In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice. "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages you've had." - Nick, The Great Gatsby
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Have you ever tried to look at things in different perspectives? If not, The Great Gatsby is a starter. Everything in The Great Gatsby is seen in two ways. It is the representation of an individual, place, event or concept in its dualism: positive and negative, and external and internal. Its two-fold manifestation is applicable on the plot, character, setting, event and theme.
On the plot, the Great Gatsby is glamorous, romantic and exciting, and at the same time, crude, corrupt and disgusting. It becomes glamorous, romantic and exciting because of the central character’s desire to win back the love of his life, Daisy. Jay Gatsby did everything from having nothing to having every material thing there is just for the hope of reclaiming her. His reason for buying a mansion in West Egg is to take a glimpse of her across the bay. He also organizes grand parties wishing that Daisy would attend one of those. The sad part is that this great desire makes The Great Gatsby crude, corrupt and disgusting. One thing is for sure, this determination leads to single-mindedness (Lovelady, 2005, p3-3). Even if he reinvents himself, that will not be enough to make his imagination a reality. Moreover, his insistence leads to his death. He conceals the truth behind the death of Myrtle. Her husband avenged her death by taking Gatsby’s. It is a sacrifice that is taken for granted. She did not attend his funeral.
On characters, Nick basically represents a narrator and as a principal speaker. As a narrator, he serves as a medium for the characters to voice out their emotions and motives. On the other hand, as a principal speaker, he translates the aspirations of the individuals around him. In addition to that, Nick sees Gatsby on different views. In his eyes, Gatsby lives on the edge of both worlds, neither of which is black: the established white society of the Buchanans and the not-quite- white immigrant underworld of Meyer Wolfsheim. Yet Nick is at home in neither environment, a feeling reflected by his unstable sense of moral order in society (Decker, 1994, p52-71).
GATSBY: Look here, old sport, I don't want you to get a wrong idea of me from all those stories you hear. I'm the son of wealthy parents from the Middle West--both dead. I was educated at Oxford because all my ancestors were educated there. (Nick smiles in spite of himself There is an approaching siren from a police motorcycle.) Then came the war, old sport. In the Argonne Forest I took two machine gun detachments so far forward there was a half mile gap on either side of us where the infantry couldn't advance. When the infantry came up they found the insignia of three German divisions among the piles of dead. (Gatsby pulls the car over for the cop.) I was promoted to Major--excuse me, old sport. (He gets a card out of the glove compartment as the cop arrives, and Nick sees some military decorations stuck among the papers. Gatsby holds up the card to the cop, who waves him on.)( Literary Cavalcade, 2000, p30).
The central character also possesses this quality. Jay Gatsby has dual forms of heroism. First, the hero that explores eternally for some transcending object like honor or love, and the second, a hero who quests internally—forever looking to discover or change his own identity. He forms the picture of the Western twentieth-century man uncertain between energy and sensibility (Bloom and Parker, 1985, p141-156).
On places, the setting shows contradictory levels of social status. By comparison, West Egg is the locale of the American dream in miniature and East Egg is the home of those who are long-time captains of industry (Bloom and Fortescue, 1999, p11-22). The West Egg is a place where one can build his future regardless of one’s origin while the East Egg only admits those who are established in their fields. Furthermore, even if Jay Gatsby is rich, but if he lives on West Egg, he still carries the tag that he belongs to the lower status of the society. The great body of water separates the two places which mean that each one cannot pass through. It is impossible to permeate in a society that formed a division of class.
On events, grand parties set by Gatsby denote two-way scenarios. First, to exhibit Gatsby’s rightful place to Daisy, and second, to promote that one can be successful through determination.
Another event is the hot October night, where Daisy professes her love to Gatsby. Summer connotes love at its peak and love at its lowest point. Daisy kissed that night and shows her love but Gatsby, although so much in love with her must go to war.
Even the virtue of hope that is presented can be discussed in two ways. Hope turns out to be a gift and a curse. The only aspiration of his love brings him to the top materially but brings him down spiritually. It made him rich and famous but this hope made him another person whom he is not, and made him do things that are illegal.
The novel’s presentation on two-way perspective is not only applicable to the characters, settings, or the events but also to its concept of the American dream. The Great Gatsby is relevant because it is the definitive romance of the American dream, a concept or vision that haunts the society. It can also be seen in two perspectives: the withering of the American dream and a celebration of a Romantic hope in America despite all the ugly realities (Bloom, 1999, p5-7).Moreover, Fitzgerald’s novel is presented almost simultaneously in two directions: toward the success of American dream and toward its failure. However, Great Gatsby is not just towards reform but towards restoration- restoration of a social order that has been confused and disturbed by reconfigurations of power and property, by the changing forces of the age ( Giltrow and Stouck, 1997, p476).
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald created a sensation in America and serve as a catalyst for societal renewal towards the notion of the American dream. The Great Gatsby cannot be held responsible for the anomalous imbalance of treatment of the American dream. But it can be blamed on a certain degree, for intensifying the knowledge on the matter
And to top it all off, since Fitzgerald coined the “Jazz Age” in the 1920’s, let us compare his literature as the music of society. The Great Gatsby provides a key to understanding and harmonizing the good and bad events that transpired on history and culture in its dualism. Moreover, The Great Gatsby’s dualism is a piano. The Great Gatsby is like a piano with black and white keys. Each is represented by a positive or negative side. The white keys represent happiness and the black keys exhibit sadness but as you go through the story, remember that the black keys also create a wonderful music.
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