Presentation on theme: "Chasing the Green Light"— Presentation transcript:
1 Chasing the Green Light The Tragedy of Jay Gatsby
2 Gatsby: Tragic HeroTragic Hero: a character who makes an error that leads to his downfallAlmost always a respectable personDownfall evokes audience’s pityTragic flaw (i.e., fatal error) is also hero’s greatest virtueJOURNAL 6B: What is Gatsby’s tragic flaw? Defend your opinion.
3 Gatz vs. Gatsby Nick Carraway’s paradoxical judgment of Gatsby: Gatsby = object of Nick’s “unaffected scorn” (Ch. 1); epitome of all that is vile about mankindHowever, Gatsby is “exempt” from Nick’s repulsion of mankind; the one man absolved of human depravityGatsby the Creation = repulsiveGatz the Man = “gorgeous”Inventor OK, Invention NOT OK
4 Gatsby’s Tragic Flaw Gatsby’s virtues (according to Nick): his “extraordinary gift for hope”his “romantic readiness”his “heightened sensitivity to the promises of life”Gatsby is a dreamerHe dreams big – REALLY BIG!!!Ambition is respectable, but can also lead to disaster (e.g., Frankenstein monster)Gatsby supplants reality with fantasy, believes he can bend the world to his will
5 Gatsby Goes WrongGatsby’s dream is pure (i.e., love), but the method of acquiring it is fundamentally flawed (i.e., lying)Gatsby = avatar for pursuit of happiness (fundamental component of American ethos)Hope for happiness is “gorgeous” (i.e., spectacular, beautiful)Gatsby’s dream = LOVELove is based on the natural, yet delicate chemistry of two soulsThus, recreating a love based on false identities is unnatural, and therefore doomed to failureHappiness for Gatsby in 1922, therefore, is illusoryJames Gatz invents Jay Gatsby to obtain DaisyNew Money (Gatsby) imitating Old Money (Buchanans)
6 Buchanans: Avatars of Old Money TOMDAISYImmoralViolentHedonisticDomineeringCarelessInsatiableImmoralPassiveLackadaisicalDelicateCarelessInsatiable
7 From Gatz to Gatsby Gatsby = Avatar of New Money Gatsby (West Egg) imitates the opulent, extravagant lifestyle of Old Money world (East Egg) to succeedFATAL ERROR: Old Money world is corrupted by wealth, where money trumps moralsMaterial replaces the soulEmerson: physical property vs. living propertyGatsby imitates the Buchanans, who are the soulless, careless products of human depravity
8 Questions to considerNick: “Gatsby turned out all right at the end” (Ch. 1)What does Nick mean by “all right”?All right: (adj.) satisfactory, acceptable, unhurt, unscathedIs Gatsby’s death acceptable?Does Nick approve of the timeliness/nature of Gatsby’s death?Does Nick think Gatsby’s end was justified or appropriate?Did Gatsby somehow escape a worse fate?
10 Ch. 9 Nick’s EpilogueSCENE: Nick watches Gatsby’s mansion, ruminating on its former inhabitantGatsby’s West Egg mansion = “incoherent failure of a house”Symbol of James Gatz’s failed dreamGatsby = James Gatz’s “Platonic conception of himself” (Ch. 5)Plantonic: (adj.) existing as an idea only; nonexistentNick erases an “obscene word” from a white step on Gatsby’s houseNick wants to preserve the dream, keep it pureBut the difference between what we want and what is is where Gatsby failed. Will Nick make the same fatal error?
11 Nick’s Epilogue (cont.) SCENE: Nick sprawls out on the sandy beach and observes Long Island for what it truly is, stripped of its “inessential houses”Long Island becomes the “fresh, green breast of the new world” that “flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes”Dutch sailors = early European explorers of AmericaNick envisions the forest – whose trees are now “vanished” – that “pandered in whispers” (i.e., subconsciously, but efficaciously) to “the last and greatest of all human dreams”What does Nick mean by this “last and greatest of all human dreams”?
12 The Last and Greatest of all Human Dreams America: The New WorldA green untamed wildernessA place of promiseGrounds for a new beginning (rebirth)Realm of opportunityRegion for redemptionWhere dreams are born, take shape, and come trueThe Dutch SailorsPilgrimsOdyssean adventurersRefugeesDreamersOld World Gatsbys
13 Birth of a DreamThose Dutch sailors, for a “transitory enchanted moment…must have held their breath” as they stared at this wide open new “continent” (i.e., America)“transitory” = temporary“enchanted” = spellbinding; intoxicating“held their breath” = excitement, awe in the presence of such vast potentialLike Gatsby eyeing Dan Cody for the first time from the shores of Lake Superior.
14 America: Land of Opportunity North America (“the continent”) as a physical entity is geographically, perceptibly equal in grandeur and immensity to the human “capacity to wonder”“capacity to wonder” = ability to imagine a better, more palatable reality for oneselfN. America = land of fresh beginnings, second chances, opportunity, resurrection, redemption, etc……a place where dreams are forged and mapped outBut do these dreams ever come true?
15 Why does Nick stop himself before the climax of this sentence? The Green LightGreen Light = “the orgastic future that…recedes before us…”i.e., A gradually but relentlessly dying dreamThe green light “eluded us then, but that’s no matter”i.e., It doesn’t matter if the dream is dying or unobtainable, because…“…tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…And one fine morning—”Why does Nick stop himself before the climax of this sentence?
16 Death of a DreamNick’s unfinished sentence represents an aborted thought, a syntactical metaphor for the terminated dreamThe reality for Nick (and us) is too awful, too horrifying, too soul-crushing to contemplate, to acknowledge, to admitReality = The dream is unobtainable (“[Gatsby] did not know that [his dream] was already behind him”)There really is no hope, nothing worthy to aspire to – especially if mimicking the voracious Tom Buchanan or obtaining the soulless Daisy Fay is the object of your dream
17 But we still dream…Ignoring the reality that “you can’t repeat the past” (Ch. 6), we still beat on “against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”“against the current” = in opposition to the tide of timeThe juggernaut of reality will ALWAYS burst the bubble of fantasy (i.e., our dreams, our hopes)“into the past” =The paradise of youthful innocence (e.g., Garden of Eden)A world of possibility and potentialThe ignorant bliss of hope
18 Retreat to the WestSo Nick Carraway returns to Minnesota (the West), for it is in the West where dreams exist, where he no longer needs:“privileged glimpses into the human heart” (Ch. 1)encounters with “the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men” (Ch. 1)Nick returns to the West to avoid the fate of GatsbyWest = New World = Illusion of a New Beginning = America for the Dutch sailors (Eden)East = Europe = Banishment from Eden = the inescapable ghosts of our past (original sin)But this globe (Earth) is a finite sphere, and a retreat west – into the “vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic roll on under the night” (Ch. 9) – will eventually bring us back to where we started
19 The American Dream We can’t escape the past, We can’t change where we came from,We can’t change what we are……but we can always dream we can.