i'm just a literary tease, my reputation's on its knees.

The Uncertainty of Reality

March 01, 2005

A few things struck me about Laura Barrett's " 'Material Without Being Real': Photography and the End of Reality in The Great Gatsby" :

First, I found the tidbit about Fitzgerald working at an advertising firm interesting! I also liked the fact that he had written an essay suggesting a way to advertise his next book. I'm all about some guerilla marketing!

Second, this sentence:

"Clearing, the most glaring example of Nick's characteristic ambivalence is his oblique reference to a sexual encounter with Chester McKee at the end of chapter. So veiled and indirect is the episode that most readers barely notice it."

How interesting! I -had- actually noted this passage and meant to ask about it in class, but I ended up getting so distracted by all the Gatsby as God stuff that I completely forgot about that vague reference. I'm glad that's been cleared up!

This article talks about the society at large as compared with Fitzgerald's work. It is fascinating to think of the connection between advertising at its peak vs. the reality of life - what is real? how the heck can anyone know? we really are subjected to a constant flow of images from various forms of media that reality is impossible to discern.

Barrett notes that in the 1920's "producers recognized the merchandising windfall in planted gossip" - now reality has been distorted even further because the powers that be have seen big bucks in falsification. Barrett writes, "Given this superfluity of representative imagery, it is no wonder that Daniel J. Boorstin suggests that 'reality' is an endangered concept in American society." Heck, I'd go so far as to argue that reality is non-existent.

The majority of people's conversations center around television programs or sports game starring characters with whom most people don't have face-to-face interactions - is this reality? People live their lives trying to look like the models on the covers of magazines - is this reality? Surely not... but what is real?

Finally, the mention of the Heisenberg Principle caught my eye:


Have you read anything about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle? It's pretty darn nifty! Basically, it says that the mere act of trying to observe an event changes the outcome of the event. Scientists first noticed the principle when observing electron paths - the expectations of the scientists changed the outcome. What's really interesting about this all are the implications thereof - Read more here

I read about the principle in a fabulous book called The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I found this site which summarizes the main points.

So how the heck does this relate to The Great Gatsby???

Meaning is valid only to the observer of an event - reality is in the eyes of the beholder, I suppose you could say. And, what you expect is what you get... Gatsby creates his own world and invites within the inhabitants of West Egg. Gatsby is secretly a master of Quantum physics! (plus he's God! cool!)

Moira at 05:43 PM :: Comments (2) :: ::

Hey, thanks for the new insights. I am teaching this novel and anything different really helps keep it interesting. I have a few comments on the Gatsby as God idea, but I'll save them for over coffee. What chapter is the McKee reference in? And what is your new email address...I can't get through on chaoschaosgirl.

Posted by: Melany at March 3, 2005 07:55 AM

Glad you found it helpful! The McKee reference is at the end of Chapter 2.

Posted by: moira at March 3, 2005 09:59 AM
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