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The Great Gatsby Chapter Nine
Summary l Gatsby’s funeral take place, with his father one of the very few mourners present. l Henry Gatz speaks with pride of his son’s attainment. l Later, Nick contemplates the empty mansion and ponders the significance of Gatsby’s story.
The Funeral It is fitting that barely anyone attends the funeral. In death, as in life, Gatsby is isolated. This serves to highlight his unique capacity for hope, which sets him apart from the other characters. It is not until this chapter that the reader truly feels the profound loss of Gatsby, a character who is simultaneously both noble and corrupt. Fitzgerald makes us questions our own perceptions of a hero: Gatsby should not be a hero, yet he is. Despite his desperate attempts to be accepted into this repugnant social strata, he is abandoned by all who knew him and supposedly cared for him – most notably Daisy and Wolfsheim. Also, Gatsby’s is ultimately sacrificed, just like Jesus, to reveal an important truth – that the dream is corrupt but the aspiration of it is noble and worthwhile.
The Funeral l The irony of Nick organising the funeral is that he has only known Gatsby for three months. The people who supposedly knew and loved him – Daisy, Meyer Wolfsheim and Klipspringer – all disappear. Nick says ‘I wanted to get someone for him’. He feels – like we do – that Gatsby was a man terrified of being alone. l He imagines Gatsby's corpse speaking to him: ‘Look here, old sport, you’ve got to get someone for me. You've got to try hard. I can’t go through this alone’. l A further irony is that Owl Eyes is the only person from the partygoers who attend his funeral – a man of no vision and no capacity for understanding. Only the blindest partygoers saw Gatsby's truth. l This episode reinforces the idea of Nick’s solidity and lack of judgement. Despite Gatsby's obvious faults, he admires and respects his capacity for hope.
Gatsby’s Father Mr Gatz is the complete opposite of his son. In groups, find as many quotes as you can which highlight these differences and remember to analyse them. Think about WHY Fitzgerald makes them so different from each other.
Gatsby’s Father A solemn old man, very helpless and dismayed, bundled up in a long cheap Ulster… his eyes leaked continuously… the glass of milk spilled from his trembling hand… his eyes, seeing nothing, moved ceaselessly about the room… they leaked isolated and unpunctual tears. There is a chaotic sense of disorder in his movement and appearance. Unlike Gatsby, who can remain cool on a blisteringly hot day, he continually reacts to his environment. He ‘sees nothing’ and so is contrasted with his son's ability to dream visions.
Gatsby’s Father He holds out a picture of Gatsby's house for Nick to see. Nick comments: He had shown it so often that I think it was more real to him now than the house itself. In this way, the house is reminiscent of the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, which was more truly representative of Gatsby's love for Daisy than Daisy herself.
Gatsby’s List The arrival of Gatsby’s father only serves to remind us of the enormous scope and scale of Gatsby’s journey and transformation. He could not be more different, both physically and in his character for his father and we can empathise a little more perhaps with Gatsby’s assertion that “his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. ”
Gatsby’s List l In pairs/threes, look at Gatsby’s list and discuss the implications of it. What does this tell us about the young James Gatz and his pursuit of the dream? Look closely at the items on the list and try to relate this to the main themes of the novel. l Now in groups, discuss your ideas and look for any similarities/further interpretations that you could give to the rest of the class.
Gatsby’s List Unlike Daisy, who was casual about her wealth and privilege, Gatsby really does epitomise the true promise of the dream. The pitiful list he produces illustrates how even from such a young age James Gatz believed in the dream as a tangible, achievable ideal. This again reminds us of Gatsby’s capacity for self-improvement and vision. His elocution lessons and determination to read “one improving book…a week” highlights though that he had a notion of the class divisions within America – something which in itself is a paradox.
Rain The weather at the funeral again reinforces the depressing conclusion to the novel. Gatsby’s summer is over, and rain pounds down on the funeral procession: The procession… stopped in a thick drizzle beside the gate… horribly black and wet. Nick hears someone murmur ‘Blessed are the dead that the rain falls on’. This could perhaps refer, again, to the idea of the cleansing or transforming properties of water. In death, has Gatsby realised the emptiness of his dream?
The Return to the West Nick’s decision to return to "my middle west” – the mid-west of small town America the pulsating heartland of the new world – a place of picket fences, apple pie and wholesomeness only serves to contrast with the cruel, cold, calculating heartlessness of the East coast. Nick is repulsed by his experiences and it is only from returning home that he can hope to make sense of the events of the summer.
The Return to the West In groups, think about the purpose of this novel. l Why do you think Nick has written it? l Consider his actions on the last night in West Egg. l How does Nick feel about Gatsby now?
The Return to the West l The rubbing away of the profanity at Gatsby’s house is a literal attempt to clear Gatsby’s name, while the book fulfils the same function on a larger, metaphorical scale. l The entire novel, in fact, is a reflective tribute to his three-month friend, a man he admired despite his faults, and despite the vicious gossip of his contemporaries. l As he leaves, Nick reflects on the ‘huge incoherent failure’ of Gatsby's house, a description which could be equally applied to Gatsby himself. The incoherence and failures of Gatsby, however, do not undermine his positive qualities – his idealism, his capacity to hope and dream, his gift for self-invention and his instinctive sense of nobility. l His assertion that this “is a story of the West after all” shows a level of self awareness and honestly not displayed by any other character. Indeed, Nick is the only character in the novel who is able to reflect and change because of his experiences.
The Dream Lives on… l This is the part of the novel where most readers shed a wee tear! We are left shocked and saddened by Gatsby’s death, and feel anger at the ironic misconceptions and manipulations behind the scenes that led to his violent and unjustified murder. But it is perhaps true to say that, until the end, we don’t exactly feel the loss of Gatsby himself.
Nick looks out across the Sound …as the moon rose higher, the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes – a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, 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 to wonder.
Nick looks out across the Sound Here, Nick reflects on the beauty and wonder of America at the dawn of modern civilisation. When the first Dutch settlers arrived, they would have been awestruck by the rich natural beauty and promise of the continent. Nick compares this old, untainted natural world with the waste of the modern world – note how he refers to the houses on the Eggs as ‘inessential’ and ‘melting away’. Yet again a parallel is drawn between Gatsby and the original pioneers. Just like them Gatsby hoped for something better, something to live up to his “capacity for wonder”.
Nick looks out across the Sound Here, Nick reflects on the beauty and wonder of America at the dawn of modern civilisation. When the first Dutch settles arrived, they would have been awestruck by the rich natural beauty and promise of the continent. Nick compares this old, untainted natural world with the waste of the modern world – note how he refers to the houses on the Eggs as ‘inessential’ and ‘melting away’. Yet again a parallel is drawn between Gatsby and the original pioneers. Just like them Gatsby hoped for something better, something to live up to his “capacity for wonder”.
Nick looks out across the Sound Nick further compares the early Dutch settlers with Gatsby, who must have felt the same overwhelming wonder at the sight of Daisy’s green light: As I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I though of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come along way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.
Why does the dream fail? In groups, prepare a class presentation which focuses on why the dream has failed. Think about: l Identify what Gatsby’s dream was l The value and worth of his dream l Was his dream ever possible? l Was Gatsby dream about the future?
Gatsby’s Dream Why did Gatsby fail to grasp his dream? There are several reasons: His dream wasn’t worth grasping – Daisy did not love him in the real sense of the word. Her pragmatism at key moments undermined Gatsby's truer love. It was clear from the start that she would make a solid connection with old money, and do anything to ensure the stability of her marriage. His dream was impossible – it was not there for the taking. Like the Dutch settlers’ view of the old New York, it was a vision of promise that could never be realised. Just as Gatsby looks to Daisy as a symbol of the repeated past and cannot accept the consequences of her present life, the early settlers’ in America would not have been able to predict the catastrophic changes to American values in further centuries.
Gatsby’s Dream The American Dream became corrupt the moment it was realised. The pure, untouched beauty of that original vision disappeared and made way for consumerism, industrial development, power struggles and class systems. The original dream was destroyed by its future.
Gatsby’s Dream Gatsby’s dream only exists as a figment of the past – he craves the idea of re-living the events of his first summer with Daisy, over and over again, constantly denying to himself and others the inevitability and consequences of Time. He and Daisy only exist in the past. As such, Nick observes: He did not know that [the dream] was already behind him, somewhere back in the vast obscurity of the city. Gatsby's dream has been left behind in time, in the midwest. This is why he realised that he had lost the ‘old warm world’ just as he died.
Gatsby So Gatsby is the man we should admire and cheer for. In a world with no dreams left to dream, he carries on believing in the future. He may be a deluded fool, but at least he risks everything for the promise of fulfilment. The reader is left with a poignant picture of Gatsby battling against the current of Time, searching out his hopeless dream in the last famous lines of the novel. We feel a tremendous sense for empathy for Gatsby, as Nick describes how we all run along with him. We instinctively feel that the world needs a man like this, those who are unafraid to reach for dreams that are essentially beyond them:
Gatsby believed in 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.