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Explain the significance of the last page of The Great Gatsby in relation to Gatsby's...

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st650 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 17, 2011 at 12:37 PM via web

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Explain the significance of the last page of The Great Gatsby in relation to Gatsby's dream and to the American Dream.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 18, 2011 at 4:28 AM (Answer #1)

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Nick's reflections at the end of Chapter Nine of The Great Gatsby bring the motif of geography to a conclusion as Nick philosophizes that the story of Gatsby is conclusively a story of the West. As he sprawls upon the beach, Nick reflects upon the old Dutch sailors who came to the "fresh, green breast of the new world...for a transitory enchanted moment" in which they, like Gatsby--who beheld Daisy's green light--believed in a dream that became that same American dream for Gatsby.

However, Nick concludes, unbeknowst to Gatsby, his dream was already behind him.  For, he had endeavored to recapture the past--the "West"--and had traded his youthful goals--written in a book entitled Hopalong Cassidy (the name of a cowboy hero of the West) in which he had set the admirable goals of achieving the cardinal virtues--for the mundane, criminal, and hedonistic lifestyle exemplified by the East Egg residents.  Contemplating the significance of the past to the dreams of the future as symbolized by the green light, Nick reflects,

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 farther...And one fine morning---

So, after having made his satiric comment in a previous chapter that Gatsby has been the best that America can produce, Nick concludes on a rather melancholy note, observing that in the pursuit of the American dream, people are unable to transcend or to recreate the past, but, instead, they inevitably return to the past. Thus, Gatsby's and others' histories are stories of the West. This conclusion underscores the theme of the significance of the past to dreams of the future (the green light and the "green breast of the new world" that the Dutch perceived).

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