The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Page 7 of 25   -   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25   Purchase full notes for £6.95 (aprox $10.84)

Once he returns from his own war in Europe everything he does is motivated by his grand scheme of reuniting himself to Daisy, the love of his life. He dreams of her and longs for her, and strives to overcomes every obstacle that comes in his way so that he can recover the love they once shared. In a nutshell, he casts her as his Penelope in the fiction of his life. She is the whole object of his ‘voyage’, and he aims to rescue her from Tom Buchanan, the wicked Antinous, who has usurped his role as Daisy’s true husband. That is the reason, for example, why it is so vital to Gatsby that Daisy ‘never loved’ Tom (138). His ‘Penelope’ must be perfectly and inviolably faithful. His tragedy is, of course, that Daisy – even if she had at one time the potential to be his Penelope – is, by now, no Penelope at all, but has become, instead, a dangerous and fatal Siren for him – a point Fitzgerald makes again and again in his resonant descriptions of her voice as an enchanting and bewitching song. Indeed, her Siren voice is all the reader ever really learns about Daisy as a physical entity, so that while Nick reveals, for example, that Tom is fair-haired and that Jordan has ‘grey sun-strained eyes’ (17), the reader does not even know whether Daisy is a brunette, a blonde or a red-head! The Homeric Odysseus had himself strapped to the mast of his boat so that he could hear the Sirens’ singing and not be lured to his death; Gatsby hears Daisy’s magical voice unprotected, and, in a grim parody of the old story, ends up being murdered in his swimming pool. It is fascinating to see the rich ambiguities inherent in James Joyce’s portrayal of Leopold and Molly Bloom as Odysseus and Penelope being revisited again in Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.

Gatsby himself epitomises the ‘distortion’ that affects the Mid-Western mind when it is tempted by the ‘green light, the orgiastic future’ of the East Coast, and at the heart of this distortion is the ambiguity surrounding Daisy, whose role in the book encompasses both faithful Penelope (in Gatsby’s mind) and deadly Siren (in Fitzgerald’s ‘reality’). In fact, this very ambiguity is at the heart of her attractiveness as a femme fatale , and exactly the same point can be made about Gatsby himself. He, too, has the ‘glamour of ambiguity’ about him: his magical smile ‘has a quality of eternal reassurance in it’ (54) and Nick extemporises upon this smile for a whole paragraph with something approaching wonder. However, there is another repeatedly described facial expression associated with Gatsby – an ‘unfamiliar yet recognizable look’ (140) – that the reader may well suspect relates to his criminal activities, and which is all but opaque to Nick. The perennial uncertainty he and, vicariously, the reader feel about Gatsby is an essential element in what makes him fascinating as a character: it is all part and parcel of his ‘glamour’ and his ‘greatness’.

previous     next
Purchase full notes for £6.95 (aprox $10.84)

F. Scott Fitzgerald
the Unkindness of Ravens If you have found our critical notes helpful, why not try the first Tower Notes novel, a historical fantasy set in the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

Available HERE where you can read the opening chapters.

The Unkindness of Ravens by Anthony Paul