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Throughout The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald represents the unforgiving reality of life through the depiction of Jay Gatsby’s intense love for Daisy Buchanan. Right before Nick departs from New York City, he returns to Gatsby’s house and walks out onto the deck for one last time:
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…and one fine morning–. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past (193)
This scene not only represents how Gatsby lived his life, but why his life ended as it did. Gatsby tried to take his past and make it his present. However, that is not how time works. The words “he did not know that it was already behind him” sum up Gatsby’s reality. Because he and Daisy were in love before he left for the war, Gatsby thought she would pause her time to wait for him. Even more so, the only reason he bought the house he lived in was because its dock was directly across from the green light, which was at the end of Daisy’s dock. Gatsby’s “dream” of grabbing the green light is a metaphor for grabbing Daisy back into his life. Even though the green light is across the bay from him, and even though he reaches out for the light everyday, he can never grab it. Thus, he can never ‘grab’ Daisy back into his life like he wants. Earlier in the novel, Daisy tries to tell Gatsby this when she says: “Oh, you want too much… I love you now – isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past” (141-142). Daisy implores that even though she still loves Gatsby, she is married to Tom and that will not change. Daisy is trying to let Gatsby down easy, as her words “I can’t help what’s past” signal that she did enjoy her past, but that her present and future existence includes being with Tom, not Gatsby. Nonetheless, Gatsby continues to try and win Daisy over. In fact, Daisy’s poor driving is what leads to Gatsby’s death. Gatsby died trying to recreate his past. The line “so we beat on, boats against the current” compares humans in boats on the sea to humans and time. Additionally, it symbolizes Gatsby’s position in the world. As the open waters wait for no one, neither does time. Gatsby, with all his wealth and connections, thought he could break that concept, but nonetheless he could not. Thus, as Gatsby tried to win back his past, the present sped past him, leaving him in the dust. Daisy knew this. Nick knew this. Gatsby did not, and that is why he died.
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