Gatsby believes that he can manipulate time. When Nick tells him he cannot repeat the past, Gatsby replies, "Why of course you can" (Ch. 6).
Having retained his romantic dream of reuniting with Daisy Fay of Louisville, Kentucky, Jay Gatz has refashioned himself into the lie of being a wealthy person that he created when he wanted Daisy to marry him as a young officer. Across the bay from the Buchanan's mansion, he purchases a mansion in West Egg from which he can gaze longingly at the green light at the end of Daisy Buchanan's pier until the day he can win her back. He throws lavish parties in the hopes that Daisy Buchanan will attend.
When Gatsby captures an opportunity to get together after five years with his former girlfriend through a meeting arranged by Nick Carraway at his cottage, Gatsby is so nervous that he knocks a clock off the mantle. But he catches it "with trembling fingers" and replaces it. Nevertheless, despite all his efforts to re-"catch" Daisy with his new wealth, his gold-plated fixtures, and his colored tailor-made shirts, Jay Gatsby, who is haunted by time, cannot recapture the past. His futile actions to regain the illusion of what young Daisy once was for him ends like all those illusions of tragic heroes.