The Great Gatsby Compared to the Wasteland

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Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby and Elliot's The Wasteland are two stories that similarly express the modernist post-war disillusionment. Both stories comment pessimistically on the direction that our world is moving in from the post-war modernist perspective. Both men looked past the roaring twenties, and realized that this time period was actually a moral wasteland. The final paragraphs of The Great Gatsby sum up their mutual lack of faith in American culture to improve.

Fitzgerald uses a number of both direct and indirect ways to comment on what has happened to America. The green light is a recurring symbol in this book that has many deep meanings. Beginning in the first chapter, when Nick compares the green bulk of America rising from the ocean to the green light at the end of Daisy's dock, this symbol takes on many meanings. This is the green light that drives Gatsby, this is the green light symbolizes the new money and materialism in the world. This shows that money is now the new driving force in the world, and that people work to consume. This ties into the fact that Gatsby went to great lengths to become rich solely to impress Daisy with his wealth. Additionally, Gatsby showed off this wealth by showing her all of the shirts that he had purchased. All of this points towards the emerging consumerism in American society.

The green also seems to symbolize the automotive industry, which was one of the biggest parts of the new consumer culture. Henry Ford made a policy of paying his workers high wages, because he realized that if they were paid more, they themselves would become consumers of his products. Today, cars are often seen as a status symbol, which began back in the 1920's.

The Wasteland of Elliot's is analogous to the valley of ashes between West Egg and New York City. It is an industrial wasteland that was clearly created by large corporations and industries. This valley of ashes symbolizes the moral decay created by limitless pursuit of wealth. The valley of ashes is a place inhabited by the poor, and polluted by the rich. This shows that the only people who have to accept the consequences of corporate greed are the working class themselves.

Elliot's The Wasteland describes Europe as a very bleak place after the First World War. In the final section, the speaker bothers Stetson about the corpse buried in the garden. Stetson's inability to effectively answer the speakers question symbolizes this confusion about the state of world during and after the war. It shows that justifying this war is an act of futility.

Elliot also presents a theme of regeneration and fertility, which symbolizes a longing for the past. In the opening of The Wasteland, April is shown as a time of revival after the bleak winter. Regeneration is portrayed as painful, because the new spring can't measure up to the springs of the past. This is portrayed by Marie's experiences from the past, which become painful when she considers that the time she lives in now is one of great political and cultural consequences.

The final paragraph of The Great Gatsby and the final line in particular, effectively represent the views of Elliot and Fitzgerald. The final line, "so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past," embodies the essence of both stories. It expresses a lack of confidence in our society's current condition, and a longing for the simpler times of the past.

The final page offers much of Fitzgerald's perspective, and it is wonderfully summed up in the final sentence of the book.

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, trees that had made...
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