Gatsby; the American dream; tragedy; personification
《了不起的盖茨比》是20 世纪20 年代美国著名作家菲茨杰拉德的一部反映美国梦破灭的小说,也是一则被赋予了深刻含义,充满譬喻和警句的语言。本文从盖茨比之梦的实质、盖茨比性格中的不足以及社会历史原因等多方面探讨了导致盖茨比梦毁人亡这一悲剧必然因素。 菲茨杰拉德曾这样总结那个时代的特点：一切神明都统统死光，所有战争都已经统统打完，所有信念都已经统统完蛋。爵士乐时代的人蔑视一切传统的价值观念，反叛老一辈人所遵从的道德风范。 小说结尾，作者更是以人们的冷漠和盖茨比葬礼的冷冷清清彻底反映了20 世纪20 年代美国社会人性的冷酷与丑恶。在这样的社会，盖茨比从一开始就注定是孤立无助，注定是要失败的。
盖茨比; 美国梦; 悲剧; 化身
The paper is analyzing the inevitability of the hero Gatsby”s tragedy by examining the essence of Gatsby”s dream, the potential destructiveness in Gatsby”s characters and social-backgrounds that lead to Gatsby”s destruction.
I. Description of Gatsby”s Dream
A. Origin of Gatsby”s Dream
“Then he returned the wallet and pulled from his pocket a ragged old copy of a book called Hopolong Cassidy “look here, this is a book he had when he was a boy. It just shows you.” He opened it at the back over and turned it around for me to see. On the last fly-leaf was printed the word SCHEDULE and the date September 12, 1906 and underneath:
Rise from be……………………………………… 6.00 A.M
Dumbbell exercise and wallscaling……….6.15-6.30A.M
Study electricity, etc……………………….7.15-8.15 A.M
Baseball and sports…………………..4.30-5.00P.M
Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it 5.00-6.00P.M
Study needed inventions……………..7.00-9.00P.M” ( Fitzgerald, 2002: 206)
Above-mentioned shows that on the last fly-leaf of Hopolong Cassidy Gatsby used to read were recorded his transcending decision and a piece of strict timetable for working. Over so many years, Gatsby always persisted in it and observed it.
From the Schedule, as everyone knows, Franklin and Addison, giving a good example, depended on the struggle by themselves and got a success at last and their stories, which made every one believe that each youth could become a millionaire or the president of U.S in the future. In their age, the novels describing American Dream were best-sellers, but they gave the preaching contents: As long as one person was honest, patient and independent, he would have the equality with every one to do everything, namely, it is possible for him coming from the poor family to become a rich and noble person, while Gatsby was one of the believers of it. The dream which seemed to happen in fairy tales was the endless infinite power that encouraged Gatsby struggle for it. The author contact Gatsby”s pursuit with European emigrants” ancient desire to New Continent, and Franklin, representing American Dream and its invert forms later, defined Gatsby”s tragedy as huge historical background and deep typical senses. The traditional model of American Dream, as many critics and writers pointed out, were full of falsity, especially under the condition of capitalism developed rapidly, and polarization intensified increasingly. It made a point of evidence that Gatsby made a fortune, relying on personal virtues, diligence and frugality. Since his childhood, Gatsby used to abide by Franklin”s teaching, and try to practice the main inquire of the traditional model, following his own comprehension and the background of 20-century society in U.S. it is vagary for one person to come to the fore, who only depended on virtues, diligence and frugality, however, Gatsby“s story of getting rich just certified it. When he was young, Gatsby could not gain any appropriate consequence that he wanted to get, so that he was surrendered by his beloved lover Daisy, for he was penniless and fameless at that time. And later he absurdly became a millionaire. Obviously, it ought to be tremendous irony for him to believe in American Dream. By all appearances, as were same with other magnates at that time, Gatsby still understood and practiced following principles. Theoretically, borderland, (here referred to the whole American) were equal paradise to every one, and the reward completely owed to diligence, frugality and good luckiness, but in fact, the rewarding often depended on trickiness, greed and mercilessness, as well as cruel ruthlessness and completely rotten means. It is the American dream, but it is the origin of Gatsby”s dream.
B. Essence of Gatsby”s Dream
Even if his dream originated from American dream, the essence of Gatsby”s dream is the essence of American dream. With his growing, Gatsby”s American Dream went by an evolution when he was young. He dreamed making a good fortune, transcending common people and getting rid of poorness as much as the heroes written by Ben Franklin and Horatio Alger. Later he met Daisy by chance and then lost his heart to her, thus Daisy became the personification of his perfect ideal and the embodiment of concentrating his entire ideal, and the he endeavored to do everything in the direction of them. Because in his mind, Daisy represented all beautiful creatures of the upper class society in America, and in his memory, the first love between Daisy and him seemed to be a human fairyland, whereas, the cruel reality was that he lacked rich family supporting him and his love. The great disparity of their status made him sense that he had no right to touch her hand. “Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth impressions and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes, and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above hot struggles of the poor.” (Fitzgerald, 2002: 98)
As a result, the more perfect his ideal became, the more far away reality was.
C. Symbol of Gatsby”s Dream
In the novel, the green light represented that innocent Gatsby looked forward to the future, and at the same time longed for the history, namely, the green light represents his dream.
“Gatsby believed the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that”s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther….And one fine morning. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (Fitzgerald, 2002: 188)
American Dream actually originated from the past, and made him sincerely persist in the traditional ideal foundation; however, when he was borne back ceaselessly into the past, he made efforts for exploring various possibility in the future. To some extent, Gatsby”s love to Daisy reflected his wonderful memory of the past. Four years before, he realized her and then loved her. It was deeply engraved on his mind of original love. In the long time, to the love of missing Daisy, Gatsby memorized that Daisy fantastically became a beautiful miracle story in his mind, a historical event with wonderful experiences and a fairy maiden in a mysterious Vail. He desired to make the historical past transform to the future with same historical meaning through his own persistent efforts. And this green light representing his good ideal echoed with a fresh green breast of the world mutually at the end of this novel, which made Gatsby”s experiences indicate the whole America”s ones; nevertheless, after five years when Gatsby met Daisy again, the miracle Daisy had lost her original glory. The distinction between ideal and reality was huge.
““And she doesn”t understand,” he said: “she used to be able to understand. We”d sit for hours—”He broke off and began to walk up and down a desolate path of fruit rinds and discarded favors and crushed flowers.
“I wouldn”t ask too much for 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 reach of his hand. “I”m going to fix everything just the way it was before,” he said, “nodding determinedly she”ll see.””(Fitzgerald, 2002: 130-1)
Through these words, author gave highly emphasis to the figure of Gatsby, as if American Dream between golden past and golden future always suffered from the realistic betrayal and crush—the realistic world appearing in front of people was bleakness and dejection that “it was full of fruits rinds and discarded favors and crushed flowers” here and there. Gatsby could not build his hope future on the basis of cruel reality. He uniquely recalled the past, only to make the past illusion take place of the reality and future. He could not face squarely the reality of uniting the past with the future in the realistic environment. These reflect the essence of Gatsby”s dream.
II. Ideal Personification: Unworthy of Name
Gatsby” ideal personification in his mind is Daisy, because she was just a beautiful woman and the Gatsby”s first lover. Surely, he loved her very much; however, Daisy was rather earthly woman and bad virtue.
A. A Worldly Beauty
Woefully, Daisy was not as perfect as Gatsby always imagining in his mind, and his ideal personification that Gatsby desperately sought was only a badly worldly beauty with a good appearance and empty soul. In a cocktail party once held by Gatsby, when Daisy with her husband —Tom came to Gatsby”s mansion together, Gatsby, being a host, of course serving them, especially serving Daisy, introduced all customers to them one by one. When they came to the front of a pair of outstanding ones, he gave them a special introduction and description:
““Perhaps you know that lady,” Gatsby indicated gorgeous, scarcely human orchid of a woman who sat under a white plum tree. Tom and Daisy stared, with that particularly unreal feeling that accompanies the recognition of hitherto ghostly celebrities of memories.
“She”s lovely,” said Daisy.
“The man bending over is her director.”” (Fitzgerald, 2002: 120)
Seen from the surface, it is a very elegant picture, as the famous drawing in the world was exciting, while observed from the essence, the picture was none of deep sense. The scene of the movie picture star and her director never appeared in reality but in a rehearsal. After the author finished introducing other scenes, he took readers” attention to the pair of figures again, giving readers a static and wonderful image, as if readers went to the back of the white plum tree and saw another scene.
“It was like that. Almost the last thing I remember was standing with Daisy and watching the movie picture director and his star. They are still under the white plum tree and their faces were touching except for a pale, thin ray of moonlight between them. It occurred to me that he had been very slowly bending toward to her all night this proximity, and even while I watched I saw him stoop one ultimate degree and kiss at her cheek. “I like her”, said Daisy, “I think she”s lovely.”” (Fitzgerald, 2002: 127)
““She”s got and indiscreet voice,” I remarked. “It”s full of -----” I hesitated.
“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.
That was it. 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 symbols” song of it……high in a white palace the king”s daughter, the golden girl……”(Fitzgerald, 2002: 143)
Without doubtness, Daisy was the concrete embodiment of epicurean: money first and material prominent.
B. Bad Virtue
Contrast with Gatsby”s hospitality, spoon and romantic, Daisy possessed neither romantic ideals like Gatsby nor the real sacrificial bravery of sacrificing for the ideal, only to desire for comfortable worldly life. It was true that she loved Gatsby, but later in order to enjoy magnificent and comfortable life, she married Tom against her wills.As she found that Gatsby was richer than Tom Buchanan, she returned to Gatsby, the climax of the novel was arranged in a hotel, when Tom told the fact that Gatsby was a bootlegger and his wealth was illegal, Daisy shrank at once. “ “Even alone I can”t say I never loved Tom,” she admitted in a pitiful voice, “It wouldn”t be true”. ” (Fitzgerald, 2002: 158) Impatiently, after Daisy cracked up Tom”s mistress by chance when she drove, she escaped away with her husband Tom together, and left the responsibility and guilty to Gatsby; what”s worse, she had little courage to admit the fact that she herself was the wrecker indeed. Gatsby loved a person who was a coward and lack of virtues and sincerity, but he still considered her as his best ideal, and voluntarily accepted all responsibilities and sacrificed his life, all of which caused Gatsby”s tragedy; whereas, owing to Daisy”s betrayal, his death was innocent, and it was Gatsby”s tragedy that he was surrendered by his own ideal Daisy and paid too high cost for his empty dream.
III. Potential Destructiveness in Gatsby”s Characters
The inevitability of Gatsby”s tragedy was related to the potential destructiveness in his character, namely, some factors in his character caused his life and ideals destroyed.
A. Obstinate Character
Gatsby was the believer and follower of American Dream who thought the opportunity was equal to everyone in the society and fantasized to prompt into upper class society like Daisy. Nevertheless, the upper class society which represented by Daisy and Tom never put up with Gatsby as well as his being. Tom was very proud selfish and cruel, lacking essential virtues and moralities. In his eyes, he could never abide by sharing the privilege which the noble people only owned and shared with Gatsby together. No matter who is he? If he dared to talk about the equality, he must die of it. Therefore, though Gatsby made a ladder to the fairyland in people”s mind by his illegal wealth, he could not take a place and space in the upper class society and equally share the magic and milk. However rich he was, however his name and luxurious cars he exchanged, he was still an unimportant person who came from the low class society, consequently, he was always attacked and squeezed out. Gatsby would not accept the fact he never did it but Gatsby still struggled for his dream repeating the past with Daisy and got rich by hook or crook, especially by illegal methods. So he was obstinate in his mind, actually, he was not stupid but foolish. Doubtlessly, it is inevitable that his American Dream was disillusioned.
B. Foolish Character
Actually, Gatsby is a real foolish gentleman, because he fantasized about getting a pure love, and thought of a worldly beauty as the symbol of perfect ideal. In order to get his ideal love, Gatsby struggled his feet from the low class society and devoted himself to Daisy. He innocently believed that as long as he got rich, he could repeat the past with Daisy. Different from other people in Jazz Age, Gatsby was a pure romantic gentleman. “Gatsby bought that mansion so that Daisy would bi just across the bay.” (Fitzgerald, 2002: 93) Although Daisy once returned to his body, he could not satisfy it. What he wanted to get was not that he endowed with great charm, but that he wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: “I never love you. After she had obliterated four years with that sentence they could decide upon the more practical measures to go back to Louisville and be married from her house— just as if it were five years ago.” (Fitzgerald, 2002: 130) However, the essence of Daisy decided that the dream of Gatsby”s pure love was inevitably disillusioned.
In fact, Gatsby was serious ignorance of the upper class society for he did not recognize the essence of the upper class society clearly: For Gatsby, the realistic background of Daisy”s family and her social intercourse actually became a kind of ideal symbol that is beyond reality and agreement with the myth circumstances. As an unknown and penniless man, Gatsby was just beyond reach, so he spent all his energy struggling for and weaving his ideal and dream, so that he could not see through the hypocrisy and the ugliness hidden in beauty and luxury. While he was alive, he constantly held tremendous feasts and had an endless stream of visitors. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and champagne and the stars, but after he was dead, no telephone message arrived, but the butler went without his sleep and waited for it until four o”clock—until ling after there was any one to give it to if it came. On Gatsby”s funeral ceremony,
“about five o”clock our procession of three cars reached the cemetery and stopped in a thick drizzle beside the gate—first a motor hearse, horribly black and wet, then Mr. Gatz and the postman from West Egg ,” what”s worse, “I could only remember, without resent, that Daisy hadn”t sent a message or a flower.” (Fitzgerald, 2002: 208)
Daisy went far away with his husband Tom; Gatsby”s funeral ceremony was rather lonely. Perhaps, it was the essential face of upper class society. Gatsby was so lack of mind and discerning power that he was fatally destroyed. His destruction was not only in physic but in spirit or morality; unfortunately he did not realize it when he was died.
The most obvious destructiveness in his characters is that Gatsby was very innocent. It is a poetic and romantic scene that hid serious facts. Under the wasted and luxurious surface hidden, Gatsby”s inner heart went by cruelty—he must think and build desire for reality of ideals in the fantasy and impractical scene, and finally find someplace beneficial for him to become practical possibility. It was the focus of the question that all his efforts were to attract a his original lover Daisy”s attention and to make her return to his body, but Gatsby made an ostentations show of one”s wealth with beyond words describing and the ostentation contained fatal factors, so luxurious party made the focus of the question ambiguous.
“There was music from my neighbor”s house through the summer nights. In blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At night tide in the afternoon I watched guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor cars slit the waters of sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam. On weekends his Roll-Royce became an omnibus bearing parties to and from the city between mine in the morning and ling past night. While his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.” (Fitzgerald, 2002: 47)
The possibility of realistic life was based on materials, and the ideals fell to the second place, however, in the extremely luxurious world of materials—personal beach, mansion, Roll-Royce, etc.—Gatsby went into a marvelous state which was out of practice. His magnificent cocktail party attracted innumerable celebrities coming from upper class society. Some people were envious ones, others were visitors” guests, but they had the same motive for showing off their noble status, sharing luxurious material life, hardly making them drop out of the day. They could be proud of attending the noble cocktail party. This kind of servile and worldly psychology made them spend weekends in a continuous, made Gatsby certainly exhaust lots of money to express his generosity and hospitality, with a result, on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing –brushes and hammers and garden-shears,, repairing the ravages of the night before.
These are key important words in this part. Though it could made people produce the association of fairy tale, yet it possesses deep sarcastic meaning and innuendo function, which buried a foreshadowing for Gatsby”s tragic consequence; in addition, it is more wonderful to casually add “extra gardeners, as if his guests had broken the harmony of original natural beautiful view,” and made the original poetic and drawing scene badly messy. In this novel, using a superb metaphor, the author shows to readers that the most suitable place to record these guests” names was on the empty spaces of an old and broken timetable, because these guests the world their embodying were fantasizing as short as time, a flash in the pan, and they would never came back with time passing at last, as a piece of overdue train timetable left people a little dim memory. What they represented was only some misshapen scraps crushed by reality of American Dream, and these guests came to visit Gatsby in a continuous stream, because he had motor-boats, personal beach, luxurious cars, as well as various cocktails and balls” parties. More importantly, they all followed blindly impractical reality with their illusion and showed off themselves and their own values, while Gatsby was willing to invite them to take his party. Because of his incomplete American Dream, without seeing and touching the realistic hope, he used the form of material to create the ideal world and practice his life dream. It was a fact that Gatsby needed them to decorate mansion for his face and in turn they needed Gatsby”s hospitality to raise their status. So their mutual needs made them go together, nevertheless, their own goals were completely different, and their life experiences were also more different. No matter how dazzling and luxurious the parties were, no matter how hospitality Gatsby powered, the gat between Gatsby and them always existed for ever, in that fantasy and reality acted in direct contradiction as two trains in same direction could not merged together. Followings indicate it:
“The caterwauling horns had reached a crescendo and turned away and cut across the lawn toward home. I glanced back once. A wafer of a moon was shining over Gatsby”s house, making the night fine as before, and surviving the laughter and the sound his still glowing garden. A sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great doors, endowing with complete isolation the figure of the host, who stood on the porch, his hand in a formal gesture of farewell.” (Fitzgerald, 2002: 66)
The phrase is a description with profound meaning. It makes people to come to realize the fickleness of human relationships and to feel the desolation and depression, and makes people feel his endurance of desire for ideals and inner pain. He lonely stood on the porch, his hand up in formal gesture of farewell, which made his figure outstanding protrusion and conspicuousness.
Therefore, the obstinate, foolish, ignorant and innocent characters are destructive characters, and they make Gatsby”s tragedy become more possible.
IV. The Decadent and Ruthless Social Reality
A. Cruel social Society of U.S.A
In the society of the lost ideals, Gatsby was a hot and romantic idealist, and his marvelous genius to the hope and romance made him turn a blind eye to American cruel social reality and desperately sought after impractical romantic love, even tried redeeming his lost pleasure together with Daisy in the past by a plenty of money; besides, he still obstinately believed that one person could fulfill the dream through his own ideal by hook or by crook, and even if he met huge trouble or problem, he would take his heart to fulfill his own dream with all his efforts, whereas, the power of opposing Gatsby was bourgeoisie groups represented by Tom and Daisy. The novel really responded to the struggle for statuses between the new noble men and the old groups. Tom and Daisy were extreme egoists and real materialist, Tom asserted in public “this fellow has worked out the whole thing. It”s up to us who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things,” (Fitzgerald, 2002: 15) while Daisy was same to echo others” opinions. In Tom”s eyes, though Gatsby was only nobody whose life story no one knew, he who was a young magnate was aggressed by Tom who never took a casual attitude to Gatsby since he knew Gatsby. Gatsby wan the absolute victory when he competed with Tom to gain Daisy”s love, but Tom was not willing to give it up, furthermore, he took mean measures and decided to kill Gatsby to death. For this purpose, Tome rushed at Gatsby like a hungry beast, to kill Gatsby”s dream with continual dirty dust.
It was like this, because of Tom”s conspiracy and betrayal, Gatsby was tragic death. At last, the symbol meaning of Gatsby”s experiences and his broken dream is very clear:
“Most of the big shore places were close now and there were hardly and lights except the shadowy more glow of a ferryboat across the sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors” eyes-----a flesh, green breast of the new world. It”s vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby”s house had once pandered in whispers too the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder. ” (Fitzgerald, 2002: 214)
Therefore, he could not see through the cruel society in America at that time.
B. Social Value Trend
Gatsby was one of typical representatives of American Dream that all generations of American people pursued. He was really penniless before he had fulfilled his ideals, but at last he was overwhelmed by decadent ruthless society. No matter how did Gatsby struggle for it, he could not get into the upper class society; no matter how did he do hard, he could not get Daisy and her heart; even if he tried his best effort to fulfill his dream, he was destined to fail at last. People could learn something from the Gatsby”s tragedy that the upper class society in America was affected by American rotten life for pleasure, the world was the place where rich men could share life, and that was a daydream for any one who wanted to seek for the pure love and sincere happiness there. Because Gatsby held different social value from common American people, the tragedy of believer and follower —Gatsby persistently seeking for American Dream asserted the bankruptcy of American Dream.
Gatsby”s final destructiveness was the consequence of Tom”s plotting and framing. It was superficial phenomenon that Tom, the real murderer of murdering Gatsby, represented the upper class society and committed the crime, but the deep connotation was that upper class society ruined Gatsby”s dream in spirit. Gatsby”s falsity was that he was too innocent to see through that his beloved Daisy was as dishonest and unconscientious as Tom, and they unique possessed selfish, cruelness, falsity, deceit as well as narrowness. In the cocktail party Gatsby held, Tom and Daisy smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or let other people clean up the mess they had made, so Daisy was not worthy for Gatsby to devote himself to her, and he lived in cruel environment.
“So we beat on, boats on against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past”(Fitzgerald, 2002: 215). To repeat the past, Gatsby devoted all to his dream, but at last his efforts were hopeless. Actually, this was an ode of personality separated in special time and space. Gatsby tried practicing his figure again, prompting into upper class society and regaining original ideal beloved Daisy, whose actions were magnificent and epic, but he was destined to fail because his various efforts were sarcastic. He made a lot of lies for getting Daisy, yet she was only a beautiful body with good appearance and bad virtues, so Daisy has no qualification to be the person who Gatsby devoted his life to.
Owing to his innocence, lacking of discerning power and self-comprehension, Gatsby fell into the trap that the social evil power set for him. Owing to his honestness, kindness, determined beliefs, tense desire and firm decision, he believed that he could build a real fairy-land. Doubtlessly, the description of American Dream was perfect, but the realistic world represented by Tom and Daisy was too absurd to withstand a single blow. Gatsby”s lack of mind and discerning power led to his final destructiveness——his destructiveness was not only in physic but also in spirit. It is human being”s tragedy.
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