The Great Gatsby May 25, 2012 Major Characters Nick Carraway is the narrator of the story. Nick is thought of as a very honest and harmless person by the other characters. For this reason he is confided in and trusted by everyone. He thinks of himself higher than everyone else. He says on the first page how he doesn't judge people, yet he judges everyone throughout the story. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had." He didn't say any more, but we've always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence, I'm inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsoughtfrequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon; for the intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth. And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes, but after a certain point I don't care what it's founded on. When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction-Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the "creative temperament"---it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. 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. Jay Gatsby Gatsby is a very determined character. He has such a strong love for Daisy. When he finds out she is married to someone else, his efforts to win her back become very strong. This is what gives him the motivation to get all this money. He finds the quickest and easiest way even if it is illegal. Gatsby's whole effort in the book is to get his relationship with Daisy back to the way it was before the war. Daisy Buchanan Daisy is a very material person. She needs to have money. She was very much in love with Gatsby, but because he wasn't wealthy, she married someone who was. Daisy focuses on the outward rather than the inward: “She's got an indiscreet voice,” I remarked, “It's full of ---” I hesitated. “Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly. That it was. I’d never understood before. It was full of money — that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it ... high in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl. Tom Buchanan Tom is a very immoral character. He doesn't worry about anyone but himself. In his spitefullness he is ruining 4 people's (Daisy, Gatsby, Myrtle, Tom) lives. He cares only about getting what he wants, not caring who he takes down in the process. Jordon Baker Jordon goes through life very carelessly. For example, she is a very careless driver. When Nick tells her about it, she doesn't seemed very worried. She becomes a hypocrite whenever she says, "I hate careless people." Myrtle Wilson Myrtle has no self-respect. She lets Tom treat her badly because he has money. She doesn't mind being used, or if she does, she is too caught up in the situation to realize it. She would rather be treated like a dog by someone with money, than be treated with respect by someone who is poor. George Wilson George is a character with a very unfortunate situation. He was a very hard working and devoted husband. He would have had a very peaceful life if Tom hadn't been involved. George bottled up all his emotions thoughout the story causing him to explode at the end. Historical Context: The Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties The Jazz Age began soon after World War I and ended with the 1929 stock market crash. Victorious, America experienced an economic boom and expansion. Politically, the country made major advances in the area of women's independence. During the war, women had enjoyed economic independence by taking over jobs for the men who fought overseas. After the war, they pursued financial independence and a freer lifestyle. Popular Criticism Foreshadowing Destiny The Eulogy of a Dream A Great American Dream The Death of a Dream The Fall of the American Dream Jay Gatsby's Representation of America Major themes Materialism and its influence on people’s psychology Decay of American Greatness Parallel growth of Nick and Gatsby Nick as dramatized narrator Disillusionment Gatsby’s personal experiences approximate the whole of the American experience up to the first few decades of the 20th century: the dream, followed by disenchantment, and a sense of failure and despair. Modern Civilization Modern civilization is described as “valley of ashes”. Miodern men live in sterility and meaninglessness and futility as represented by Gatsby’s parties. Behind the blaring of music and laughter is the sense of purposelessness and loneliness. “This is a valley of ashes—a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud which screens their obscure operations from your sight.” (Chapter 2) The shallowness Materialism of modern men is represented by materialism of Daisy whose voice is “full of money” and Tom’s wickedness. “In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.”(Chapter 3) Great expectations that inspired the first settlers are offset by the power of money. Gatsby as Dreamer In some ways Gatsby is great. He is a man who lives his whole life devoting himself to his passion and never getting sidetracked. But he is also foolish to live a dream upon, because nothing ever stays the same. Things change and when one reaches a goal he realizes it wasn't what he remembered: "I wouldn’t ask too much of her," I ventured. "You can’t repeat the past." "Can’t repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!" He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand. "I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before," he said, nodding determinedly. "She’ll see." Restlessness “The plot heats up as the setting heats up, furthering suspense while placing untested characters in such boiling heat that their lives can find expression only in explosive release or resignation. Their tempers flare as the temperature rises and it is not until they lose their composure that anything begins to cool. ” Tecnique of Narration Nick is not just one character among several. It is through his eyes and ears that we form our opinions of the other characters. But not every narrator is the voice of the author. Before considering the "gap" between author and narrator, we should remember how, as readers, we respond to the narrator's perspective, especially when that voice belongs to a character who, like Nick, is an active participant in the story. Nick’s Partial Judgement In The Great Gatsby, Nick goes to some length to establish his credibility, indeed his moral integrity, in telling this story about this "great" man called Gatsby. The only genuine affection in the novel is shown by Nick towards Gatsby. He admires Gatsby's optimism, an attitude that is out of step with the sordidness of the times. Nick is "in love" with Gatsby's capacity to dream and ability to live as if the dream were to come true, and it is this that clouds his judgment of Gatsby and therefore obscures our grasp on Gatsby.