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 of 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...
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