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The Great Gatsby Lecture Notes
The Great American Novel • “It is one of those novels that so richly evoke the texture of their time that they become, in the fullness of time, more than literary classics; they become a supplementary or even substitute form of history” (Bruccoli, 1995, p. 6).
Inspirations. . . • Zelda Fitzgerald - Daisy – Many of her words/diaries entries/his encounters with her found their way into his writings
Inspirations. . . • Ginerva King – Daisy • To the end of his days the thought of Ginevra could bring tears to his eyes.
Inspirations. . . • Charles King (father): Poor boys shouldn't think of marrying rich girls - Tom – White Supremacist • William Mitchell • Married Ginerva in real life • "This is to congratulate you -- I don't know Billy Mitchell, but from all I've heard of him he must be one of the best ever. Doesn't it make you sigh with relief to be settled and think of all the men you escaped marrying? “ • Large gold mine in the south: Buchanan Mines
Inspirations. . . • Edith Cumming • Jordan Motor Car Company • Baker Motor Vehicle
Historical Context • • • Automobile Family--Rootlessness Advertising--buy, get rich quick Prohibition--bootlegging, morality Corruption--fraud, bribery, World Series Jazz music--international impact Cinema Tension between old traditional values and new hedonism in America
Fitzgerald’s New Path • “Pushing his sense of experience away from the middle ground of verisimilitude toward extremes--toward two kinds of distortions. ” – The dreamer distorted--a man who hopelessly vulgar taste allows an eternal yearning for a meretricious beauty. – The rich man distorted--a man whose ruthlessness preserves his worldly comfort, and how ideas keep intact his sense of superiority.
Color Eyes or Vision Wasteland Sunlight / Shadows Death Time
Gold Chapter 1 The front was broken by a line of French windows, glowing now with reflected gold. . Chapter 5 An hour later the front door opened nervously and Gatsby in a white flannel suit, silver shirt and gold-colored tie hurried in. gold His bedroom was the simplest room of all--except where the dresser was garnished with a toliet set of pure dull gold Daisy admired this aspect or that of the feudal silhouette against the sky, admired the gardens, the sparkling odor of jonquils and the frothy odor of hawthorn and plum blossoms and the pale gold odor of kiss-me-at-the-gate. Chapter 6 “And if you want to take down any addresses here’s my little gold pencil. . ”
White Chapter 1 The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white and their dresses were rippling and fluttering. “Our white girlhood was passed there. Our beautiful white -----” Chapter 3 Dressed up in white flannels I went over to his lawn. . Chapter 4 She dressed all in white and had a little white roadster and all day long the telephone rang in her house. . Chapter 7 Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols, weighing down their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans.
Green Chapter 1 Involuntarily I glanced seaward-- and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock Chapter 4 Sitting down behind many layers of glass in a sort of green leather conservatory we started to town. Chapter 5 Gatsby: “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock. ” Now it was again a green light on the dock Chapter 7 In the sunlight his face was green Chapter 9 Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.
"he stretched out his arms towards the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward - and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. ” (Chapter 1) • First symbol in this book - mysterious green light. – first acquaintance with the light, we see Gatsby reaching out for it, almost, in a way, worshipping it. – We find out later that this green light is at the end of Daisy's dock, symbol for Gatsby's dream and the hope for the future. – Green is the color of promise, hope, and renewal - so it is fitting that Gatsby's dream of a future with Daisy be represented physically in the novel by this green light.
Green Light America – Final chapter of this novel, Fitzgerald compares Gatsby's green light to the "green breast of the new world" (115), comparing Gatsby's dream of rediscovering Daisy to the explorer's discovery of America and the promise of a new continent. However, Gatsby's dream is tarnished by his material possessions, much like America is now with our obsession with wealth.
Other Colors Lavender bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender a new one, lavender-colored with grey upholstery of romances that were not musty and laid away already in lavender Blue. . . hope sprang into his light blue eyes (Wilson). . . a uniform of robin’s blue egg. . . In his blue gardens. . Pink a pink and gold billow of foamy clouds above the sea a pink glow from Daisy’s room He [Gatsby] wears a pink suit.
The telling eyes of the main characters Chapter 1 Two shinning, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face. . . (Tom) Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth. . . (Daisy) Her grey, sun strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming discontented face. (Jordan) Chapter 7. . . Now I was looking at it again, through Daisy’s eyes. It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment Her frightened eyes told whatever intentions, whatever courage she had, were definitely gone. Chapter 5 I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her [Daisy’s] well-loved eyes.
Owl Eyes Chapter 3 A stout middle-aged man with enormous owl eyed spectacles was sitting somewhat drunk on the edge of a great table, staring with unsteady concentration at the shelves of books. “Absolutely real--have pages and everything. I thought they’d be a nice durable cardboard. Matter of fact they’re absolutely real. ” “Don’t ask me, ” said Owl Eyes, washing his hands of the whole matter. Chapter 9 Owl eyes spoke to me at the gate. “I couldn’t get to the house, ” he remarked. “Neither could anybody else. ” “Go on!” He started. ”Why, my God! They used to go there by the hundreds. ” He took off his glasses and wiped them again outside and in. “The poor son-of-a-bitch, he said.
The Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Chapter 2 The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic-- their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but instead from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Chapter 7 I turned my head as if I had been warned by something behind. Over the ashheaps the giant eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg kept their vigil. . Then as Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s faded eyes came into sight down the road. . Chapter 8 Standing behind him[George] 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. “God sees everything, ” repeated Wilson.
Wastleland/Eckleberg • Chapter 2 --"foul wasteland" of the present. • "valley of ashes" - the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg look over it from a billboard. • Foul, material-driven world • The eyes of Dr. Eckleburg = advertising and materialism gone mad • Right before the climax, Daisy tells Gatsby that he reminds her of an advertisement (material) • Wilson, a very non-religious man, compares the doctor's eyes to those of God, watching over him through the "foul dust" and desolate wasteland.
Wasteland The landscape About half way between West Egg and New York the motor-road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes-- a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke. . . Then the valley of ashes opened out on both sides of us… The characters They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. . Gatsby No--Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive shadows and short-winded elations of men.
Sunlight and Shadows For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened-- then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk. We slid out from the mass of the station into the glowing sunshine. Over the great bridge, with sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars. . Gatsby got himself into a shadow. . . It occurred to me that this shadow of a garage must be a blind. . When he realized what I was talking about, that there were twinklebells of sunshine in the room, he smiled like a weatherman. . The room. shadowed well with awnings, was dark and cool.
Death A dead man passed us in a hearse heaped with blossoms, followed by two carriages with drawn blinds and by more cheerful carriages for friends. Myrtle’s body was wrapped in a blanket and then in another blanket as though she suffered from a chill in the hot night lay on a work table by the wall. . The chauffeur--he was one of Wolfsheim’s proteges-- heard the shots. . It was after we started with gatsby toward the house that the gardner saw Wilson’s body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete.
Chapter 1 Time In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. Chapter 2 All I kept thinking over and over was “You can’t live forever” (Myrtle) Chapter 4 One October day in nineteen-seventeen-Chapter 5 Luckily the clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers and set it back in place. He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an overwound clock. Chapter 6 “I wouldn’t ask too much of her, I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past. ” “Can’t repeat the past? ” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!” He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.
The ending. . .
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until I gradually became aware of the old island here that flowered once for the 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 never understood or desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity to wonder. And as I stood there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. 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 one fine morning--So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald