How does Gatsby try to repeat the past?

How does Gatsby try to repeat the past?


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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Try as he might, Gatsby just can't get over Daisy. That relationship they had five years previously made a deep, lasting impression on his soul. It was arguably the most wonderful time of his life, and he desperately wants to get it back. But there's a problem. Actually, there are several of them. For one thing, Daisy's married. Not happily-married, to be sure, but married all the same. And despite Tom's numerous infidelities, she still takes her marriage vows incredibly seriously.

For all its ups and downs Daisy's marriage to Tom provides her with a sense of comfort. Gatsby can offer her a fabulously wealthy lifestyle, but what he cannot do is give her a secure social position, something that means an awful lot to Daisy. Daisy is insufferably shallow; her social status is something that gives her life meaning and security. Despite her public persona as a hedonistic flapper, she's actually rather conservative, unwilling to take risks. And leaving Tom for Gatsby would be way too much of a risk to take.

The main problem for Gatsby is that he lives in a different world to Daisy, not just socially but temporally. Gatsby's still stuck in the past, trying to recreate what for him was a special relationship, but which to Daisy meant almost nothing. As for Daisy, however, she's thinking of the future. And her marriage to Tom gives her a far greater degree of security than she could ever have with Gatsby. Emotional security will continue to be at a premium in her marriage, but at least she can say, hand on heart, that she did once love Tom. The same however cannot be said about her brief dalliance with Jay. And so Gatsby spends an inordinate amount of time trying to recapture a love that was never truly reciprocated. 

teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gatsby tries to repeat the past by attempting to recreate what was (in his mind) the perfect romance between him and Daisy.

In Chapter 6, Tom and Daisy attend a party at Gatsby's house. There, Gatsby openly flirts with Daisy and dances with her. He even takes Daisy over to Nick's house so that they can chat without being seen by Tom.

After the party is over, Gatsby opines to Nick that Daisy did not enjoy herself. Gatsby appears focused on Daisy's every emotion. He is convinced that he can win her back, and this is why he becomes obsessed with eliciting certain responses from her. Gatsby wants nothing less than for Daisy to openly declare her love for him.

In other words, Gatsby wants Daisy to leave Tom and to marry him. Nick hypothesizes that what Gatsby really wants to do is to recreate who he was when he romanced Daisy five years ago. In the present, Gatsby tries to hold lots of parties and to basically show off his wealth in order to elicit admiration from Daisy. What Gatsby doesn't understand is that Daisy isn't interested in love; she's actually quite a shallow woman.

Daisy stays with Tom because he has pedigree, unimaginable wealth, and extensive social connections. Tom represents "old money," while Gatsby is part of the "new money" class of entrepreneurs. It is obvious that, for all his vulgarity and womanizing, Tom has a firm hold on Daisy. 

jimjimjimmy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gatsby tries to repeat the past by continuously pursuing Daisy. Gatsby and Daisy first meat when Gatsby is in the army. Gatsby comes from a lower-class farming family, while Daisy's family is very wealthy. The two fall in love, but Gatsby cannot marry Daisy because of his position in the army and his financial situation. After leaving the army, Gatsby amasses a vast personal fortune and relocates to West Egg. He throws lavish parties in the hopes of coming back into contact with Daisy, who lives nearby. Gatsby uses Nick Carraway, Daisy's cousin, as an intermediary to reintroduce him into Daisy's life. At this point, however, Daisy is married to Tom Buchanan, with whom she has a child. Gatsby nevertheless manages to meet with Daisy, and the two begin a brief affair. Gatsby attempts to convince Daisy to leave her husband and continue their previous relationship, and this almost works out until Tom intervenes and reality sets in. At this point, Gatsby's whole purpose of being is to win Daisy back. His repeated attempts to win Daisy back are the way in which he lives in the past, and it ultimately results in his premature death. 

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The Great Gatsby

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