Flashback To A Holy Grail:
But something unexpected happened: instead of taking Daisy and forgetting her, he had found that she became, for him, a total definition of value - self-value no less than ego-value. He had begun to love Daisy like a man "committed . . . to the following of a grail": and from that moment Jay Gatsby conceived of the mysterious world of wealth as itself a magical ideal of perfection and purity.
Nick's Judgment Of Gatsby:
As Nick says good-bye to Gatsby, he senses the core of idealism at the heart of his vulgar ostentation and indeed remarks on the "incorruptible dream" shaping the nature of Gatsby's material corruption.
In the final analysis it is Jay Gatsby who tried to keep some sort of spiritual value alive in the moral "ashheap" ruled by the Buchanans.
The Death Of Gatsby:
Gatsby's death, like his life, is the product of an illusion; Wilson's death, like his life, is the product of misplaced faith and a love which-in the Wasteland-can achieve no greater dignity than hysteria.
The last chapter of The Great Gatsby actually serves as an epilogue, a final comment on the futility and emptiness of all that James Gatz-the dreaming Minnesota adolescent-had "succeeded" in accomplishing.
It is Gatsby's father, however-a bedraggled little man from a little town in Minnesota-who provides the final note of pathos. In New York for Gatsby's funeral, Henry C. Gatz sadly tells Nick that his son could have been "a great man." And indeed he could-given a different purpose to his life, or rather, given a world where dreams need not be confused with reality, and where material acquisition and material display need not be elevated into some sort of pseudo-spiritual "happiness."
Gatsby As Symbol:
For the central truth about Jay Gatsby was that he was a knight-errant devoting himself to a pilgrimage in which the only "Jerusalem" is the moral and spiritual vacuum represented by Daisy Buchanan; he was, indeed, a Sir Lancelot of epic resources, faced with a world in which the Holy Grail had been reduced to a blinking neon light.
The "American Dream" Wasted:
Self protection, like self-indulgence, is the only absolute commandment which the Buchanans, kings and inhabitants of the Wasteland, can possibly recognize. "Careless" with the power that comes with wealth; completely self-centered with the total egotism of moral primitives, people like Daisy and Tom "smashed things up...and let other people clean up the mess they had made."
Retreat To The Past:
Ultimately, it is the "capacity for wonder" and devotion to an ideal which had made America great; and it is the loss of this "wonder," and the degradation of the ideal, which had turned the "green land" to the ashheaps of Doctor Eckleburg. Nick understands all too well that the story of Jay Gatsby represents far more than the fate of a poor boy who had tried to get enough money to marry his "true love." For the story of Gatsby is also the story of wonder, and power, and devotion, turned into instruments of a machine of false values, a machine which first spawns and then eats its own children, and exists for no other purpose than its own digestion.
Such is the world which had destroyed "Jay Gatsby" - a senseless arrangement of vulgar appetites in which motion has replaced direction, impulse has replaced moral choice, and "love" has become little more than a process of mutual cannibalism. And the tragedy of the book is that Nick's return to the Mid-west is, in a profound sense, less a hope for America's future, than a retreat into America's past. The Structure Of The Great Gatsby:
In The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald succeeded in achieving a certain "disassociation of sensibility" by structuring his book so that both the "Gatsby" part of himself and that other part-the firm part of his own moral and intellectual being-would complement rather than dilute each other. Using the device of a "dual hero" - that is, a first-person narrator who himself represents one aspect of Fitzgerald's moral vision, he created a work which is both more and less "autobiographical" than his earlier books.
If Jay Gatsby represents still another dramatization of the false dream of money which fascinated Fitzgerald throughout his career, it is Nick Carroway who represents an assertion of the traditional strengths which had made America great. By filtering the story of Jay Gatsby through the narrative of Nick Carroway, Fitzgerald not only defines what "The American Dream" had become, but what it could have been - and, perhaps, what at one time it actually was.
With The Great Gatsby, at any rate, F. Scott Fitzgerald produced one of the "small" masterpieces of American literature. Using the methods of impressionism and symbolic narrative rather than documentary realism, he succeeded in defining not only essential qualities of his own age, but in producing a tribute-ironic, perhaps, but nevertheless a tribute-to the basically idealistic vision of American material power. Whether this tribute must also be considered an epitaph, is not for us to say.