State Rank Analysis on Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby, a modernist novel written by the acclaimed F. Scott Fitzgerald, is best described as a tragedy, a story of a man desperately reaching out to grasp a  dream embedded in an irrecoverable past. Written in the literary and philosophical period of Modernism, Fitzgerald’s work is shaped by the many events that characterized the cultural, intellectual, social, and institutional changes of the early 20th century. Among some of these were events like the first world war, urbanisation and rapid industrialization, increased automation, capitalism and production, scientific and technological progress, and the displacement of religion. In fact, most texts created in the period of Modernism are read and interpreted widely as an ode to a past that has vanished in the midst of rapid contemporization, which makes sense given the unprecedented shifts occurring across all levels of Western society and culture in this period of flux.

Despite the austerity and loss caused by the devastating catastrophe of WWI which heightened man’s senses to the fragility and transience of life,  the hopeful tone of language in “it’s got to keep going up” reveals Jay Gatsby’s naive idealism in the midst of chaos, representing modern man’s faith in an unattainable social order and the dream that each individual is able to reach his fullest capabilities. However described by some as a “moral wasteland”, the dissolution of philosophical and intellectual structures in the model world also led to the gradual accumulation of existential and spiritual uncertainty, compounded by the epistemic and ontological crisis brooding in what individuals believed to be a Godless world. In this light, beneath the glittering and dazzling surface of Fitzegerlald’s novel and the effervescence of his voice which lends itself an air of beauty and hypnotism, is a story about the unattainable nature of modern man’s dreams to recollect and revive a past that has been irreparably damaged - lost.

Appreciating the contextual influences on the novel is critical to developing a solid essay. This is the case for any extended response but is particularly important for a work like The Great Gatsby where the modern world has an undeniable effect on the pulse of his writing, and the concerns that are manifested through the narrative, characters, setting, plot, etc.

Specifically, Fitzgerald’s novel reveals to us the corruption of man’s dreams, criticizing the American Dream for its deceptive allure, the promise it makes to the romantic that all human problems can be solved through accomplishing material wealth and status. We see this particularly through Jat Gatsby’s pursuit of an ethereal love with Daisy is dislocated by the superficiality of the era in which he is embedded. Indeed, Fitzgerald characterizes Jay Gatsby as an anachronism, a Romanticist displaced in a modern landscape whose undying commitment to a past love leads to paralysis and eventual destruction. Fitzgerald employs the aesthetic of early 20th-century America to demonstrate that the pursuit of the ‘ideal’ that typified the Jazz Age is a futile one due to the culture of excess and extravagance. Metaphorically describing Daisy’s voice as “full of money”, the material associations highlight how Gatsby’s endeavor to recapture his love for her is undercut sharply by the fundamentally anachronistic nature of his desires in a spiritually bankrupt world. As such the motif of the “green light” tragically represents Jay Gatsby’s faith in an unreachable future, ultimately positioning his love as incapable of transcending the past. Fitzgerald paradoxically exclaims “One should…be able to see things as hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise” to highlight the burning passion of the Romanticist to revisit, revive, and recreate the past even when it is not longer viable, a powerful testament to the collective sentiment of the modern world in which humanity looked back to a simpler time.

We can appreciate that Jay Gatsby, as our protagonist, is ultimately positioned as a modernist hero, a man who refuses to accept the life in which he was born and so undertakes the incredible task of recreating himself. Yet we can appreciate the tragedy of his story given the futility of the dream itself - Daisy, the object of desire and symbolic of the beauty of the past - is beyond reach. Although he stretches out his arms, she is irrecoverable, resembling more broadly both the disappointment and disillusionment bright by the Modern world and the unrequited yearning to return to the stability of the past. 

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