And as I sat 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.
This is everything that is amazing about The Great Gatsby. I first read it in high school and haven’t picked it up since, but I always remembered how this one little light could come to represent all hope, nostalgia, melancholy and loss all at once. How remarkable is that?
Nick Carraway compares Gatsby’s dream of Daisy from across the dock to the Dutch sailors that sailed towards the New World. A dream that was close enough to see but completely unattainable. I love the comparison between Gatsby’s all-consuming quest for wealth and status with the explorers. They saw some green, virgin earth but that only existed in their minds: The land had a history all of its own, just like Daisy has in the years Gatsby has been away creating himself. You can’t colonise innocently, just like you can’t achieve dreams that reinvent the past. Gatsby managed to reinvent himself, but he could never undo his own history.
There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams – not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. [...] No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man can store up in his ghostly heart.
Whist the force of Gatsby’s dreams is at times superhuman, Fitzgerald’s book is based around the incredibly human trait of never being satisfied and how that fits into the American ideal if you work had you can achieve anything.
The book is very firmly of the twenties but is timeless all the same. You can be seduced by these amazing parties which on the outside are dazzling and the people are witty with cocktails in hand, but getting closer it turns out nobody is really enjoying themselves. They are all racing, all the time, against each other to get more – to say more, to see more, to have more. No amount of glitter can hide the ugliness underneath. Is history on a loop? Did we ever learn from Gatsby?
I really enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby again because I had the luxury or reading with the intention of looking for the green light. The story was as good as I remembered from all those years ago but I had forgotten how slim a book it is. Surely a testament to Fitzgerald’s writing: He says exactly enough in exactly the right words.