Modern Pursuit and FSF's "Gatsby."A student inquired of this quote in Ch 4:  "There are only the pursued,the pursuing, the busy, and the tired."  I think I merit the last three of those...

Modern Pursuit and FSF's "Gatsby."

A student inquired of this quote in Ch 4:  "There are only the pursued,the pursuing, the busy, and the tired."  I think I merit the last three of those appellations (sadly, the "pursued" is no longer much of a problem.)

How well do you think FSF characterized modern life?  Do you feel things have gotten better or worse?  Is there hope for the future or are we doomed? 

 

6 Answers | Add Yours

sullymonster's profile pic

sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I seem to be suggesting this one up a lot lately, but include "Bartleby, the Scrivener" as well.  Another story depicting the "busy" and the "tired".  I agree with the posts that say that FSF portrayed the frenetic pace of modern life well.  However, he also portrayed the continuing ability of humans to dream.  Gatsby himself is just as modern as the rest of the story.  As long as we can dream and hope, we have hope of survival.

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Judith Butler wrote a wonderful essay entitled "Desire". It worked through the movitation of protagonists. She addresses the protagonist, the object of desire and the culmination of this effort. Invariably the prusuit ends with three results.

1- The completion of the pursuit results in a disappointment.
2- The object of desire is lost.
3- The sense of self of the protagonist is extinguished.

This has opened so many doors for teaching literature. I introduce the idea of Desire and Extinction early on in the year and it is a part of the checklist for anything we read. From the disappointing moment atop Mt. Everest in "Into Thin Air" to Gatsby to Ethan Frome we investigate the problem of Desire.

You can't always get what you want.... thank God.

I adore this essay, Jeff, and Butler's work in general.  What a fabulous course offering!  Have you read C.S. Lewis' "Til We Have Faces"? 

And I'm thinking the Epic of Gilgamesh and Steinbeck's "Winter of Our Discontent" would also be terrific inclusions. 

jeff-hauge's profile pic

jeff-hauge | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

Judith Butler wrote a wonderful essay entitled "Desire". It worked through the movitation of protagonists. She addresses the protagonist, the object of desire and the culmination of this effort. Invariably the prusuit ends with three results.

1- The completion of the pursuit results in a disappointment.
2- The object of desire is lost.
3- The sense of self of the protagonist is extinguished.

This has opened so many doors for teaching literature. I introduce the idea of Desire and Extinction early on in the year and it is a part of the checklist for anything we read. From the disappointing moment atop Mt. Everest in "Into Thin Air" to Gatsby to Ethan Frome we investigate the problem of Desire.

You can't always get what you want.... thank God.

hawnsmith's profile pic

hawnsmith | Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I think that most of FSF's work shows the emptiness of a life which values externals instead of developing internal strength and integrity, and yes, I believe that he has characterized modern life extremely well. Gatsby cannot deal with the fact that Daisy, the entire focus of all his energy, is not worthy of him.

Daisy is the ultimate ornament and Gatsby's life has been squandered in an attempt to acquiring a perfect setting for his gem. He wants something outside himself to fill the empty holes in his self worth.

For me, the tragedy is that in Gatsby, FSF has created a remarkable individual; who, had his goal been something noble, could have earned the fulfillment he so misguidedly sought in Daisy.

Modern society has become even more driven to evaluate people based on what they possess rather than who they are. Advertisers constantly tell us that we need their products to be worthy and inspire us to pursue enough wealth to become like them. FSF wrote in an era before television brought the world of the rich into every living room. With the exception of servants and similiar employees, the average person was not exposed to the luxuries of the super wealthy.

Unfortunately, I don't see this trend lessening. How often do we read of a person who suddenly becomes famous or wealthy and then divorces the spouse who struggled through the early years? We even have the term "trophy wife" to describe the pursuit of an image instead of a relationship.

malibrarian's profile pic

malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

As much as I hate to think pessimistically, I do believe Fitzgerald characterized modern life extremely well, not only in that quote but in all of The Great Gatsby.  Look at the headlines and our celebrities - good grief, it's all about the pursued and the pursuing, and unfortunately, that trickles down to the rest of society.  Our young people are taught early on to pursue material possessions and that to be pursued, one must be thin, beautiful, funny, and oftentimes, morally challenged (need I say more?  I hope not!).

Life for everyone is busy, busy, busy - I see commercials where parents are encouraged to enjoy their kids; where even t.v. stations like Nickelodeon suggest ways for families to interact with one another on a more regular basis...why is that?  Is life's pursuit of more and better truly more important than the people we've decided to create families with and the families themselves?

I do think things have gotten worse since FSF wrote Gatsby, but I don't believe we're without hope.  I think everyone could decide to make a change for the better - people have free will and can do that.  Whether or not they will, of course, is another matter.  Maybe the commercials and Nick Jr. will help parents better understand their priorities.  I hope so! :)

 

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