In what ways does Fitzgerald present a view of the world similar to that of the Romantic poets, whilst simultaneously incorporating modern aspects?Fitzgerald's use of language and presentation of...

In what ways does Fitzgerald present a view of the world similar to that of the Romantic poets, whilst simultaneously incorporating modern aspects?

Fitzgerald's use of language and presentation of ideas is at the same time typically Romantic but also suggestive of (for the time)  progression and new ideas. One example is the way Nick says to Gatsby in Chapter 5:

“Your place looks like the World’s Fair,” I said.

Then a little further on he says:

The evening had made me light-headed and happy; I think I walked into a deep sleep as I entered my front door.

The dreamy Romanticism of the latter observation contrasts sharply with his reference to a celebration of all that (is) modern and new.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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A primary conflict in the novel is illusion vs. reality. The romanticism in the novel is developed mostly through Gatsby--his view of life itself. Before becoming obsessed with Daisy, he lived in a state of constant expectation, waiting for the wonders of life that he knew would eventually come to him. Early in Chapter I, Nick observes that Gatsby had "an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again." Gatsby is a romantic who has always lived for a dream, from his boyhood in North Dakota until his death in West Egg.

His dreams, though, have always been rooted in illusion. As Jimmy Gatz living on the farm, he believed he could make his fortune if he worked hard enough. As Jay Gatsby, he believed he could buy his way into Daisy's world and repeat the past with her. He believed Daisy loved him and would leave Tom--two more illusions.

Illusion, however, cannot be sustained in the face of reality, and it is in detailing reality in the novel that it becomes such an enduring piece of modern American realism. Jay Gatsby himself is an illusion, a romantic creation, that is destroyed by reality. Nick says that " 'Jay Gatsby' " broke up like glass against Tom's hard malice . . . ."

Fitzgerald is relentless in stripping away the romance to reveal ugly realities: Tom and Daisy are united by class and amorality; Gatsby is an innocent among wolves who can never rise above his class; American society has become materialistic, hedonistic, and corrupt; and the American Dream has been lost.

Dan Cody's character, thematically, is very significant. A man of the West who dug his fortune out of the ground through work and grit, Cody represents America lost. Through Cody, Fitzgerald develops the sharp contrast between the 19th Century (the romantic view) and the new, corrupt century. A more profound contrast is the one Nick draws in the novel's conclusion, contrasting modern America with the "fresh, green breast of the new world" first seen by Dutch sailors. Like the Romantic poets, Fitzgerald romanticizes the past, but as a modern American writer, he deals in reality.

A final thought--Fitzgerald is noted for his "evocative style," using language beautifully to create emotion in the reader. Consequently, many of the descriptive passages in the novel are poetic and quite romantic in tone and content, especially passages that contain elements of nature--such as stars, clouds, trees, breezes, night, rain, and the sea.

 

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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How about the juxtaposition between materialistic success (riches) and moral bankruptcy. The rich in this novel are also depraved in some way. Though rich, many of the men at Gatsby's parties are there with women who are not their wives. Wolfsheim is rich but his business practices are despicable. Even Gatsby, who has lofty reasons for accumulating wealth, earned his money through illicit activities. What appears to be "golden" is simply "gilded" and what is under the veneer all is black. A note in passing: the converse is also true, The people who have no money are not morally superior to those with money. The best example of that is the haughty, self-serving Myrtle.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is definitely worth considering how this clash of values ties in with how Nick feels about Gatsby and the central ambiguity surrounding his character. On the one hand he "loathes" everything Gatsby stands for, but on the other hand he finds himself strangely attracted to Gatsby and who he is and the pure unsullied idea of the American Dream that he embodies. This crucial confusion is at the heart of understanding this novel and also Fitzgerald's view of America and what had happened to it thanks to modernism and other contextual pressures.

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susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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We see this same kind of tension in Chapter 3 when Nick describes Gatsby's parties:

In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.

This idealized description of the party is undercut by the coarseness and rudeness of the guests who get drunk, gossip about their host, and show no gratitude for the expensive party that they attend.  This type of contrast is nicely shown in  the slurred and comical conversation of the drunken driver whose car wheel had come off and the following description of the moonlit night shining over Gatsby's house and his "glowing garden."  Romantic elements--idealized descriptions--are often juxtaposed to crude and careless behaviors often reflecting Nick's ambivalent fascination with and repulsion of these wealthy people and their lifestyles.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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With passages such as that cited above, it is a satirical vision of Romanticism that Fitzgerald presents in the character of Gatsby who idealizes the American Dream.  Describing Jay Gatsby in idyllic images, such as owning a car that is almost mythological in appearance with its fenders spread like wings and its golden glittering in the sun that is reminiscent of Icarus, Fitzgerald also has Gatsby embarking upon the chivalric hero's quest for the "grail" of the white-clad Daisy, whom he idealizes.  All these images are in sharp contrast to the materialism of the era and its moral corruption evinced in Gatsby's sordid association with Meyer Wolfscheim which Fitzgerald juxtaposes with the fabricated Romantic hero of Jay Gatsby.

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charl1eg1rl | High School Teacher | (Level 2) eNoter

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With passages such as that cited above, it is a satirical vision of Romanticism that Fitzgerald presents in the character of Gatsby who idealizes the American Dream.  Describing Jay Gatsby in idyllic images, such as owning a car that is almost mythological in appearance with its fenders spread like wings and its golden glittering in the sun that is reminiscent of Icarus, Fitzgerald also has Gatsby embarking upon the chivalric hero's quest for the "grail" of the white-clad Daisy, whom he idealizes.  All these images are in sharp contrast to the materialism of the era and its moral corruption evinced in Gatsby's sordid association with Meyer Wolfscheim which Fitzgerald juxtaposes with the fabricated Romantic hero of Jay Gatsby.

I completely agree that's one way of looking at it (and well expressed too) however I'm not convinced that Fitzgerald is aiming for satire explicitly - my post was intended to get the ball rolling so thanks for responding; I may well pinch that idea to get my (rather recalcitrant) students discussing the text!

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