American Literature – Gatsby – 4th Lecture Presentation

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ENGL1001 – American Literature
F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great
Gatsby (1926)
Dr. John Masterson
4th Lecture
July-August 2011
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Lionel Trilling, ‘F. Scott Fitzgerald’
(1945)
• “Gatsby is said by some to be not quite
credible, but the question of any literal
credibility he may or may not have
becomes trivial before the large significance
he implies. For Gatsby, divided between
power and dream, comes inevitably to
stand for America itself. Ours is the only
nation that prides itself upon a dream and
gives its name to one, “the American
dream.”
Marius Bewley, ‘Scott Fitzgerald’s Criticism of
America’ (1954)
• “The Great Gatsby embodies a criticism of
American experience ... The theme of Gatsby
is the withering of the American dream ... The
Great Gatsby is an exploration of the
American dream as it exists in a corrupt
period, and it is an attempt to determine that
concealed boundary that divides the reality
from the illusions. The illusions seem more
real than the reality itself.”
Nick on Gatsby. The Great Gatsby, Chapters 1 and 8
• Nick on Gatsby - “[He] represented everything
for which I have an unaffected scorn.”
Chapter 1
• “ 'They're a rotten crowd ... You're worth the
whole damn bunch of them put together.'”
Chapter 8
• “I've always been glad I said that. It was the
only compliment I ever gave him, because I
disapproved of him from beginning to end.”
Chapter 8
Marius Bewley, ‘Scott Fitzgerald’s Criticism of
America’ (1954)
• “The Great Gatsby embodies a criticism of
American experience ... The theme of Gatsby
is the withering of the American dream ... The
Great Gatsby is an exploration of the
American dream as it exists in a corrupt
period, and it is an attempt to determine that
concealed boundary that divides the reality
from the illusions. The illusions seem more
real than the reality itself.”
The Great Gatsby, p.8.
• “No – 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.”
Inventing and Re-Inventing the Self in American Literature
See the Outline of Gatz’s Schedule in
Chapter 9 of The Great Gatsby
• “Rise from bed ……… 6am …
• Study electricity, etc ….. 7.15-8.15 …..
• Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it
….. 5.00-6.00 pm
• Study needed inventions ………. 7.00-9.00
• General Resolves ….
• Read one improving book or magazine per
week …”
John Aldridge, ‘Fitzgerald: The Horror and the Vision of Paradise’
(1951)
• “Gatsby’s story is, in a sense, Fitzgerald’s parody
of the Great American Success Dream. Gatsby,
surrounded by the tinsel splendor of his parties,
dressed in his absurd pink suits, protected from
social ostracism by the fabulous legend he has
constructed around himself, is still the naively
ambitious boy who wrote in that schedule of
childhood the formula of success – “Rise from
bed … Study electricity … Work … Practice
elocution, poise and how to attain it … Study
needed inventions.” The purchase of love and
happiness is part of that formula … But it was his
misfortune to have believed too strenuously and
loved too blindly.”
Image of Early European Settlers in America approx. 1610
See the Outline of Gatz’s Schedule in
Chapter 9 of The Great Gatsby
• “Rise from bed ……… 6am …
• Study electricity, etc ….. 7.15.8.15 …..
• Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it
….. 5.00-6.00 pm
• Study needed inventions ………. 7.00-9.00
• General Resolves ….
• Read one improving book or magazine per
week …”
An Image of Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker, Daisy Buchanan, Nick Carraway
(behind Daisy) and Jay Gatsby from the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby
An Image of New York City in the 1920s
The Great Gatsby, Chapter 1
• Nick - 'I told him. And as I
walked on I was lonely no
longer. I was a guide, a
pathfinder, an original
settler.'
The Gatsby Style and the Possibility of Romantic Wonder
Arthur Mizener
• “Until very near the end of his life Fitzgerald felt
that life was UNENDURABLE without a belief in
realizing some romantic dream of a meaningful
existence. In a letter to a friend about Gatsby he
said that “the whole burden of this novel is the
loss of those illusions that give such color to the
world so that you don’t care whether things are
true or false so long as they partake of the
magical glory.” That is why, when Daisy destroys
Gatsby’s faith and his dream at last breaks up, he
finds himself in a “new world, material without
being real,” and, in effect, chooses to die.”
The Great Gatsby, Chapter 6
• “[Daisy's] glance left me and sought the
lighted top of the steps, where 'Three
o'clock in the Morning,' a neat, sad little
waltz of that year, was drifting out the
open door. After all, in the very
casualness of Gatsby's party there were
romantic possibilities totally absent
from her world.”
Malcolm Cowley, ‘Third Act and Epilogue’ (1945)
• “More than any other writer of these
times, Fitzgerald had the sense of living
in history. He tried hard to catch the
color of every passing year: its distinctive
slang, its dance steps, its songs (he kept
making lists of them in his notebooks), its
favourite quarterbacks, and the sort of
clothes and emotions its people wore.”
The Great Gatsby, Chapter 6
• “[Daisy's] glance left me and sought the
lighted top of the steps, where 'Three
o'clock in the Morning,' a neat, sad little
waltz of that year, was drifting out the
open door. After all, in the very
casualness of Gatsby's party there were
romantic possibilities totally absent
from her world.”
The Great Gatsby, Chapter 8
• “She was feeling the pressure of the world
outside, and she wanted to see him and feel
his presence beside her and be reassured that
she was doing the right thing after all.”
• “For Daisy was young and her artificial world
was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful
snobbery and orchestras which set the rhythm
of the year, summing up the sadness and
suggestiveness of life in new tunes.”
Consider the motif of debt, credit, settling outstanding
bills, paying the price,
incurring various costs over the course of the text
The Great Gatsby, Chapter 8
• “I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn’t believe
[the phone-call] would come, and perhaps he no
longer cared. If that was true he must have felt
that he had lost the old warm world, PAID A HIGH
PRICE FOR LIVING TOO LONG WITH A SINGLE
DREAM. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar
sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he
found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how
raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created
grass. A new world, MATERIAL WITHOUT BEING
REAL, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like
air drifted fortuitously about … like that ashen,
fantastic figure gliding toward him through the
amorphous trees.”
The Great Gatsby, Chapter 6
• “He 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. His life had been confused and
disordered since then, but if he could once
return to a certain starting place and go over
it all slowly, he could find out what that thing
was ...”
The Great Gatsby, Chapter 5
• “There must have been moments even that
afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his
dreams – not through her own fault, but
because of the colossal vitality of his illusion.
It had gone beyond her, beyond everything.
He had thrown himself into it with a creative
passion, adding to it all the time, decking it
out with every bright feather that drifted his
way. No amount of fire or freshness can
challenge what a man can store up in his
ghostly heart.”
Whose American Dream?
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