In The Great Gatsby, when Nick Carraway tells Gatsby that he cannot repeat the past, Gatsby replies, "Can't repeat the past? Why of course you can!"
Discuss how the novel proves this statement to be true or false.
This question most directly pertains to Jay Gatsby. Gatsby's attempts to rekindle a love affair from his youth are central to his actions in the novel and, indeed, central to his character's ambitions.
Gatsby once loved Daisy briefly as a young man when he met her in Kentucky. After enlisted in the armed services and going off to fight in WWI, Gatsby loses Daisy to Tom, a man of great privilege and wealth.
Gatsby, at the time, has no wealth or status. He ultimately designs a plan to become wealthy, follow Daisy to the east coast, and win her love. Gatsby is out to prove something to the world and to himself. He is out to prove that he was always good enough for Daisy (or that, at least, his money makes him good enough for her now). This penchant can be related to Gatsby's "heightened sensitivity to the promises of life."
In addition to Gatsby's great, selfish and romantic vision is a sense of honor. He says at one point that, having taken Daisy's maidenhood, as it were, in Kentucky, marrying her is the only honorable thing for him to do. So, he wants to make things right according to this code of chivalry.
Many hurdles stand in the way of this ambition. Daisy is married and has a child. Tom remains wealthy. Daisy, while constantly performing the part of the hurt wife, has already seemingly come to terms with her lot and is not wholly unhappy. Only Gatsby, with his overriding desire to see his potential proved and fulfilled, is sure that a marriage to Daisy is inevitable.
The events that lead to the end of the novel defeat Gatsby's purpose and bring about his death. When Myrtle is killed, Daisy retreats behind Tom's protection and refuses to see Gatsby again. This takes place, of course, after Gatsby has demanded that Daisy say she "never loved Tom", which she refuses to do.
In trying to regain the past, Gatsby insists that Daisy erase the importance and the meaning of the life that she has lived since they parted - a life which produced her one child. She cannot do this. She cannot throw away the meaning of her life. Thus Gatsby's effort to regain the past is doubly defeated. He cannot erase what has occurred and he cannot get Daisy back either.
The novel proves this statement wrong because Gatsby tried to recreate the romance between him and Daisy. Although, they did succeed in rekindling their love, the conditions were different. Daisy, was a married woman now, she couldn't just simply leave Tom, she loved him as well. In the end, Gatsby gets shot, he was never able to repeat the past. Which is why the novel proves this wrong.