“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”
-Henry David Thoreau
An essay on the relationship between this quote from Thoreau and Jay Gatsby:
The pursuit of one’s dreams and the fulfillment of such visions through confidence and determination is displayed through Jay Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. As Thoreau describes in his quote, it is the confident advancement toward a dream that leads one in pursuit of the desired goal, regardless of what may stand in his or her way. This can be seen by the colorful personality that is the great Jay Gatsby, for it seems as though he will indeed stop at nothing to turn the life he has imagined with his love Daisy into reality, and to meet with what Thoreau describes as “success unexpected in common hours.” The quotation hints that to chase a dream, to devote all of one’s being into seeing that dream accomplished, should not be inhibited by anyone or anything, but instead by ignoring those obstacles and pushing on towards what is desired. Jay Gatsby, in all his splendor and riches, is missing but one thing from his life: his true love Daisy. He ceased at nothing to see this dream realized, and this devotion towards his splendid visions is what ultimately lead to the collapse of everything, and the death of himself and his dream. The determined character Jay Gatsby relates to the Thoreau quotation because of his dream to win over his love Daisy and his confidence that carried him to partial success in the end.
It is against all odds that Jay Gatsby advances toward his dream of returning with Daisy. It is not only restricted by a marriage that is watched over by Tom Buchanan like a fierce hound, but also the confusion and indecision of Daisy. To return to the days before the war Gatsby served in, he is convinced that the only way to fix their relationship is by changing the past, a feat that is impossible, but not to the confident Jay Gatsby. For example, when Nick tries to explain to Gatsby that one cannot simply change the past, he cried “Can’t repeat the past? […] Why, of course you can!” (Fitzgerald 116). It is with this attitude that Gatsby pursues his dream. What, after all, are the laws and rules on which the universe is founded upon to a man such as Gatsby if these restrictions stand in his way? To reverse the past, to Gatsby, is a little price to pay to win back Daisy and pry her from the hands of the monster that is Tom Buchanan. The riches Gatsby has acquired leave nothing but moral and social obstacles to overcome, and even those are belittled by the ever-advancing Jay Gatsby. The toughest mental obstacle, however, lies not within the mind of Gatsby, but within the mind of his love. Daisy is as conflicted as anyone else, and Gatsby knows that if he ever has a chance of winning her love, he has to go above and beyond to trump anything Tom throws at him. Having a clear field of view into how he wants his future to unfold, Gatsby practically devotes his life to accomplishing the mission of getting Daisy back.
After losing Daisy due to being drafted into the war, Gatsby is mortified to find that Daisy, the love of his life, has been married to another man. The plans toward Gatsby’s dream start here, and the path he travels to win Daisy back is one of mysterious wealth. The first step to his plan is revealed to Nick by Jordan when she says: “Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay” (Fitzgerald 83), and furthermore uncovered when she asked of him Gatsby’s request: “He wants to know if you’ll invite Daisy to your house some afternoon and then let him come over” (83). All of this wealth and success leads up to this one chance Gatsby gets through Nick, and being especially lucky that Nick happens to be a relative of Daisy, this makes it the perfect plan. It is curious that all of this time and money spent into this one chance is seized not only in a humble manner, but also in an indirect and almost sneaky way, as if he wants to make his intentions as subtle as possible. These subtle actions are counteracted, however, when he finally gets Daisy to his house and shows her the splendor of his wealth, hoping that is supersedes the grandeur of Tom’s. It is then that Gatsby realizes that his dream may finally be coming true, that all of the confidence and determination with which he advanced through life with is finally paying off, and he may finally start anew with his true love. However, despite the long and weary path Gatsby travelled to witness his goal almost realized, fate ushered in a series of unfortunate events that lead to an unanswered phone call from Daisy, a dead Gatsby, and a dream just on the brink of realization.
The quotation from Thoreau displays the life and dreams of Jay Gatsby, but with one arguable flaw. The quotation suggests that if one does all that Gatsby did, such as essentially devote one’s entire life to a dream, that he or she should find success. It can be argued that Gatsby’s success was waiting for him at the other end of the phone line that one afternoon while he swam, but he never gained a complete and final sense of fulfillment due to his death. It is his death that slays the dream, and had it not been for that bullet from the delusional George Wilson, Gatsby may have sealed the deal with what he had been after all along. Nick states that “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” (189). Gatsby may have succeeded in grasping this dream, but the grasp of a finger on a trigger stopped this reach Gatsby had always taken, and just before Gatsby’s hand closed on his vision, it was all ruined. So, although “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us” (189) it did not matter if he could “run faster” (189) or “stretch out [his] arms farther” (189) because although the dream was within Gatsby’s grasp, he could not manage to close his hand.
Works cited for this paper: Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby: The Authorized Text. New York: Scribner, 1953. Print.
Hope you enjoyed, and any criticism is welcomed 🙂