What is Gatsby's view of the past? what does nick mean when he says that Gatsby wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving daisy?

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The significance of the past is critical to understanding the novel and the character of Gatsby. The love/hate relationship that Gatsby has with the past, adds to the complexity of his characterization and brings to light the duality found within the human psyche. The allure of past stemmed from something...

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The significance of the past is critical to understanding the novel and the character of Gatsby. The love/hate relationship that Gatsby has with the past, adds to the complexity of his characterization and brings to light the duality found within the human psyche. The allure of past stemmed from something that Gatsby longed for: the comfort of a simpler, better, nobler time; a time when values such as loyalty, honor, and virtue were sacrosanct. On the other hand, the past was something that Gatsby tried to create distance from by transforming himself from James Gatz, a poor mid-western boy, to Jay Gatsby, the “great” rich entrepreneur. Nick understands that Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy stems, in part, from Gatsby’s need to recapture some of his past. Gatsby needs not to just recapture his past with Daisy but possibly, his past true self.

Gatsby sees Daisy as embodying the past that can be again in the future. Nick tells Gatsby that the past cannot be repeated. To which Gatsby responds in incredulous disbelief: “Can’t repeat the past?” …... “Why of course you can!” Gatsby is obsessed with returning to that distant time, five years past, when he and Daisy first met and fell in love and she promised to wait for Gatsby to return from the war, when they would be reunited and live happily ever after. It was a time of innocence, idealism, and romance; which embodied Gatsby’s larger dream.

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Gatsby's view of the past is an unusual one because he felt that the past could be repeated.  In chapter 6, when Nick and Gatsby are talking after the party that Daisy and Tom attended, Nick warns Gatsby that he shouldn't ask too much of Daisy.  Nick is thinking of the fact that Daisy has obligations: she's a wife and a mother.  He sees that Gatsby wants to be able to ignore the five years that have passed since Gatsby first fell in love with Daisy.  Gatsby wants the impossible - he wants the Daisy of five years ago.  He believes that if Daisy were to leave Tom and go away with him that the two of them could pick up exactly where they left off before Gatsby went to war and totally ignore the years that have passed and the lives that were lived in those years.  He is so caught up in his desire for Daisy that he doesn't think clearly.

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