14 March 2010
A Word, Old Sport?
How to sum up a book like The Great Gatsby in a single word? I picked the word forgotten, I think. I can’t really remember. If I had the ability to choose a word that wasn’t in the last chapter, however, I would have picked disappointment. Everyone had expectations in that novel, and none of the expectations were met. Daisy hoped for a more romantic, satisfying marriage, which she wasn’t able to find with Tom or Gatsby. Tom just wanted an overall more satisfying life, but life couldn’t keep escalading after his triumphs in college. He peaked in college, and, while that must have been great, he was only set up for a life of disappointment. Myrtle just wanted Tom. Myrtle’s husband just wanted Myrtle. Jordan wanted Nick, and Nick wanted meaning. Nick wanted Gatsby to be happy; he wanted all of Gatsby’s sacrifice to pay off in the end. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. Gatsby actually didn’t experience the most disappointment at all. While that idea might seem completely incorrect, a little thought must be applied.
Every single other character, except Myrtle, had to keep living. Myrtle suffered her greatest disappointment when she thought she saw Tom with Daisy. She had already been wallowing in disappointment at the fact that Tom wouldn’t leave Daisy for her. While we as the readers, and probably most of the other characters in the novel, knew that Gatsby and Daisy were over, he was never fully aware of that idea. He was killed in the midst of being disappointed. He never lived to see Daisy leave him; Gatsby still had the bliss of ignorance and hope that somehow Daisy would return. Gatsby didn’t have to watch as no one showed up to his funeral. Nick and Gatsby’s father had to, however.
I would actually argue that Nick suffered the most disappointment out of anyone in the entire novel. I believe the reason for his suffering was that he cared more than any of the other characters knew how to care. All of the other characters only focused on what they wanted for themselves. Nick was the character that, while still searching for meaning and love in his own life, focused on the happiness and wellbeing of the other characters. It was as if Nick was the only one that had the ability to care and, as a result, carried the weight of his disappointments, everyone else’s disappointments, and an isolated feeling.
Gatsby dying even left more on poor Nick’s shoulders. Already having to adjust under the added disappointment of his friend dying, Nick had to arrange Gatsby’s whole funeral. He had to put in all the effort to locate all of Gatsby’s so-called friends only to turn up fruitless. He had to watch all of his efforts go to waste as no one showed up. He also had to bear the weight of sorrow and sadness for everyone that should have been there but wasn’t. Nick had to feel bad for Gatsby on top of all of that.
Nick had to be the grownup that no one else was willing to be.