In The Great Gatsby, Chapter IX, what is the pathos of Gatsby's youthful resolutions?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Gatsby's list of resolutions, along with his daily schedule, seems sad when we think of how his life turned out (filled with such loss and longing) and how he died, so violently and alone. Written in the back of his Hopalong Cassidy cowboy book, Gatsby's resolutions show how hard he tried to overcome the poverty into which he was born as a North Dakota farm boy and how dedicated he was in his quest for a better life. They also reveal his efforts, doing all within his power at the time, to improve himself as a person. He set about to avoid wasting time, to improve his mind, and to save what little money he could. The entry to bathe every other day can be a little amusing, considering that boys and baths are not always compatible, but even this entry suggests Gatsby's drive to rise above his circumstances. The impoverished Gatz family, no doubt, did not enjoy indoor plumbing, and taking a bath in a North Dakota farm house in the early 1900s would not have been a matter of convenience, especially during the cold months. Finally, Gatsby's last entry shows he had a good heart, an active conscience, and a loving nature: "Be better to parents." 

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edcon | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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It is reasonable to infer that Fitzgerald modeled the daily schedule and "general resolves" of young Gatsby (née James "Jimmy" Gatz) after those of Benjamin Franklin in his autobiography. The pathos, then, is that while Franklin rose to success, wealth, international prominence, and longevity by following his daily schedule and "thirteen virtues," Gatsby's rise is relatively short-lived because of the corruption of his dream.

Jimmy Gatz's schedule is more than a nod to Franklin's; in fact, Fitzgerald makes "study electricity, etc." the third entry in Gatz's daily schedule. Franklin has long been considered a role model for young Americans of modest means trying to work their way up from poverty through hard work and perseverance. He is certainly the epitome of the American Dream and a worthy role model for Jimmy Gatz.

Gatsby's departure from his Franklinesque pursuit of upward mobility seems to begin the day he meets Daisy Fay. After distinguishing himself in WWI, he has to acquire wealth quickly to have any hope of winning her, and this is when he turns to criminal enterprise to make his fortune.

The close of Gatsby's life indeed injects a mournful tone into the novel when the reader understands that had Jay Gatsby not met Daisy Fay, his pursuit of success and upward mobility might have echoed the trajectory of Franklin's, and he could have been a successful, self-made man through honest work.

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