Oral Commentary on the “The Great Gatsby” Chapter 9, pg 189 “On the last night, with my trunk packed and my car sold to the grocer, I went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house once more. On the white steps an obscene word, scrawled by some boy with a piece of brick, stood out clearly in the moonlight, and I erased it, drawing my shoe raspingly along the stone. Then I wandered down to the beach and sprawled out on the sand. 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 gradually I became aware of the old island here 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 for wonder.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. 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 — to-morrow 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. ” This conclusive passage in the book plays a huge role in establishing a firm closure between the audience and the writer. Fitzgerald ends the book by staging Nick in a way that he is able to reminisce and reflect upon the character of Gatsby. We have seen throughout the book that, Fitzgerald gradually unveils layer by layer the character of Gatsby through the voice f Nick Carraway. Nick speaks of Gatsby’s superficiality and materialistic qualities as Gatsby madly desires to ‘have’ Daisy as the book progresses; however, we realize that in this last passage of the book, the character Gatsby is far more complex and ambiguous than his relentless pursuit of his dream, mentioned as “the orgastic future”.
Nick, throughout this passage embodies truly, a state of ambivalence towards Gatsby as he makes his final visit to Gatsby’s empty house, and this complexity in itself is the firm closure in which all readers must realize and accept.As Nick walks along the shore of the Sound, “the moon [rises] higher [and] the inessential houses beg[ins] to melt way…”. Fitzgerald’s setting the atmosphere in the dark where only the moonlight is present and his having the “inessential” houses melt away, foreshadows how Nick’s thoughts, represented by the moonlight, will also penetrate through the shallowness of society’s expectations and the character of Gatsby, the “inessential houses”. The setting strongly parallels how Nick is going to finally realize what Gatsby himself never realized about his own inner desires.Fitzgerald specifically personifies the moon so that it gives the readers a more personal perception of how the “inessential houses”, or matters of insignificance, are no longer present and will no longer be, for the word “melt” connotes an irreversible gradual disintegration.
The mood that reverberates throughout this final scene is quite somber and slightly foreboding, and this adds to the magnitude of the scene’s significance. Nick, at this moment, is now “aware of the old island… that flowered once for the Dutch sailors’ eyes. Fitzgerald asserts this analogy to take back the reader to the very origins of the ‘American Dream’. The notion of the ‘American Dream’ is one of the repeated aspects portrayed in this book, since Gatsby’s entire life is dedicated to achieving this. The ‘American Dream’ comprises of grand opulence, social equality, wealth; more specifically, a big house with a big garden, the newest model cars, the most fashionable attire, and a traditional four-peopled ‘happy’ family. To Fitzgerald, the ‘American Dream’ itself is a positive, admirable pursuit.We can see this when Fitzgerald uses personification, “flowers”, to background positive connotations behind the idea of the ‘American Dream’. In regard to Gatsby, he achieves the wealth aspect of this ‘dream’, “he had come a long way to this blue lawn”; however, he was yet to be satisfied because he did not have Daisy.
Ever since the very beginning of the story, Gatsby always associated Daisy with magnificent affluence, the white house, and the grand quality of being rich. Gatsby wanted everything ever since he was first introduced to the higher status.But Gatsby felt incomplete and unfulfilled even after getting everything he dreamt of, so he sourced this emptiness as not having Daisy, where in reality, “he neither understood or desired” the motives he thought he once had. It is evident that Fitzgerald admires the pursuit of the ‘American Dream’, for he uses beautiful imagery, “a fresh, green breast of the new world”, “trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house”, “a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent”.The Dutch sailors’ eyes only lived the “old world”, but at the same time saw the “new world”, whereas the story “The Great Gatsby” situates itself in the context when America experiences the prime period of flourish, “the new world”. The contrast provided by Fitzgerald to make aware that the difference between ‘dream’ versus ‘reality’, and to make the readers realize that Gatsby’s dreams of becoming wealthy have proven true. The writer also uses “green” to describe the new world, making connections to money, wealth, and capitalism.There is also one other “green” reference with respect to ‘dreams’: “the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock”.
The symbol here, ‘green light’ is used to represent Gatsby’s dream and his living hope that he would someday have Daisy, or rather the last item to complete his dream. Fitzgerald uses diction such as ‘enchanted’, ‘continent’, ‘trees’ to paint a bold, majestic picture of the “American dream”, thereby implying that it is admirable to have dreams and to live life with a purpose.The irony here is that Gatsby already has secured a reputation as rich, well-off man, and so striving to achieve the ‘American Dream’ seems slightly ironic.
To Nick Carraway, “[Gatsby] did not know that [the dream] 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”. Though Fitzgerald lauds Gatsby for having utopian ideals, he also thinks that Gatsby digressed along the way and lacked self-reflection to change or to improve the dreams that he had since he met Daisy and all the opulence that accompanied her.Fitzgerald uses diction, such as ‘vast’, ‘beyond’, ‘dark fields, ‘night’, in order to ground the immensity of Gatsby’s void.
The writer also uses effective syntax, inserting commas in the appropriate places to elongate the entire sentence. In doing so, Fitzgerald mirrors Gatsby’s unending journey that has proven futile, unavailing, and “eluded”. Gatsby thought that this was what he really wanted, because it “seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it”, and the momentum of his dream never sought for a profundity that was needed to define moral values and principles.This is what Nick means when he refers to Gatsby’s house as a “huge incoherence failure”. Fitzgerald uses irony really well; he portrays the dream itself as perfection, the ‘house’, but juxtaposes ‘incoherence failure’ with it to convey that Gatsby’s dream was corrupt and was not worth pursuing. Because the dream was incredibly shallow, superficial, and materialistic, just as the other insignificant wealthy men of East Egg, Fitzgerald uses “failure” to describe the dream.
At the same time, the idea of having the dream is described as an “aesthetic contemplation”, a “wonder”, a romantic notion of Life that everyone, according to Fitzgerald, should possess. What further corroborates Fitzgerald’s urge to protect society from corrupted dreams at the same time not giving up on dreams, is when Nick “erases” the obscene word that was “scrawled by some boy with a piece of brick” on the white steps of Gatsby’s house, “drawing [his] show raspingly along the stone”.Gatsby’s house serves as an extension of Gatsby’s dream, and although it may be flawed, blemished, and immoral, Nick erases the ‘obscene word’ that taints these “white” steps. Fitzgerald again uses the color, “white” to symbolize the wealth, opulence, luxuries, and Nick “erases” this ‘obscene word’ with his shoe because not having a dream at all, is worse than having a corrupt dream that is not worth pursuing. Fitzgerald uses the word “raspingly”, a word that rings an unpleasant sound, to show Nick’s ambivalence between these two imperfect states of reality.Vicariously through Nick, we readers realize that Fitzgerald is fixated upon ‘having dreams’. Though futile, “elusive”, and lacking the “orgastic future” may be, the writer concludes in the last paragraph of the book by injecting in us hope, “but that’s no matter—tomorrow, we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther”.
The hyphen here creates a pause, which implies a great sense of profound hesitation before speaking these words. This lets the readers recognize the enormity of thought in which Fitzgerald undertook before laiming his final verdict that we should always be in pursuit of our dreams, our goals, and ideals. And perhaps, “one fine morning”, we may or may not find ourselves living in our dreams. In the case of Gatsby, the green light was extinguished ever since the night of the accident, where Daisy officially confirmed that she will never come back to Gatsby.
However, Fitzgerald leaves this interpretation to us readers by inserting a hyphen after “one fine morning”. We may end it pessimistically by ‘death’ following the hyphen, or we may find ourselves living the dream in bliss.Fitzgerald structures the last two paragraphs with very short sentences provided with ellipses and hyphens, to create the “incoherent” nature of dreams. It also contrasts with the previous paragraphs that are longer so that the readers naturally add more value to the content in the very last concluding sentences. The fact that Fitzgerald transitions to the objective personal pronoun “us” means that he is addressing everyone: Nick, Gatsby, the characters from the story, the readers, and he himself, to create a sense of closure.He says to all of us, and to himself as well that “…‘we’ beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. ” Whatever the final judgment may be, death or glory, “we beat on” nonetheless, against the ‘current’. The current either may involve society’s expectations, inequality, or superficiality, or it may simply be composed of all the obstacles that makes ‘dreams’ appear unachievable.
For Gatsby, the current was the digression of his dream, Daisy. So, the word “current” is ambiguous here.However, this is not as significant as the phrase, ‘ceaselessly into the past’.
This hints to us that ‘we’ naturally bring ourselves to the roots of the ‘American Dream’; like Nick, we bring ourselves to look through the “Dutch sailor’s eyes”, the ideals of the better lives we believe we deserve, “no matter” the current and battles we live through to see it happen. Fitzgerald wants us to protect us from being ‘eluded’ from dreams, but insists upon pursuing them, for we cannot afford to be apathetic or to forget what truly matters.