The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Can't Repeat The Past Why Of Course You Can

In chapter 6, Nick tells Gatsby, "You can't repeat the past," Gatsby replies, "Why of course you can." Do you agree with Nick or with Gatsby?  

Most readers would agree with Nick that you can't repeat the past. That Gatsby believes he is able to repeat the past highlights his disconnect from reality. Gatsby is so caught up in his dreams that he believes he and Daisy can simply pick up their relationship right where they left off, despite the fact that she has since married Tom and had a child.

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Bruce Bergman eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I agree with Nick. However, a person who is so completely willing to engage in pretense and make believe, as Gatsby is, might be able to convince himself that this possible. This ability on Gatsby's part is really an ability to fantasize though, and so it does not convincingly defeat or undermine Nick's point.

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Chapter One of The Great Gatsby, a dreamy Jay Gatsby stares longingly at the green light at the end of Daisy Buchanan's pier.  He dreams of the girl he met before he went to war, and hopes to regain her.  This quest for the love of Daisy, despite her having married Tom Buchanan, is but a romantic illusion.  The past that Gatsby hopes to regain is irretrievable; Daisy is not only older, but she is now a mother and wife; Gatsby himself is not the young innocent that he was when he first met Daisy.  For, he has worked for Dan Cody and has made such shady connections as Meyer Wolfscheim. 

Nevertheless, Gatsby fashions for himself an unreality out of reality, "a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing."  He purchases a home on West Egg, he holds parties with hundreds of people who do not know him,  he smiles and smiles, he buys shirts of every color, purchases a car of leather-bound interior and fenders like wings, he gulps down the "incomparable milk of wonder," but Daisy is offended by West Egg, "this unprecendented place that Broadway had begotten upon a Long Island fishing village."

Gatsby is a dreamer, imagining the American Dream in which a poor boy can rise to riches and attain whatever it is that he wants, or to

...recover...some idea of himself...that had gone into loving Daisy.  His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was.

The light at the end of Daisy's pier is that secret place where Gatsby hopes to climb and "gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder," the image of Daisy that he holds in his heart.  It is all but a dream, an illusion of a past, a quest for love and happiness that is never realized for the tragic Gatsby, who lies dead, a sacrificial victim to the excesses of an age.

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minapet | Student

The meaning that holds past in a man's life appears to be one of the essential themes in the novel. In order to conclude whether Nick or Gatsby is right, let's examine Gatsby's attitude towards his past. In one hand, he has consecrated his life to run from the man he once was, or to turn James Gatz, a poor Minnesota boy who had love and no money or power, into this glamorous, rich, and extravagant figure who had everything but love. On the other hand, Gatsby did everything he could to recreate the moments he had with Daisy in the past. This dual value of the past is both a bless and damnation for a man. Either we run from the past, or we long for it.

In the end, the obsessive longing for the reconstruction of the past in which Gatsby experienced his love for Daisy, turned to be impossible. Gatsby's emotional state regarding his past with Daisy shows us that past experiences are regarded through the subjectivity of perception as well as through the character and temperament of a person. His obsession did not match Daisy's experience of their past love. The perspectives vary, as do people. Maybe it is possible to recreate the past in the sense of wealth and possession of material things. To buy or restore what one once had. But when it comes to feelings, it goes on to be the impossible. This seems to be Gatsby's illusion of the past, to think that he and Daisy are the same people they used to be or to think that further life experiences and time's continuum hadn't change them, when actually nothing is the same, except Gatsby's desire to live his dream.

mchallett | Student

With this question, you are able to argue both sides with the appropriate textual evidence.

If you were to side with Nick Carraway in this case, you could argue the fact that so much has changed in both Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan's lives. For instance, look at how much Jay Gatsby's businesses has grown and look at the fact that Daisy has both a husband and a child! How could they possibly repeat their romance from the past when so many influential moments have already occurred in both of their lives.

Then you have the other side of the argument-- Jay Gatsby's side. He wants nothing more than to be with Daisy again and to have that second chance at true love. He feels like what they had was special and will do anything he can to fight to have it back, because he thinks that is what Daisy truly wants as well.

So really, you can argue either side, but in order to have an effective argument, make sure you can bring up examples from the text so that you are not solely relying on your opinion in stating your answer.

udonbutterfly | Student

I agree with Nick all the way. Gatsby is trying his best to relive the past with new circumstance. And what I mean that is that Gatsby is acquiring wealth so that he gain Daisy's hand and live like the old days when they were together but this time with him not begin so poor. This desire to relive the path just leads to his death.

Wiggin42 | Student

I agree with Nick because you can only move forward; not back. Even though Gatsby was able to relive his past romance with Daisy for a short while; it was nothing like the original romance. Daisy cannot forget how she has moved on with life by marrying Tom and having a child. Gatsby might be able to delude himself into thinking that he can repeat the past, but its futile. We all remember what happened to us and can never go back to a time before something so traumatic happened. 

abeautifulfool | Student

I agree with both. Gatsby was so in love with the idea of retrieving the past and while you can't exactly repeat it, you can try and he did try and it worked. He repeated the past, what he didn't realise was that in the past Daisy had left him while he was away at war which meant she would only leave him again. So you can repeat the past but you can't achieve a different outcome. However, you can't always repeat the past. 1. Sometimes it's not possible. 2. Sometimes it just isn't good to repeat the past.

yakita | Student

I agree with Gasby because.............