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The theme of time in The Great Gatsby

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Stefanie Van Nguyen

on 8 April 2013

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Transcript of The theme of time in The Great Gatsby

By Stefanie Nguyen The theme of TIME in The Great Gatsby In conclusion, we see that as time progresses, Nick has had a change of heart. He abides in his father’s advice by trying not to judge people. There is a mix of bittersweet results because thankfully, he did not judge Gatsby like the rest of the world did. He got to know him and he actually had a friend. But, by trying not to judge the others (Tom, Daisy, Jordan) he let all the wrong things slip by. In the end, Nick does give the readers a piece of his mind. According to the preface in The Great Gatsby, the word “time” is mentioned 87 times and there are 450 “time-words” or compound words, in the book. First and far most, Gatsby’s relationship with time plays a major aspect in the plot of the novel Jay Gatsby -Early in the book, Daisy is described as sweet and innocent. She wears white dresses, which is usually a colour used to represent purity; however, as the book progresses and as time progresses, her true character is revealed and we can say that maybe the colour white was used as a symbol of “levity and lack of character”
Daisy Buchanan -Nick is the narrator of the novel and as we’ve discussed in class, he poses a neutral and un-biased point of view for the readers. He starts off the book by telling us about the advice his father had given him:
“‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he [Nick’s father] told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’” (1)
-We see that Nick is a very “to himself” type of person as the novel begins
-He does in fact, keep his opinions to himself
-He is a bystander to all the events that happened within the novel
-Every person has a conscience and should know right from wrong just like Gatsby should have known that he deserved better; Tom should have known that cheating on Daisy wasn’t right; Daisy should have known that cheating on Tom wasn’t right…and Nick should have known that being a bystander wasn’t right either
-Although Nick stated that he is “one of the few honest people that I have ever known,” throughout the book, he is constantly judging everyone around him
-The more time that Nick spends with these high-classed money-filled people, he finds that he is being sucked into their lifestyle-He becomes less and less honest until Jordan calls him out on it.
She says:
“‘You said a bad driver was only safe until she met another bad driver? Well, I met another bad driver, didn't I? I mean it was careless of me to make such a wrong guess. I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride.’” (177)
-As time progresses, Nick starts to become more open with his thoughts. I found that his turning point was when he tells Gatsby:
“They’re a rotten crowd,” I [Nick] shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” (154)
-Nick says this to Gatsby after finding out that Daisy was the one driving the car when Myrtle was struck and killed
-Nick could not believe Daisy would do something like that and not own up to her mistake
-Again we see at the end of the book that Nick really did not appreciate Daisy and Tom and everyone in Eggs because their intentions were never right nor pure
-Gatsby wasn’t a bad man. He was stitched together with good intentions because he had so much love for Daisy
-However, the rich people like Tom and Daisy lied constantly for no reason! They lied to each other!
-Nick did not have a place in the Eggs, and that is why he moved back West Nick Carraway It is evident that Nick does in fact have his own opinions and judgments of the rich people of the Eggs and he knows that he didn’t want to be one of them. When you think about the word “time” or the idea of “time” itself… What comes to mind? When I think about “time” I think that most of you can agree that during at least one point in our lives, we wished we had a “time machine.” If we had a time machine, we could go back in time to rewind and change the events that happened, so we could do them differently. This exact feeling, this exact idea is what The Great Gatsby is all about. It is obvious that Fitzgerald wanted to emphasize the importance of time, as it serves as one of the most prevalent themes within the novel. As the novel progresses, we learn more and more about each and every character in the book. As time progresses, we see their true character come out. The characters may not actually be who they were initially described to be. We will be observing the significance of time through three characters I chose:
- Jay Gatsby
- Daisy Buchanan
- Nick Carraway Time has really built Gatsby into the person we see him as, in the book: -He was born in the Midwest, specifically from North Dakota
-He came from a poor farmer family
-When he became a young man, he had even less than this
-As we know, Gatsby was no longer with his family
-He then attends St. Olaf College in Minnesota but he drops out of school because he didn’t want to be known as the “part-time-student-part-time-janitor”
-Gatsby paid for his tuition with the money he made with his part-time job as a janitor, and he felt embarrassed by doing so…So he drops out
-When he dropped out of school, he had the opportunity to reinvent himself
-He then evolved from being James Gatz to Jay Gatsby, with the help of his mentor Dan Cody
-Gatsby learns the ways of Dan Cody’s rich lifestyle but then Cody’s mistress cheats him the $25, 000 that was supposed to be given to Gatsby when he died
-Then Gatsby fell in love with Daisy, when they met during the summer before Gatsby went to train in the war
-But Gatsby knew that he could not live up to her expectations because they were not socially or financially equal knowing that Daisy came from a wealthy family
-When Gatsby went off to war, Daisy fell in love with another man who she chose to marry, which we know was Tom Buchanan-Gatsby’s life then served one purpose: To win Daisy over
-He then became a self-made man
-Although this should be an admirable trait…Gatsby became rich by bootlegging alcohol because he never wanted to be without money again - Time is most important to Gatsby’s character because as we know, Gatsby’s only goal and dream in life was to recapture the past. Every second that passed, was a second put to waste, if Daisy was still not his.
- Gatsby basically wanted to erase five years of his life – the time he spent at war and at Oxford. Not only did he want to erase years of his own life, but also strip years off of Daisy’s life, too.
- Although Daisy is already married to Tom, Gatsby tries and tries to win her over. It is evident because all the money Gatsby has made is spent on materialistic items to share or present to Daisy.
- After Gatsby arranges his reunion with Daisy at Nick’s house for tea, their relationship begins to flower again. He shows Daisy how far he has come in life. He shows her all of his lavish: His house, car, shirts, etc.
- It becomes known to the readers that Gatsby’s house is right across Daisy and Tom’s house in East Egg. Their houses are just separated by the bay. But we then learn that this did not happen out of coincidence... On page 78, Nick says, “It was a strange coincidence.” “But it wasn’t a coincidence at all,” [says Jordan] “Why not?”“Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.”
- We also see that, Gatsby throws extravagant parties at his house every weekend, in hope to see Daisy there one day. When Daisy finally attends one of Gatsby’s parties, he felt that she didn’t enjoy herself at all. Nick tries to tell Gatsby that he can’t repeat the past but Gatsby denies it.
This is displayed on page 110: “I wouldn’t’ ask too much of her,” I [Nick] ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.”“Can’t repeat the past?” he [Gatsby] cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”
- Although it seems like Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship has been reestablished, Gatsby cannot accept Daisy until she tells Tom that she never loved him. Gatsby wants Daisy to erase the last three years of her life. He is so confident that Daisy would leave her husband, but as we know, this doesn’t happen.
- Even though Daisy admits that she loves her husband, Gatsby continues to love Daisy. Throughout the novel, time does not change Gatsby’s mind about Daisy. And it is sad to see, because his life comes to an end for basically no reason at all. Daisy was the cause of his magnificent riches and she too, was the cause of his death. It is evident that everything Gatsby has “accomplished” in life was driven by the motivation of Daisy, herself. -When Nick meets Tom and Daisy at their house for dinner, we see that right off the bat something is wrong within Tom and Daisy’s marriage. When Tom leaves the dinner table to answer a phone call, Daisy says: “‘Don’t talk. I want to hear what happens.’‘Is something happening?’ I [Nick] inquired innocently.
‘You mean to say you don’t know?’ said Miss Baker, honestly surprised.
‘I thought everybody knew.’
‘I [Nick] don’t.’
‘Why–” she said hesitantly,
‘Tom’s got some woman in New York.’” (15) -Although Daisy knows something is going on between her husband and another woman, she never said anything about it-As readers, we know that this isn’t right. Daisy knows it isn’t right either. However, as the story moves forward, she does the same to her husband-When Daisy and Gatsby reunite, they spend more and more time together-We know that this is not time spent as “just friends” because Daisy and Gatsby kiss. Nick describes: “…Then he [Gatsby] kissed her [Daisy]. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete”(111). -This proves that Daisy is a hypocrite because she clearly didn’t like the fact that Tom was talking to another woman; however, here she was sneaking around Tom’s back seeing Gatsby and rekindling their past history of love -Another instance where we see that Daisy isn’t the innocent and pure woman we initially are introduced to, is the death of Myrtle, Tom’s mistress-On the way back from New York city, Myrtle is instantly killed as she ran into the street when a car struck her-This car belonged to Gatsby but was driven by Daisy; however, nobody knew the truth except for Daisy, Gatsby and then Nick-It stayed this way (nobody else knew the truth) because Daisy never admitted her mistake. She simply ran away from town with Tom. Nick describes: “I called up Daisy half an hour after we found him [found Gatsby dead], called her instinctively and without hesitation. But she and Tom had gone away early that afternoon, and taken baggage with them.” (164) She doesn’t care about anyone else but herself. She didn’t care about Gatsby because she let him take the blame for it. She didn’t care about Myrtle when she instantly killed her. She didn't care about Tom when she was off spending time with Gatsby -This proves that Daisy is in fact very shallow and careless. And so, Daisy runs away from every problem that she has and acts as if it never happened. In conclusion, we see that The Great Gatsby revolves around the whole idea of time. We see who the characters truly are throughout the course of time. We see many different symbols that represent time. We see that time does not stop for anybody, no matter what the circumstances may be. Through analyzing these three characters we see that… There are many events that happen throughout the novel, all which lead to a tragic event of Gatsby’s death.

I found that this theme relates to a quote said by Helen Keller:
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Life isn’t always going to be easy but for people like Tom and Daisy, it kind of seemed like it was. But when times got rough, when they got caught in their lies, that is when their true colours came to show. Time revealed their character, for better or for worse. Gatsby clearly was stuck in the past, and believed that his money could recreate the past. He felt that spending a glorious month of love with Daisy could override the years she has experienced and shared with Tom. -A couple, Mr. and Mrs. Sloane, stop by Gatsby’s house with Tom on a Sunday afternoon
-The woman invites Gatsby to join the crowd for dinner, but her husband tries to persuade her out of it
-Gatsby accepts the offer and runs inside to get his coat; however, Mr. Sloane decided not to wait for him and says to Nick, “Tell him we couldn’t wait, will you?” (103)
-Tom also says, “My God, I believe the man’s coming...Doesn’t he know she doesn’t want him?” (103)
-This is very similar to how Gatsby loses Daisy to Tom. He never received an apology from Daisy when she left him. Similarly, Gatsby never received an apology from the Sloane’s and Tom. Gatsby leans nervously against a mantelpiece while he rests his head on a clock on top of the mantle. The clock then started to tip as it fell off the mantle. He caught the clock before it fell to the ground and everyone in the room – Gatsby, Daisy and Nick, all were speechless. Gatsby then apologizes; but for moments, the room remained silent.

Nick narrates, “I think we all believed for a moment that it had smashed in pieces on the floor.” (87)

- We can analyze that the clock represented time
- Gatsby’s head resting on it was the pressure that Gatsby had on time
- Everything had to be perfect; however, time could not support Gatsby’s demands and expectation
- Gatsby catching the clock and his apology symbolizes the sensitivity of his plan and how delicate the situation was to him Time reveals character Living in the past Symbols of time represented in the novel:
When Gatsby and Daisy first reunite at Nick’s house, time is significant. In another instance, we see that Gatsby is again troubled -When it is summer time, it is boiling hot which relates to the plot. When the crowd all goes to New York City, the weather is boiling. They are all complaining about the heat. This is the same day where Tom and Gatsby have their confrontation and arguments start.
-It was spring in the beginning of the novel, which represented a new beginning specifically for Nick when he moved to West Egg. Time: Seasons The End
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