With specific reference to Chapter Six, in what ways is Gatsby a romantic character?
In Ch. 6, Nick says to Gatsby, "You can't repeat the past." and Gatsby becomes irritated by this. He is determined to redo his past so he can be with Daisy again. How does this support the idea that Gatsby is truly a romantic character?
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A satiric embodiment of the American Dream, Jay Gatsby exhibits many of the characteristics of the romantic hero. According to literary critic Northorpe Frye, this hero is a literary prototype that, having been place outside the structure of society, rejects established conventions and, introspective, self-critical, alienated, and, at times, melancholy, creates a self as the center of his own existence. Certainly, in Chapter Six these traits are exemplified in Jay Gatsby:
- Creation of a self
Nick relates that Jay Gatsby has a "Platonic conception of himself." Gatsby rejects his shiftless and unsuccessful parentage and creates an image of his own parentage based upon Dan Cody, who "turned up as James Gatz's destiny."
Gatsby even moves to a fabricated section called West Egg after the established East Egg where upper society lives in order to be near Daisy. For, as Nick remarks,
West Egg [is] a world complete in itself, with its own standards and its own great figures, second to nothing because it had no cosciousness of being so....
- Placement outside society
When Tom Buchanan and the Sloanes come by Gatsby's house on horseback, Mrs. Sloane casually invites Jay to ride with them and dinner, but the invitation is insincere; when Jay tries to join them with his car, they leave before he can get his coat. Then, when Tom and Daisy comes to Jay's party in West Egg, the superficial Daisy remarks repeatedly that she likes the actress who is also a guest, but this,too, is insincere. Tom narrates,
But the rest offended her....She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented "place" that Boadway had begotten upon a Long Island fishing village--appalled by its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short cut from nothing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand.
- Overwhelming nature of his enemies
Tom Buchanan presents himself as an adversary of Gatsby's, of course, because Daisy is the object of Jay's desire. However, Tom also hates the upstart Gatsby, asking if he is a bootlegger, offended at the way that such people "simply force their way in." He determines to know who Gatsby is and what he does: "...I think I'll make a point of finding out."
- Idealized love and melancholy
Nick notes that Daisy finds "romantic possibilities totally absent from her world" in the casualness of Jay Gatsby's party. At the same time, he hopes that "one magical encounter" with a lovely young woman will wipe out Gatsby's "five years of unwavering devotion" for Daisy. But, such does not happen, and after the party, Gatsby regrets, "She didn't have a good time,"; with this remark, Nick guesses at "his untterable depression."
Gatsby's romantic hope has been that
nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tome and say: "I never loved you." After she had obliterated three years with that sentence, they could decide upon the more practical measures to be taken. One of them was that, after she was free, there were to go back to Louisville and be married from her house--just as if it were five years ago....[where they could] gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.
Further, at the end of the chapter, Nick is reminded, "through his appalling sentimentality," of something--
an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago.
This elusive something is the romantic hero that Gatsby embodies.
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