The Great Gatsby is one of our set texts for A2, along with Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Straight from the off I’ve preferred Gatsby. Although Tess is a nice story, I prefer novels with less lengthy pontifications about fate and all that. At least Gatsby gets to the point and leaves you with a lasting impression.
So today in class we were going over the novel for the first time after most of the class read it. I have read it twice now. But my teacher was reading the last page of the book today with us,and the last paragraph just hit me like it hasn’t before.
“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.”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 9”
So this is the final paragraph in the book. If you haven’t read it, it is essentially a love story of Jay Gatsby attempting to revive his teenage romance with the now rich and snobbish Daisy, set amongst the moral vacuum of 1920s America. But in the end, Gatsby’s dream is ruined as Daisy is unable to escape the purposeless and unfulfilling life she now leads.
This quote really struck me for some reason. I think what Fitzgerald is trying to say that,despite the sadness of the last part of the book, is that what Gatsby believed in was good and true, and therefore encouraging us to do the same. The dream was impossible to achieve as time went on (“that year by year recedes before us”), as it sometimes feels like when you are trying to do something but it just keeps getting further away. But the thing is that you should always keep trying harder (“run faster,stretch our arms out further”) until it something stops you.
The last part of the quote is the bit I like the most. As a novel set on two islands, the boat metaphor is good,especially the current thing. That whole feeling of a force against you. And “borne back ceaselessly into the past” is such a beautiful line. However much anyone tries to move into the future, you often find things from the past hinder what you try to reach. Constantly being moved back into the past, yet pushing against it. Gatsby wanted to recreate his youth but it’s impossible (“Can’t repeat the past?…Why of course you can!”),which I think is a hard thing for most of us to accept, even after nearly 100 years since the book was set.