- According to The Great Gatsby, how are we to be set free from this constant revision of the past, which clouds the future?
Nick says we are boats that are held back by the current of our lives. How can we be set free from that current?
This novel suggests that there is no way to be set free from the past. We are tied to our personal history in ways that are permanent and lasting despite the extreme measures we might take to be severed or freed from that past.
Gatsby, Daisy, Tom and even Myrtle are examples of this idea and its truth within the context of the novel. They serve to suggest that Nick's final comment relates to an unalterable fact of human nature.
Gatbsy undertakes extreme measures to become a new person with no relationship with his past in the Midwest. In the end, he is the same lonesome, yearning, friendless youth who left his parents' house in an effort to improve himself. His parents are still the only people who seem to truly know him. The wealth and glamour are stripped from him and shown to be merely temporary trappings.
“The truth was that Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself.”
His whole created world is false in the end. What is real for him was only, always, his past.
We can make similar arguments for Daisy and Tom, characters who attempt to escape their situations through affairs. Daisy, when pressed to declare that she never loved Tom, cannot let go of an attachment to her life with him. She insistst that her past with Tom has some meaning. She cannot simply let it go, even though, for a while she pretends this is possible.