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Gatsby as God?

February 09, 2005

"Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder."

Through my recent reading of Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby", I was struck by the image of the Great Gatsby as a mythic creature. Here is this guy living in a fancy-schmancy mansion throwing these extravagant bashes for New York's finest, and no one really has any idea who this guy is. You know, just like god?

Everyone is either drawn to Gatsby or repelled by him, but everyone's talking about him and only Nick Carraway seems to really question who he is, at least until the reporter shows up. Everyone has his or her own opinion about who God-Gatsby really is and doesn't think twice about sharing his/her views with any one else. He gets phone calls not from people but from places (Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit) as if the world can't function without God-Gatsby to keep it all going, individual cities phoning in their prayers.

"Who is he?" Nick Carraway asks in Chapter 3. "Do you know?" He hears the rumors about Gatsby which serves to picque his interest. Fitzgerald writes, "I would have accepted without question the information that Gatsby sprang from the swamps of Louisiana or from the lower East Side of New York. That was comprehensible. But young men didn't - at least in my provincial inexperience I believed they didn't - drift coolly out of nowhere and buy a palace on Long Island Sound." And, yet, that is exactly what the Great Gatsby did.

Gatsby is often pictured as separate from, and above, the others around him. Even the words describing him seem almost mythic in intent. Some examples:

"It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life."

"... my eyes fell on Gatsby, standing alone on the marble steps and looking from one group to another with approving eyes."

"... but no one swooned backward on Gatsby, and no French bob touched Gatsby's shouldner, and no singing quartets were formed with Gatsby's head for one link."

"The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception (immaculate conception, anyone?) of himself. He was a son of God - a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that - and he must be about His Father's business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty."


"On Sunday morning while church bells rang in the villages alongshore, the world and its mistress returned to Gatsby's house and twinkled hilariously on his lawn."

Even God-Gatsy himself speaks on the matter:

"'ll tell you God's truth.' His right hand suddenly ordered divine retribution to stand by."

"It was a great relief, and I tried very hard to die, but I seemed to bear an enchanted life."

The Great Gatsby is so powerful that even the police cower before him. Just a wave of his magic wand (in the form of a Christmas card from the commissioner) sends the police officer scurrying away.

Gatsby can even change the past!

"You can't repeat the past," says Nick Carraway.

"Can't repeat the past?" he (Gatsby) cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!"

Not only does Gatsby exude the power of god, his friends are powerful beings as well! Why, one of his friends *fixed* the World Series of 1919!

Gatsby can disappear into thin air, proving that he is but an apparition:

"I turned toward Mr. Gatsby, but he was no longer there."

Even physical descriptions of Gatsby are god-like in nature:

"He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room."

"An hour later the front door opened nervously, and Gatsby in a white flannel suit, silver shirt, and gold-colored tie, hurried in."

White is the color of purity, silver is traditionally associated with the feminine aspects of divinity, gold with the masculine. Gatsby embodies all these things.

Gatsby -is- God. Yeah.

Moira at 06:50 PM :: Comments (0) :: ::
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