“‘Can’t repeat the past? ’ [Gatsby] cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can! ’“ In so much as two lines the novel was born with one of its main themes – the vast obsession with the past and the failure to accept that it is, contrary to what Gatsby says, impossible to recreate. As the novel concludes, Nick reflects, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. ” In some instances, “beating against the current” is considered a positive quality; an optimistic life-force that compels us all to battle our fate with sheer will.
However, Nick seems to note that this battle is lost long before it is fought, that fatalism is a better way to live. All things considered, the significance and importance of our past ultimately defines our dreams of the future, yet we are inherently tied to the past and cannot transform our dreams to reality. Gatsby’s fatal flaw was his profound refusal at accepting the past and undoubtedly, his profound refusal at accepting who he is. From the get go Gatsby acquired an intense hatred for poverty – after attending St.
Olaf’s College for two weeks he dropped out because he could not deal with the janitorial job that he was paying his tuition with. Following his falling in love with Daisy, his motivation to become wealthy increased, and after Daisy’s marriage to Tom his motivation only multiplied from there. So began his dedication to winning Daisy back, the beginning of beating against the current he should have simply let carry him. Gatsby completely disregards the fact that despite the past they had together, Daisy has lived a completely different life than when they first met.
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He is stuck in this cynical past where him and Daisy never parted, a non-existing reality in which she never stopped loving him. He attributes this fantasy to the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, with his mansion across the lake it had always been just out of grasp, merely something to admire and dream of from afar. At the end of Chapter 7, Gatsby keeps watch outside of Daisy’s home to make sure Tom does not harm her. Little does he know, the two are inside reconciling their differences over dinner.
Gatsby has made it across the lake to Daisy’s porch, to the green light, but unbeknownst to him his dream has dissipated forever. The morning following Gatsby’s gardener states that he plans to empty the pool due to the fact that summer has ended. Not having used the pool the whole summer, Gatsby asks him to wait a day as he still wants to use it. As Nick returns to Gatsby’s mansion later, he discovers him floating dead in his pool. Gatsby’s hopeless grasp on the hope that he can make Daisy love him the way she used to parallels his wanting to use the pool even though summer has already passed.
Ultimately, his death is a result of his extensive refusal to accept what he cannot control – the passing of time. Nick states, “He talked a lot about the past and I gathered that he wanted to recover something… 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…” Following his loss of Daisy, it is almost as if Gatsby has lost a grasp on who he is as well.
The new identity he created, this “Jay Gatsby” millionaire, was all created for the sole reason of winning Daisy over. Without Daisy now, what purpose was there to Jay Gatsby’s life? Instead of moving on like one is supposed to, he became dependent on reliving a part of his life where he felt he had reason, he became dependent on this green light. Nick’s closing line conveys the human condition of unreasonably struggling against our predicament, hoping and believing we can control our destiny even as experiences tell us we should not.
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