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F. Scott Fitzgerald's views on religion in The Great Gatsby
Transcript of F. Scott Fitzgerald's views on religion in The Great Gatsby
A formalistic analysis is a close reading and analysis of elements such as setting, irony, paradox, imagery, and metaphor.
Its a very "AP" style analysis.
A Formalistic Analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Views on Religion in
The Great Gatsby
“A stout, middle-aged man, with enormous owl-eyed spectacles, was sitting somewhat drunk… staring with unsteady concentration at the shelves of books”(45)
Owl-eyes is presented as a Godly figure by describing his glasses as "owl-eyed spectacles". Both owls and glasses are associated with wisdom. Because he is drunk shows that God is tempted with evil things and will give into them. In this passage the books symbolize wisdom. The fact that he has an unsteady concentration on the shelves of books symbolizes how God has a corrupt understanding of wisdom.
“‘See!’ he cried triumphantly. ‘It's a bona-fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me.’”(45)
Owl-eyes shows us how Fitzgerald displays God as an oblivious being. Owl-eyes does not know if the books are real or not and is "fooled". This shows how Fitzgerald believes God as a figure who does not know true wisdom and can be fooled easily.
“He snatched the book from me… muttering that if one book was removed the whole library was liable to collapse”(46)
The library as a metaphor for Gatsby's identity as if one piece was removed, his whole facade would fall. Owl-eyes is showing readers how Fitzgerald thinks God is a cruel figure that humanity should not trust. Owl-eyes' snatching of the book portrays how God wants to keep humanity from gaining knowledge and discovering that he is not as powerful and kind as once thought.
“‘I know nothing about mechanics,’ he said...’I know very little about driving- next to nothing. It happened that’s all I know.’”(54)
Owl-eyes driving his car into a ditch supports the theme that God is oblivious as to what exactly he has created (humanity) and how to control it. Through this, Fitzgerald portrays that God not only is clueless about the inner workings of humanity, but he does not know how to control it and keep it from being driven to evil and wrong doings.
“The poor son-of-a-bitch”(175)
The fact that Owl-eyes shows up late to the funeral then feels sorry for the death of Gatsby shows how God has good intentions without the power to execute them. This supports the theme that humanity should not put its faith in God because he will be unable to help it in its time of need.
“The eyes of Doctor T.J.Eckleburg are blue and gigantic... But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground" (26)
The reader can see from this passage that Eckleburg's eyes are always watching over the Valley of Ashes without any capability of influencing anything that is happening in the valley. Fitzgerald is trying to depict that God has no influence on the “dumping ground” of Earth.
"’Terrible place, isn't it,’ said Tom, exchanging a frown with Doctor Eckleburg. “(22)
This "frown" supports the theme that God is a despicable figure that can be found in bad situations. Fitzgerald portrays through Tom exchanging a frown with Eckleburg that Eckleburg is frowning back showing a hateful relationship with God and humanity.
“Myrtle Wilson’s body...suffered a chill in the hot night.”(138)
The death of Myrtle supports the theme that either God does not want to help humanity or does not know how to. Because Myrtle’s violent death happened under the supervision of Eckleburg, the readers can infer that God either could not stop Myrtle’s violent death or chose not to stop it.
“Standing behind him, Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, which had just emerged, pale and enormous, from the dissolving night.”(104)
Wilson is shell shocked after Myrtle’s death and stares into the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg with intense concentration. This represents how Wilson can only see God in the evil things on Earth.
“The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God.” (98)
This passage supports the theme that God is just pretty average. We see this because Gatsby created an identity that was equal to the prestige of God. Fitzgerald wants to show us a man can accomplish whatever God can because God isn’t very powerful giving us a reason why we shouldn’t put our faith in him.
"I told her she might fool me but she couldn’t fool God...God sees everything”(159)
This is interesting because wilson had just claimed that he didn’t belong to a church. The fact that Wilson believes in an all knowing God but still doesn’t have any relationship with it shows the theme that God doesn’t have a good relationship with humanity.
"’Have you got a church you go to sometimes, George?’...
‘Don’t belong to any… That was a long time ago.’" (157)
Wilson can be viewed as the most religious character in the book. We can see this because, other than killing Gatsby, he doesn’t really strive to please himself but rather Myrtle. This passage shows that even the most religious morally based character has no relationship to God. This supports the theme that God isn’t needed to be necessarily a “good person” and that humanity doesn’t need God to do good things.
Fitzgerald believes that humanity should
not put its faith in God. He portrays this primarily through the character of Owl-eyes and the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg. This theme reflects the character of the Jazz Age, which was an era of rebels. Flapper girls, cheaper alcohol, new music, and many other things contributed to this rebellious spirit. Fitzgerald uses this character of the Jazz Age in his writing as he encourages humanity to rebel against God in his novel The Great Gatsby.