Essay, Research Paper: Great Gatsby And Morality

Literature: The Great Gatsby

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After the events of this story have unfolded, the narrator Nick, focuses on the
man most like himself; Gatsby. Both Nick Carraway and Jay Gatz hail from the
mid-west, where morals and the right way of getting ahead are instilled into
them. They travel to New York, where the morals are paper-thin and everything
seems turned upside down. The saps with morals stay in the ashheaps while the
careless, foolhardy upper society do what they please. Nick stays true to the
mid-west morals of an earnest, hardworking living while Gatsby tries to be just
like the others on East Egg. Nick says this of him, “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 further.....And one fine morning-” (189). A central theme of the novel I
think, is the idea that people aren’t satisfied with what they have, they are
always going further and further, never knowing when to stop, and always
striving for that bright star that “seemed so close that he could hardly fail
to grasp it.” (189). To Gatsby the green light symbolizes Daisy, Daisy in a
way represents her peers in the same social strata as her. Daisy is a fool,
living vicariously and so are the characters in this book. The green light
represents the wild and recklessness of the times. These were times when women
for the first time were drinking and smoking alongside the guys, their war was
over and so were their troubles. The green light for them means go, after most
wars the economy experiences a boom, this was no different. They are cocksure,
thinking that whatever they do is right, and they always push on. They don’t
care what happens to others as long as they remain untouched and unrivaled. This
selfishness is shown in nearly all characters except Nick, who accepts his life
and is satisfied. He works hard and scrapes by, but he is living the life he
wants, “I am one of the few honest men that I have ever known.”(64). He’s
sensible and thinks out his actions. He doesn’t have the green gleam in his
eye that everyone else seems to have. He is an observer to the situation, and
when he talks of Gatsby believing in the Green Light, he sums up Gatsby’s
philosophy and possibly what was written in the back of his most recent edition
of “Hopalong Cassidy”; the way to live his life dedicated to Daisy. His
whole life was devoted to re-wooing Daisy and finally have that “one fine
morning” when she would be his completely. I do not think that he knew when to
stop. Once Gatsby achieves his dreams and Daisy is now seeing him on a regular
basis, he doesn’t know what to do. This whole time he wanted her so much and
he couldn’t get her, he was dreaming. Dreaming that the green light would
shine on him, and once it did, he couldn’t help but go further, stretch his
arms just a little further, and ask Daisy to leave her husband. On page 139 in
the hotel scene Daisy says to Jay, “Oh, you want to much! I love you
know---isn’t that enough?” But for Gatsby it isn’t enough, he wants more
and more and really it is this dream of “one fine morning” that is the
reason he is killed. He lives his life as a dream. He accomplishes the
“American Dream” by coming from nothing and getting everything but all his
profit go to Daisy, she is his dream all along, and it is from this situation
that in the end he is killed, caught in the tangled web of the Buchanans
marriage. Tom is a good example of not knowing when to stop. He was born into
wealth and went to a prominent college. His life is set up, he has wealth, a
beautiful wife, a child, a lavish lifestyle, and no worries. His decision to
have extra-marital affairs is a key example of “stretching his arms”, and
indulging himself to the point of fallout. This is common among his peers, the
rich New York crowd. Gatsby follows Daisy from the time he arrives back until
the day he actually has his dreams come true and he meets her. She is symbolized
by the green light at the end of her dock. To me, this green light is
representative of not only Daisy, but of all the other people in her social
class who love the color green as well, and happen to live on the East Egg. I
say they love the color green because all they are interested in is money. Money
is an important factor in this novel. When Gatsby flaunts his money around he
gets people’s attention. When he dies and can no longer shine his green light,
the attention dies too. The New York society is very materialistic, and Gatsby
has everything someone in a material world could want; a huge house, servants,
lots of cars, fame, and extra money to throw around to parties and houseguests.
He has everything except personal satisfaction. He knows that Daisy is the
answer, and she is represented in the light. In a way, the far-off green light
represents all that is unobtainable to Gatsby. It is his pipe dream. He has
already conquered a material world, and all that drives him in this novel has to
do with him gaining the green light and having Daisy shine from his dock. I
think Daisy can easily be compared to her peers; the kind of people that attend
Gatsby’s parties. They are driven by “green”. They love money and are
attracted to anyone that has it and is willing to spend it. This can be seen on
page 50 when Nick stumbles into the library where Owl Eyes is admiring
Gatsby’s books, “It’s a bona fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me.
This fella’s a regular Belasco.” He doesn’t even know the man, “I was
brought by a woman named Roosevelt. I’ve been drunk for about a week now.”
(50) He doesn’t know Gatsby, but he likes him none the less based on his
shallow values. Owl Eyes is a common man in this society and his words give us
insight to these people. They don’t care who’s house they party at, they are
wild, unbridled, and reckless people who are living their lives for fun. This is
how Gatsby had it planned. He hopes from the very first party that Daisy would
be one of the people stumbling to his front door, she would see him, fall in
love again, and she would be his in every sense, just like it should have
happened. In a sense he’s trying to bring the glow of the East Egg over to the
West. It is not only Daisy who has this green light, most all the people that
live on East Egg do as well. They go-go-go, and never look back. They’re going
too fast, there is no way that this can last; hence the number of wrecks and
collisions in this book. When Owl Eyes crashes his car, they ask him how it
happened, “Don’t ask me, I know very little about driving-next to
nothing,” (59) is how he replies. They don’t ever realize that they could
learn from their actions. They do something, it happens, and they say, “At
first I din’ notice we’d stopped.” (60) Then they gear up and go-go-go
some more. Its very easy for these people to put the blame somewhere else, and
if they can’t think of a reason this doesn’t seem to bother them. Daisy
kills a lady, sees her lover killed, and then takes a vacation to reset and we
can only assume that it will continue. Daisy’s light will continue to shine,
constantly interrupting the lives of the people she comes across. Daisy in is a
situation that is comfortable for her. She has security, a family, and no real
worries. It is her way of being a “beautiful little fool” (21) that allows
her this freedom. Tom goes out with other women, abuses Daisy, and she doesn’t
do a thing about it. Daisy has her green light shining, and it is accomplished
by being a fool. She doesn’t seem to register that this is an unhealthy
marriage, all she lives for is her easy, lethargic way of life. When things get
rough, all she has to do is hide in the shadow of her “great big hulking
specimen” (16) of a husband, Tom. When Daisy hits Myrtle she runs back to Tom
and everything straightens itself out, and even when they were in Chicago we
were made to believe that something of this sort might have happened before when
Daisy says to Tom, “You’re revolting, do you know why we left Chicago? I’m
suprised they didn’t treat you to the story of that little spree.” (139) It
seems Daisy’s light will always be shining, drawing people into the tangled
marriage of her and Tom. Gatsby in some way knows Daisy is materialistic. He
tells Nick, “Her voice is full of money.” Nick agrees and writes, “It was
full of money-that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the
jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it...High in a white palace the king’s
daughter, the golden girl..”(127) He has worked to where he’s at just so he
could show Daisy how much money he has and it helps him a lot. Daisy, after
touring the mansion starts to cry, “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen
such-such beautiful shirts before.” (98) He has finally shown her what he has
and what he can give her, and Daisy decides that she will make her move in the
chess game that her and her husband seem to be playing by having an affair as
well. It seems to me that in some sense that to the Buchanans Gatsby and Myrtle
are mere playthings, there for their personal entertainment. I’m sure that the
green light did not shine only for Gatsby, Myrtle was no doubt caught by this
beacon in Tom. To Myrtle Tom glows, he stinks of the fact that she hopes Tom
will be her knight in shining armor. Myrtle hopes to marry Tom, and she’s sure
that he would, except, “(Daisy’s) a Catholic and they don’t believe in
divorce.” (38). All Tom wants is to live vicariously, he cares practically
nothing about Myrtle when compared to the way she feels about him. To her he’s
the answer and not even abuse will drive her away. Myrtle, in search of her
“one fine morning” finds only death, resembling Gatsby. She is mesmerized by
Tom’s empty promises, similar to Daisy and Jay’s relationship. Gatsby is
hypnotized by Daisy’s light as well. He hadn’t seen or talked to Daisy since
the day he left Louisville. All he has is the idea of Daisy. This idea that he
has that she is the most perfect, best woman in the world is somehow pinnacled
in the green light. On page 25, “he stretched out his arms toward the dark
water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was
trembling.” Gatsby is entranced by this green light because it symbolizes
Daisy. All he has is knowing that she is over there somewhere because the light
at the end of her dock is shining. He doesn’t know her situation, if she’s
still the same person he fell in love with, or even if she would talk to him.
The only thing he knows is that she’s there and he still loves her. Gatsby and
Myrtle both try to break into the closed, old-money society of the East Egg.
They don’t realize that some dreams, no-matter how you try, come true. America
was based on the dream that anything can come true and Gatsby swallows this idea
whole. In the end he went to far and it meant his demise.
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