What is the significance of Gatsby's obsession with Daisy and living in the past?

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Gatsby's obsession with Daisy and the past is quite complex. He is a romantic man, true, and does seem to care for Daisy, but his interest in her largely stems from what she represents rather than who she is as a person.

It's telling that Gatsby describes her voice as sounding like "money," since Daisy is symbolic of what he craves most: to belong with the wealthy elites of American society. It isn't enough that Gatsby is rich; he wants class too. However, he was not born into "old money" as Daisy was and therefore can never belong there, even if he were successful in marrying Daisy.

His obsession with the past comes from wanting to reclaim what he thinks he had with Daisy when they were young. Back then, Daisy was single and thought him dashing. However, he was poor and not up to her standards. Gatsby wants to get back to how he and Daisy were during the war, since now he meets that one requirement—or so he believes.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "There are no second acts." It is helpful to analyze Gatsby's obsession with Daisy, and his insistence on "living in the past," in light of this statement.

What Fitzgerald meant was that one cannot be transformed into someone else in a single lifetime. Gatsby believes that, because he is now wealthy and fashionable, he can win Daisy's love and claim her. However, she knew him when he had little and cannot forget his past self. 

I would not say that Gatsby "lives in the past," but instead that he believes that the past can be revised. He wants to start over from the time at which he met Daisy, while a lieutenant stationed in Louisville. 

He is "obsessed" with her because she is the one thing he cannot have. One wonders at times, while reading the novel, if Gatsby really loves Daisy or if she is the ultimate class marker. Perhaps he thinks that, if only he can win her, he can prove to himself that he has finally joined the class of people that once shunned him. 

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