party is over in both the literal and metaphorical sense.
Symbolism – Gatsby’s lawn “…grass on his lawn had grown as long as mine.” Gatsby has gone but time has moved on This contrasts with Gatsby’s lawn when he was alive Discuss – how does this link to Gatsby’s relationship with Daisy? Consider how it changed and when grass cutting was significant in the past.
Symbolism - Gatsby “…and perhaps he made a story about it all of his own.” Even in death Gatsby remains the focus of gossip and speculation. Discuss – do you think that Gatsby deserved to be the centre of such gossip?
Symbolism – Gatsby’s House “…I went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house once more.” It is like a sign of material success, but like its owner it is flawed. “…word, scrawled by some boy” In the corrupt America of the 1920s childhood is not even a time of innocence.
Setting “…I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes…” Nick imagines what it must have looked like to the first explorers Seeing that America was once a goal for dreamers just as Daisy was for Gatsby.
“Gatsby believed in the green light…” Nick pictures the green land of America as the green light shining from Daisy’s dock. When America was founded it tried to distance itself from the traditional class system, but the novel shows that the class structure still exists. Gatsby can’t escape his PAST as he fails to overcome the class barrier. He believes that Gatsby had failed to realise that his dreams had already ended and that his dream was unattainable as it was rooted in the past. His goals had become hollow and empty.
“…tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further … And one fine morning – So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Symbolises that the return to paradise is an ideal not a reality, but GASTBY represents humanity’s endless capacity for hope. The image of the boats in the ‘ceaseless tide’ captures the mix of futility and hope. Discuss: is this an optimistic or pessimistic end to the novel?
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