Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Thought-Piece on The Great Gatsby


I would like you to spend some time constructing a reflective piece on Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Please do not feel threatened by the assignment. The purpose of this is to guage your response to a novel rich with imagery, theme, conflict, and symbol.

Really, what I want to know is whether or not this resonated at all with your own experience of life up to this point. Or, in reading it, what does it inspire you to say about society, about life, about relationships? What's your take? Philosophize, theorize, vent--just do it with some formality and dignity.

Below is my own reaction, mixing some literary analysis with social critique and personal response.

Write away,

Br. Rob Peach
Br. Rob Peach
ENG 320 Section 2
17 April 2007
Reaction Sheet, re: The Great Gatsby

A Search for the Soul in Gatsby's Shadow

I remember reading The Great Gatsby for the first time just before my junior year of high school, I believe. It was one of the more interesting reads assigned for the summer. Its deeply nostalgic undercurrent of melancholy was meaningful then, though I did not have the words to describe the novel as such. Now, having had some experience in the world of interpersonal relationships and a society that still hankers for pleasure and the blind pursuit of material wealth, the novel resonates with my life more profoundly.

I think we've all been there--that place of loneliness, longing, and searching into which we peer in the eyes of such characters as Daisy, Gatsby, and Nick. The question for all of us, including the characters involved in a complex network of relationships, is not so much "What do I want out of life?" but "How will I answer and respond to my own emptiness?" For Gatsby, it is not necessarily about getting what he desires as it is about filling the void of his lover's absence. For Nick, his move to West Egg is fueled by the desire to appease his restlessness after taking part in the First World War. Unfortunately, both of these men find an answer to their longing in superficialities, mechanincally maneuvering their way into a society crowded with unfamiliar faces and bookshelves of unread materials.

In an instance of irony providing us with a foreshadowy sense of false hope and, as we realize by the end of the novel, an unrealizable ideal, Nick claims, "And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer" (4). Certainly there is some potential for personal growth, and perhaps Nick ultimately does recognize his role as the one, faithful friend that Gatsby has (or had). Yet even still, Nick goes about buying into the one lifestyle that he scorned and which Gatsby, in his frivolity, represents: senseless hedonism. We should keep in mind, too, that Daisy and the rest are no less guilty of living such an illusion which is magnified by lies, deceit, and undisclosed secrets of the past.

And so the future seemingly offers no hope for change in a world deadened like the ashy wasteland that leads into the city. Like the eyes of the distant observer, Dr. T. J. Eckleberg, this land is empty. It is devoid of meaning, and even where there is a glimpse of hope, as with the green light blinking at the edge of Daisy's dock, jealousy seems all the world has to offer.

Thus the question becomes, "How will you fill the void?" We can easily fill our life with distractions; I cannot plead innocent in this matter myself. But with some honesty and a healthy dose of self-awareness, we certianly have greater possibility in finding that one thing that Gatsby and his cohorts are lacking: a soul. Whether they know it or not, the characters in Fitzgerald's masterpiece are searching for exactly that. Unfortunately, they never seem to find it, their vision obscured in the shadows of an illusion that leads backwards despite the promise of the future. In the end it is as Nick suggests when he says, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessy into the past" (180).


MC-Devitt said...

Personally I think, knowing that Gatsby is a materialistic person who seeks materialistic satisfaction, if he ever did get to be with Daisy, he still would not be happy. He will always need more. It seems to me as he has labeled her as the answer to all of his problems, saying to himself, if I can get her I will be happy. And since he has put all of his expectation on this, he would be disappointed with her since she is not the answer to all of his problems.

I think that a lot of people in America today also make that exact same mistake. They tell themselves if they have THAT job and THAT car and have THAT house and THAT wife, that they will be happy. So they strive to get THAT one thing and they end up disappointed in the end because they find that even with ALL THAT, they still aren't fully happy. People cant put the answer to all of their problems in a single material thing, it doesn't work. As they say, you can't buy happiness with money, yet everyone wants more and more of it so they can be happy.

B-Hilz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Gill said...

In this novel we see the perfect example of most people in the world that we live in today. Gatsby seems to me like a person that can never get enough. If he gets one thing that he wants, he will just move his want to another material item. He wants daisy and thinks that this will complete his life, but I think if he were to get daisy he would find that this is not what he needed to make his life complete he needs something else.
Many people live like this today, they find a item weather it be money, cars, or even a person and think that if they have this thing it will make their lives that much better. The item will change your life yes, but I don’t think it will give you the thing that everyone really needs in life which is love. No material thing can buy that passion that people share with one another. No car can help you with the hard times or laugh with you through the best of times. That is the exact thing that The Great Gatsby taught me. People will never stop wanting more, it is an ongoing process.

Bill Franks said...

To this point in life I can say that The Great Gatsby has reflected some events that have happened to me. It has mirrored choices and decisions to try and get something that I wanted. Often times it may have not been a girl, such as the case in the novel, but I have still had the feeling that I would do anything to get what I wanted. Whether the things I did to get it were right or wrong the challenge stayed the same although sometimes still out of reach.
It also reflects upon society in the fact that the characters may be physically close but somehow the closer they get they become more and more emotionally distant. As Gatsby ups the anti Daisy cares less and less about what he is doing. This is also true in societal life today as people try to win over others with gaudiness they are somehow drawn apart from each other emotionally. Perhaps this is because the more a person layers on, on the outside; the more they are covering up, on the inside.
The novel seems to reflect the lives of all people living in 1920s America all at once through a small collection of characters. Gatsby is symbolic of all men who want what is right. Daisy is the woman that all men are fighting for. Tom is the man who takes away the woman from the good men and finally Nick is the man who tries to be happy with what he is given.
These few short paragraphs sums up most of the novel for me and shows how true to life the ideas and themes of it are.

Gianni Campellone said...

Gianni Campellone
Br. Rob Peach
ENG 320 Section 2
19 April 2007
Reaction Sheet, The Great Gatsby

Although Fitzgerld wrote The Great Gatsby to illustrate the indulgence and the hedonism of the
twenties, its still to some degree a relevant novel to todays society . In a society in which its all
about the most expensive and up to date things society echos of hedonism or as we call it living the American dream. To me this novel really connects to my own life experience. I think we`re all trying to fill in the void of loneliness in our lives. Fitzgerld shows this well through Gatsby`s love for Daisy. Gatsby`s parties are just a means of meeting Daisy. Nick is almost opposite of Gatsby, although Nick is alone he wanders aimlessly from casual social to casual social not really looking for love. Nick is a reflection of human . We have casual encounters all the time but they mean nothing to us they are just superficial just like Gatsby`s parties. This is why society is the way it is. Over half of marriages fail. I ask the question are people really happy and in love when they marry or is it all about the almighty dollar? This leads me to also ask did Daisy really fall for Gatsby a second time because she loved him? I believe that she did but I don`t think the fact that Gatsby was rich hurt either. So what does society need to do ? It needs to stop looking for wealth and it needs to start living live to its fullest. Greed is the root of sin and sin is the root of unhappy ness.

Bob Kelly said...

Bob Kelly
Br. Rob Peach
ENG 320 Section 2
19 April 2007
Reaction Sheet, The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is about the lavish lifestyle of Jay Gatsby, a wealthy man who lives in West Egg, Long Island. Because Gatsby is lonely, he throughs extravagent parties at his mansion in order to attract his love interest, Daisy, who he had a relationship with before he served in WWI. The problem is, that Daisy is married to another man, Tom Buchanan, who is another one of the wealthy members of the Long Island community. Gatsby uses other people (Nick) so that he can get closer to Daisy. He also tries to impress her with his material possessions, thinking that he can basically "buy" her love. Although Gatsby came upon his fortune in dishonest ways, he still desires many of the same things that all Americans what: the "American Dream," which is wealth and happiness. In Gatsby's case, he also yearns for Daisy's love. Daisy does accept his love for a time, and then seems to become bored with it. This shows that she may have just been in the relationship for the money, and that she can never truly be happy. The same can be said about Gatsby. If he were to marry Daisy, who is to say that he wouldn't get bored with her also and look for something else to fill his loneliness.
I can say that some of the things in The Great Gatsby can be applied to my life and the lives of most people, although not to the extent of how they occur in the novel. Sometimes people want something so bad that they will not stop untill they achieve it. For some people, like Gatsby, they need to have all the money they can get and the perfect marriage and life. This is an example of the American Dream. However, just as Gatsby is not able to live out this dream, many people also fall short in their pursuit of the American Dream.

Pat Monteith said...

Patrick Monteith
Br. Peach
Ang 320. 02
18 April 2007
Reaction Sheet, re: The Great Gatsby

Senses of Belonging and Whispers of Longing

Reading The Great Gatsby over spring break was like reading an emotional roller coaster. I liked the story, to a point A lot of it seemed bland, but much of the story of this man named Gatsby was much understood. I can, however, recollect a time when I was in a “long distance relationship”. In fact, I still talk to this fabulous girl today, and I think it’s safe to say we will always remain best friends. On the idea of Gatsby’s love for Daisy, I can see how he admires her so much. I think every man wishes he could have the privilege of being with a women that makes the sun shine on even the gloomiest of days.
I think, as well, that everyone, not just man, would long to live in a society such as the one Nick and Gatsby live in. Not so much the materialistic view of the society but more of the isolated connotation. I say this because Gatsby, other than the love he’s missing in his life, seems happy to be in the setting he’s in. Of course, with this isolation, comes a sort of insecurity that Gatsby seems to have throughout the novel, which is why he has the parties so that people like him even thought they don’t know him. In this case, if I was one of the people attending the parties, I would hate the secrecy. I did like, however, that he tried to be in contact with Nick, his neighbor, even if it was just to get closer to his lover.
Later in the novel, you do begin to see Gatsby’s personality blossom. This occurs when Daisy comes into the picture. He shows his passion and overall desire that he has for Daisy, which I do admire about him. I admire this quality because all-in-all I hate the character in Tom. Tom seems like this overall bitter character that is selfish. He seems to care so much for Daisy yet has relations with another woman. Gatsby, not really knowing this of course, blatantly says to Tom that Daisy no longer loves him. Gatsby finally seems to find his place of belonging in Daisy.
Ultimately, I did enjoy the book. As I said before, though, some of the book did seem bland. Gatsby’s love for Daisy reminded me of previous relations and his society reminds me of the ideal place to live. Nick was a very outspoken person who always seemed to find a fault in Gatsby up until he finally got to know him. And, in terms of feelings, this book seemed very emotional. Emotional because of the interaction between the characters. I thought that emotions were displayed a lot when Gatsby professed his and her love for each other in front of Tom. All in all, decent book.

Chris Thiers said...

The Great Gatsby raises a number of themes and lessons. In the book there is a strong theme of the characters' lives revolving around materialistic goods and hedonism. We see the lives of various characters, most of tehm rich, that each have a set purpose to achieve. The main character, Nick seems to be searching for a new life on the East Coast. Gatsby is obsessed, despite all of his wealth and fortune, in winning back the love of Daisy, now married. Her husband, Tom is arrogant in believing in his own white superiority and hypocritical in his actions of having an affair with Myrtle, another married woman. The other rich people and party-goers seen in the book are pleasure seekers and uncaring of Gatsby except for his parties. The only honest, hard-working, humble, and simple man that I read of in this book is George Wilson. He is a very poor man wedded to Myrtle (who is having an affair with Tom) and works hard at his garage to provide for his wife. After she is tragically run over by Dasiy, Wilson loses his grip. His wife, one of the only good things in his life, was stolen away from him by Tom and then she is killed by an automobile. It is not hard to see how he cracked later in the book and killed Gatsby whom he thought killed his wife and then killed himself. I respect and pity him for that.
This movie does show the arrogance and hedonistic views of the rich in the 1920's. I think that Diasy a daisy-headed dumb blonde, Tom is a hypocrite and a fool, Gatsby is a man seeking to have love in his life, the rich party-goers at Gatsby's house as stupid socializers, materialistic, and arrogant. The stupid societal views of the book show the gossip, affairs, arrogance, and carefree attitudes of the rich. That's not to say that all rich people are arrogant and stupid. I'm just saying that the characters in the book reflect these virtues.

Phil said...

Philip Posen
Great Gatsby Reaction Sheet

Dreaming And Scheming (Take that Monty)

I am really glad we had to read this book over spring break because I finally had the time to really sit and read a book. I didn't really want to read it but I had to. Once I started reading it I was impressed by the somewhat complex and lush, yet easy to read writing. It provoked thought. Out of all of the books I have read for school this was by far my favorite.
I enjoyed the characters and the setting of the book. the characters were interesting people. Gatsby especially interested me because I saw some of myself in him. I am a dreamer and somewhat eccentric. I also have had a girl I liked end up with a prick. The setting of Jazz Age NYC was cool and the allusion to the Hampton's was a clever idea on Fitzgerald's idea.
As much as I enjoyed the book I was admittedly disappointed by ending. After some thought though I realized that the actual actions going on in the story are really just alluding to some greater message. My conclusion is that Gatsby's funeral showed the emptiness of his life especially after all of his parties which tons of people attended. Also a story I once heard came to mind.

Alex Drost said...

Alex Drost
Br. Rob Peach
ENG 320 Section 2
19 April 2007
Reaction Sheet, The Great Gatsby

Make a change and move on

The Great Gatsby is a representation of the modern world in some aspect. The famous are watched by everyone, from the newspapers, to magazines, television, radio and the internet. Gatsby throws his extravagant parties and hopes that Daisy will see him while he waits and watches patiently at Daisy and Tom. In today’s world, every news cast has a section about the Hollywood actors, musical artists and other famous people for whatever they do. Many intertwining relationships develop in both the novel and life. The ever-present paparazzi eye is peering, hoping to catch the mistakes of famous people to expose to the rest of the world. Tom is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson and her husband is looking for evidence. The actions of the rich and famous are followed. Gatsby, Tom, and Nick are no different but Tom is so far successful at keeping his affair a secret.
The American Dream is to remodel ourselves after these people and live a fulfilling life. Most people desire to be wealthy, have a loving family, a great life. In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby has achieved one of the three objectives. Gatsby needs Daisy to complete his American Dream but is blocked by marriage. Evert since the Great War, Gatsby infatuation with Daisy has prevented him from proceeding with his life and moving onto better things. The desire for daisy is the cause of Gatsby’s loneliness. Until Gatsby realizes that this dream is not possible to achieve, be will be bound to this one goal. Unfortunately he dies before this realization occurs.
We, in our modern world today, must recognize the boundary between possibility and imagination. The American Dream is still present in most people’s minds but some steps to the dream can be achieved. Everyone can move onto better things when they give up what they can’t have. Like in the movie Bedazzled, the guy from the Mummy (can’t remember his name) is willing to sell his soul for a girl, Allison, but in the end, realizes that he will not be with her, a move on to meet another nice girl. The Mummy Guy did what Gatsby could not; he changed his goals to advance in life, even willing to give up his dream.

Rlonergan said...

When I went into reading this book, I was really influenced by my mom's dislike for it from when she read it. Though I went into the book expecting it to be absolutely awful, I was actually pleasantly surprised on the interesting features of the book. In my opinion, the greatest part of the novel was the great use of color to symbolize different things. Although I did not pick up on all of this during my reading of the novel, such as yellow symbolizing adultery, I did know about the basic red for passion, white for purity, and black for darkness and things like it, as well as a few other colors. The symbolism in the different names also made me interested, especially when just starting the story. When I first learned of Tom Buchanan’s last name, I wondered if he would have any resemblances to the former president and was sure to look for these resemblances during my reading. Although many of the thematic parts of the story did not make much sense while I was reading, they all seemed to come together while the story unfolded, such as the eyes of the doctor.
Although Gatsby is not the most liked character in the novel, I did not find him to be a bad character and even saw him as kind of funny in multiple sections of the book, just through his demeanor. It was clear that he was trying to make his way in the established rich crowd, but all of the characters seemed to just use him for their own gain and in the end only Nick seemed to care about what happened, despite Nick disliking Gatsby and his ways. I found this contrast ironic, as the people who supposedly cared about Gatsby disappeared after his death, and only Nick, who did not like him, stayed around.

Mike McKibbin said...

The characters and imagery contained F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby are unmistakable in today’s society. The void presented in Gatsby’s life cannot be filled with the superficial friends produced by his parties. He intends to win the love of Daisy, in an attempt to end his concealed loneliness. The theme of hedonism is presented in the frequent parties, and the people that attend them. Gatsby ultimately fails his quest for happiness, bringing about the idea that he would not have been happy even if he achieved his dream. After experiencing life in New York, Nick is dissatisfied with the empty, hedonistic life that many are living. He can sometimes become the opposite of Gatsby, though still a very lonely figure. After returning to Minnesota, he is still searching for happiness, and a way to obtain it. After Gatsby’s dream unraveled, I was left with the feeling that there is no fixed way to obtain happiness. The two opposites, Nick and Gatsby, never achieved this. The “American Dream” which had seemed so attainable, was now unreachable. Despite the lessons taught in this novel, today’s society generally has the very same “American Dream” as Gatsby.

p.drisk said...

The Great Gatsby is a novel, which reveals the truth behind most of society. One theme in the novel is obscurity. Most of the world today is living somewhat in obscurity like in the novel. Although not many admit it people today tend to live two different lives, a day life and nightlife, like that in The Great Gatsby. Their nighttime actions are obscured, almost covered up by their daytime lifestyle. Many celebrities live charitable lives during the daytime but at nighttime they almost turn into a different person parting. The Great Gatsby is a “great”, no pun intended, novel that can reveal the truth behind a part of society today.