Thursday, 10 May 2012

Multicoloured Gatsby

Right, seeing as it's exam leave, and technically I'm meant to be doing a spot of revision, I thought I'd kill a couple of birds with the same keyboard and type up my English revision notes for Gatsby.

Obviously a bit different from the stuff I usually find myself writing, but I found that when I was revising for Prelims it really helped to read through other people's notes and essays on the internet, so hopefully this might be useful to someone.
It's just some very basic notes on specific quotes which could be useful to talk about in the exam, linking them back to and showing how they represent parts of the overall text.

N.B. The two videos (both SparkNotes) are different; the first is a summary of Gatsby's life, the second is a summary of the book.



Characterisation Arc
(chronologically according to Gatsby's life)

  "...his parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people, his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all.."
  • He views his parents as failures and hopes for greater things.
  • He is dissatisfied with his place in society and does not feel as though he belongs there. Even as a child he tries to 'better himself'; we are shown his list by his father.
  • His parents are representative of the social group he is trying to escape.
  "Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his platonic conception of himself."
  • J. Gatz invented his ideal person, then worked to become that man.
  • Juxtaposition: Jay Gatsby is the opposite of J. Gatz.
  • His aspirations and dreams are the American Dream; to become whoever he wants regardless of his past. On a superficial level, he attains this.
  "This fella's a regular Belasco."
  • Belasco was a film producer renowned for the realism of his sets. This is the first real indication we are given that Gatsby is not who he seems- his home is an elaborate set, and Owl eyes has the insight to realise this.
  • Even though the set and background Gatsby has created is realistic, there is something about it which feels fake. Hence all the rumours circulating about him.
  "Can't repeat the past?... Why of course you can!"
  • We discover that Gatsby's only aim in to win back Daisy.
  • Not only is he out of sync with society, he is out of sync with time itself. He is living in the past and usingit as his source of ideas for his future.
  "...tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther..."
  • Gatsby is trying to run towards his dream. He doesn't realise that it is in the past, behind him.
  • Every day has a "tomorrow". This quote gives the impression that some dreams will never be within our reach, since each day only brings resolve to do better the next, never a conclusion.
  "He was never quite still."
  • Gatsby is restless, within his time, place, position, situation. He was only fully content when he had Daisy. Now that part of her life is shared with Tom, Gatsby cannot fully recreate that contentment, even when he is happy.
  "...he had committed himself to the following of a grail." 
  • He is not in love with Daisy herself, but rather with the social position she represents ("She was the first "nice" girl he had ever known." where "nice" is synonymous with "upper class"). Becasue of the differences in their social standings she is unattainable, his high ideal, therefore comparable with a grail.
  • The Holy Grail was never found. This shows that what Gatsby was attempting to obtain was in fact unobtainable. Due to the attitudes of 'Old Money' towards the 'New Money' trying to encroach on their society, the social barriers of Gatsby's apparently shady background are impossible to overcome.
  ""Jay Gatsby" had broken like glass against Tom's hard malice."
  • I believe that this really is the point at which 'Jay Gatsby' dies. The sole purpose of Gatsby's existence was to win Daisy. Now finally even he realises that she is out of his reach, and he has broken.
  • The only thing left for him is to physcially die, which happens when he is shot by Wilson. 

(contrasts & symbolism)

  "This is a valley of ashes- a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat..." (The Valley of Ashes)
  • Ashes are dead and crumbled remains: these are the dead, broken remains of ambitions and hopes.
  • Everything is grey, sick and lifeless.
  • It is both a literal and a social wasteland.
  • Symbolic of the plight of the poor and the failure of the American Dream.
  • Ending up here is the result of financial and social failure (possibly in New York?).
  "...the city seen for the first time, in all it's first wild promise..." (New York)
  •  Symbolises hope: this is meant to be the place where people's dreams, the American Dream, has the potential to be realised. However we learn that the American Dream is hollow and corrupted, since it is now based soley on material wealth and gain.
  • ^ Therefore people such as Nick go to New York to work, selling bonds, which are money, and Meyer Wolfsheim is based here.
  • This quote discribes will have first glimpsed America 'the Land of Promise' as they came over by boat. However few truly found what they were looking for.
  "I lived at West Egg, the- well, the less fashionable of the two," (West Egg)
  • This is where successful 'New Money' are based.
  • ^ As 'New Money' attempt to emulate 'Old Money', so West Egg is a feeble immitation of East Egg.
  • This echoes Gatsby's aspirations to become 'Old Money', but the facade he is playing out is also fakery.
  "...the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water," (East Egg)
  • East Egg is home to all the 'Old Money', the rich, well established families who made their money in the old industrial America.
  • Emphasis is placed on how fashionable East Egg appears as it is viewed from (and therefore in contrast with) West Egg.
  • Fashion is the setting of trends, therefore people endeavor to copy the 'Old Money' families of East Egg.
  • The word "palaces" implies not only glamour, but royalty- East Eggers are the American equivalent of royalty. Just as with royalty, their society is exclusive.
  • Physically, Gatsby is only across the water from East Egg. This demonstrates exactly how frustratingly close he is to his dream. Yet he is still not accepted.
  • He is seperated from where he desires to be by a physical barrier (the water of the bay, the break between the islands), which is symbolic of the non-physical, yet in it's way far more substantial, social barrier.

For other notes, explanations etc., I found this really useful; SparkNotes: Gatsby , and as a very good source for quotes when reading through the entire book isn't really practical; 'The Great Gatsby' Quotes.

I've tried not to rip off any one else's notes, which is quite difficult having read through loads of essays as a way of revising. Ah well, done my best!

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