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The Role of the Past in The Great Gatsby

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Nikolai Matabuena

on 21 July 2015

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Transcript of The Role of the Past in The Great Gatsby

The Role of the Past
The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby: A Novel About The Past
The setting is during the time of Prohibition, in the roaring 20's
It is the quintessential American novel, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The narrator claims to reserve judgement, but uses judgemental language

Symbols of Memory and the Past for Gatsby
The Green Light
Significance in Memory
The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock is a significant symbol within the book. To Gatsby, the green light represents his dream, which is Daisy. To attain her would be completing Gatsby’s American Dream. The first time the green light is seen in the novel is also the first time Nick sees Gatsby.
This describes Gatsby’s inability to move on from the past. Everything he does in the novel is to try and recreate the past. In this metaphor, Gatsby tries to goes against the currents or time to reach the green light or his dream. And as in the quote, the green light which represents his dream, ‘recedes’ like waves year by year.
Gatsby's Mansion
"Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be across the bay"(Fitzgerald, 78)
Significance in Memory
Gatsby bought the expensive house in the wealthy area of Long Island and threw lavish parties attended by hundreds of people
The reason Gatsby throws these huge, flashy parties is all part of his attempt to catch Daisy’s attention; either hoping that she would catch a glimpse of the bright lights across the bay or through word of mouth.
Wealth and lavish lifestyle are what hides the true objective: rekindling his past with Daisy
Gatsby's Mansion
The Green Light
The Eye's of Dr. Eckelburg
Jay Gatsby
"He talked about the past, and gathered that he wanted to recover something"(Fitzgerald, 40)
Jay Gatsby is a person who's past haunt him every single day. Everything he does in his life now is directly related to the events of his past. From trying to win back Daisy, to inheriting money from his dead family. But he isn't truly concerned with money, but rather winning back the girl of his dream. He's so stuck in the past that he can't bring himself to find someone else. The amount of money he gets does not matter without Daisy. What Gatsby doesn't understand is how to live in the now and the foreseeing future.
The Eye's of Dr. Eckelburg
Significance in Memory
Another dominant symbol within this novel is the billboard eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg. The eyes symbolize the loss of spiritual values in America and the past.
The eyes are the only thing left, the rest of the pictures fade which symbolizes that there is some of the past still lingering, and it has not disappeared.
These eyes can be linked to Gatsby's own eyes which stare across the lake into the green light at his past.

"Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice...and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes dimmed a little by many paint less days under the sun and rain,brood over the solemn dumping ground."(Fitzgerald, 24)
At the end of the novel Nick concludes the book with these words,
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic 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 then one fine morning— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (Fitzgerald, 180)
The money is necessary to attract Daisy, who Gatsby believes will now leave Tom for him. Gatsby is confident that he can repeat the past when he and Daisy first met. This time around, however, she will be his because he now has enough money. His simplistic view reveals how completely he has skewed reality in his desperation to have the woman of his dreams. What he doesn't realize, was that in the past Daisy had left him while he was away at war which meant she would only leave him again.

The past can not be change, you can only move forward; not back. Even though Gatsby was able to relive his past romance with Daisy for a short while; it was nothing like the original romance. Daisy cannot forget how she has moved on with her life by marrying Tom and having a child. Gatsby might be able to delude himself into thinking that he can repeat the past, but it's futile.This desire to relive the path just leads to his death.

" 'You can't repeat the past.' 'Can't repeat the past?' he cried incredulously. 'Why of course you can!' "
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