Written by Rebekah Hobbs
Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) was written almost a century ago, but it still inspires fascination for romantics. The tragic storyline is a cautionary tale that tells us that dreams are unsubstantial, and must not be held too long. The story is still powerful because people in the modern era are not haunted solely by ghosts and spirits, but by their own failings and dashed dreams as well.
Gatsby is haunted by his desire for a life with Daisy, so he attempts to recreate the past. “Can’t repeat the past? …Why of course you can!” he says to Nick (124). But his attempts to attract Daisy are not purely the result of love—they stem from the deeper sense of self that Gatsby lost when he allowed himself to fall in love with her. “He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never again romp like the mind of God” (125). He is haunted, not because Daisy fails to meet his gilded expectations of her, but because he spent his years and striving on a dream that had stretched too far, at the cost of his potential for greatness, for all the things that a mind like the “mind of God” can achieve.
Gatsby is nothing more than a tragic striving, haunted by the very past that he claims can be repeated, and subsequently overcome. Modern life moves forward, “material without being real” (179), so we assign less importance to spirits of the dead, and instead focus on our desires and motivations, allowing our regrets more room to haunt us.
F. Scott Fitzgerald. “The Great Gatsby.” New York: Scribner. 2011. Electronic Book.