Fitzgerald explores different kinds of love. There is a love for social fame, materialistic love, a love of wealth, success, life and finally a love for one another whether it be through friendship or otherwise.
It begins with a love of belonging. Fitzgerald begins with Nick Carraway cynically reflecting on human nature, how we are indeed an animalistic society beneath our veneer of dignity. His first sense of belonging seemed to open up a love in his heart, perhaps this love was shared by his fellow Americans, there seemed to be hints that even the wealthy needed reassurance they belonged.
The American dream is about establishing a sense of history and a sense of belonging. “….some man, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road…I was a guide…an original settler.” Nick as despising of the superficial society as he may be, was just another man wandering the land of opportunity looking to belong.
This leads to a love of attention displayed by Fitzgerald. Even Nick is subject to the craving of attention. A lust for stardom is portrayed by many characters in the novel. This becomes most obvious at Gatsby’s party when several individuals are described almost as circus acts as they perform to a self-praising crowd “A pair of stage twins….did a baby act in costume”. It appears the substance of their act is irrelevant, as long as they receive attention they are uncaring to the type of attention they receive. Their demeaning actions of conduct are somewhat pitiful; they are prepared to throw away their dignity just to get attention.
It is also clear that Daisy and Tom have developed a love of social status and the attention that accompanies it. “Do they miss me?” “”Look!” She complained “I hurt it.”” Perhaps they need attention in order to feel purposeful. When out of the spot light they (especially Tom) become “restless”. Despite this emptiness and lack of meaning to the purpose of the attention it seems a vital part of their lives.
This generation seemed to have a craving to be loved even if it is through superficial terms. Tom seems to enjoy gaining social superiority through “white supremacy” despite his opinion being blinkered, racist and arrogant Tom seems to seek comfort in this hollow social status.
Continually, this wild, extravagant and showy generation have also seemed to develop a love of status. This becomes apparent during the party at the apartment. Myrtle states “these people, you have to keep after them all the time.” She gives herself status However Myrtle Wilson is nobody. She lives in the “valley of ashes” with her “grey” husband and unsuccessful life. She basks in the opportunity of gaining some status with Tom at her side. This is also shown when Myrtle describes her first encounter with Tom “He had on a dress suit and patent leather shoes, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off him…his white shirt-front pressed against my arm…” By mentioning his clothing it suggests that she is very shallow and superficial especially when it comes to what makes a “gentleman”. It seems not who the person truly is but who their facade shows them to be that is important to Myrtle. “Soft-voiced girls, who were brought up on memories instead of money” this is contrast to the women portrayed by Fitzgerald. In The Ice Palace the women have much different values. They appreciate real things and build their loves without façades.
Fitzgerald portrays this again with Gatsby’s love of the idea of having Daisy, not in love with Daisy herself “It excited him, too, that many men had already loved Daisy – it increased her value in his eyes. Again this is emphasising that it isn’t about loving a person for their character but for their price in society.
Tom, Daisy and Gatsby all seem lost in fortune; in insecure wealth. “it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy” pretending to be something it is not. They are not true to themselves, this facade they create from their wealth just reminds of their insecurity to be who they really are.
The elite that Nick found himself amongst lived this fantasy life, however their wealth seemed to give them a love of materialistic things. It appeared their hollow lives needed to be filled with something, like endless inanimate objects with no real meaning.
Lavish parties, wild thrills and a lack of consequence all seem to be ravished. Perhaps this attitude has developed since the war. After the bleakness of the war’s depression they have chosen to reinvent themselves, to forget those times of hardship, to live a little.
Gatsby’s over populated parties’ show how different generations collaborated to have a good time but were oblivious and uncaring of the people they use and step on along the way. “The whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” Their only contact with Gatsby is for selfish reasons and for their own indulgence. They never communicate with him other than to use him.
Fitzgerald’s portrayal of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg is a prime example of a love of power. Although only a billboard ad, his representation shows his “high” power (both literally and metaphorically) over a forgotten suburban wasteland.
T.J. Eckleburg watches over this “valley of ashes” with what seems a kind of authoritative pleasure. The irony is his spectacles enable him to see clearly this morbid, unsuccessful place. The fact that he is advertising presumably an opticians suggests he is inviting the ashen men to see clearly also but they are stuck in this “solemn dumping ground” and have lost all sight of dreams, success and love; blinded by the pursuit of material wealth which eludes them.
Following on from this within the “valley of ashes” there seems to be some forms of natural adoration. George Wilson clearly worships Myrtle, it seems despite his lack of status and lack of wealth he tries to please Myrtle as best he can ““Oh, sure,” agreed Wilson hurriedly”. It seems that he is not blinded by fortune and superficialities but feels emotions honestly and purely. Yet his love is submissive, self sacrificing, that certainly doesn’t seem to bring him much joy.
There is a sense of Gatsby blinded by love. It seems Gatsby is totally in love with the girl he met before the war, but it seems he is more in love with the idea of Daisy rather than the real person. For so long he has built on the dream of having her again but his dreams have grown so much it is impossible for Daisy to be enough to satisfy his dream “Daisy tumbled short of his dreams – not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion.” Gatsby is clearly insecure about himself, it appears he feels only superficialities can buy Daisy’s love “He’s afraid, he’s waited so long……. he wants her to see his house.” He doesn’t think himself good enough for Daisy, perhaps because of the truth behind the man he really is? It seems dreams are the only thing to keep happiness in the 1920’s “there are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.” But what happens to the love of dreams when those dreams become unrealistic? Gatsby it seems suffered heartache because his love of the idea of Daisy became unreachable.
Continuing the idea of emptiness after a dream has been reached and the love of pursuing has died.
The image of Gatsby’s house being “like the World’s Fair” seemed proof that Gatsby was trying to attract attention. As if in the 20’s commercial boom, Gatsby (like the business man he is) feels the need to “sell” himself, as he doesn’t feel it is enough to be himself, he must disguise James Gatz with this facade commercial indulgers will accept. Perhaps he loved the thought that if he could see Daisy’s light at the end of her dock across the bay, maybe she would notice his house blazing with light. His wealthy allure he may feel can buy Daisy’s love. “It looks like such a circus” whilst Sally Carol longed to experience the wildness and freedom of the city, she seems to acknowledge the chaos that it brings. Just like Gatsby’s house, fully of wild, chaotic parties.
His love for Daisy shines through upon their meeting at Nick’s home. “we haven’t met for many years,” said Daisy
“Five years next November.” It seems Gatsby feels so intensely for Daisy, he remembers every detail.
However it is clear Daisy feels more than just love to see him again, “….her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of her unexpected joy.” Perhaps Daisy thought she would never be happy again, she remembers happy memories spent with Gatsby, memories she does not share with Tom. Fitzgerald shows the heartache Daisy suffers is not from loving too much but more regret in being too weak to follow her heart. As though the social pressures she receives from her family, friends, acquaintances etc are too high to sacrifice for a man they would not approve of. The expectations of her are too high, she feels trapped yet the risk losing her social security by freeing herself worry her too much. “she kissed him until the sky seemed to fade out and all her smiles and tears to vanish in an ecstasy of eternal seconds” This is reflective of the portrayal of love by Fitzgerald as this shows there was no emotion in the act of love.
Daisy appears to want to return to Gatsby, “..There were romantic possibilities totally absent from her world…” perhaps an indication he has reignited her feelings for him. Her relationship with Tom is clearly devoid of “romantic possibilities”. It is, it seems, founded on much more pragmatic, materialistic values. It is what is expected of her that draws her away, her socially acceptable husband and high status life.
Fitzgerald portrays the pavement as a set of steps; “Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalk really formed a ladder…” Fitzgerald may have chosen to include this as a reflection of the “ladder of love” as created by Plato. Plato’s ladder of love states a lover progresses from rung to rung from the basest love to the pure form of love. These rungs are: A beautiful body, All beautiful bodies (this beautiful body is not original, it is shared by everyone), Beautiful souls, The beauty of laws and institutions, The beauty of knowledge, Beauty itself (Plato describes this level of love as a “wondrous vision,” an “everlasting loveliness which neither comes nor ages, which neither flowers nor fades.”). Perhaps this ladder is a cogitation of Gatsby’s love for Daisy. He recognizes her beauty but he needs to complete all steps if he is to have Daisy, not his dream of Daisy.
Fitzgerald’s reference to Trimalchio the Greek philosopher reflects love of dedication and love of wealth. Trimalchio has parallels with Gatsby’s showy parties and background. These parallels could also be interpreted as throughout history there has been greed and a love for wealth, whether it be 1st century AD or the 1920’s.
Gatsby is fighting for his dream, he is desperate to rekindle his perfect future with Daisy “..both of us loved each other all that time….just tell him the truth that you never loved him – and it’s all wiped out forever” It seems Fitzgerald has portrayed Gatsby so blinded by his dream, he cannot see that the past cannot be rewritten, he doesn’t understand that Daisy can’t undo the memories shared with Tom and her daughter; proof that she must have once loved Tom. Tom is also involved in this battle for Daisy’s love; however Tom is battling for power. He claims to have loved daisy and appears to show worry at the thought of her leaving him however his battle focuses solely on “one-upmanship” and his power over keeping Daisy as his wife “Once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself but I always come back and in my heart I love her all the time.” Fitzgerald has made Tom show emotion towards Daisy for one of the first times in the novel, this may be Fitzgerald exposing Tom’s manipulative tactics over maintaining power.
The end of the novel portrays a powerful philosophical message, one that opens one’s eyes to the things that really matter. It shows the reader that perhaps they are all just victims of wealth. Fitzgerald displays that nothing is lasting and life goes on. “so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” We are constantly fighting to move on with life, to continue towards our future, while simultaneously trying to let go of the past. Gatsby’s lifelong journey to transcend his past was ultimately ineffectual, as a reflection of many who have tried to reach the American dream. The Ice Palace also reflects this; “she cries with delirious, unrestrained passion- Tomorrow! Tomorrow! Tomorrow!” We still hold on to the hope that tomorrow is a new beginning full of the promises of achieving our dream; whatever it may be. The powerful moral maxim we are left with is one should never give up on what they truly believe in; what they truly want. Dreams are what keep us going, without them what do we have?