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The Past Is Deadly

In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby, the character, Jay Gatbsy, is mentally and emotionally stuck in an idealistic past where he is in love with a character he desires deeply throughout the novel. His attachment to Daisy and his relationship with the past, results in a fatal ending. Since Gatsby has held on to the same mindset for five years, he expects Daisy to have done the same. He receives a rude awakening when he expects Daisy to tell Tom she does not love him anymore. Gatsby can not accept the fact that Daisy has moved on because he has dedicated his life to getting her back for five years. This dedication is his relationship with the past. The outcome of Gatsby's unrelenting efforts to acquire Daisy and repeat his idealized past proves that loving and living in the past will eventually lead to tragedy, as Fitgerald intended.
As a young soldier serving in the Third Division during World War I, Jay Gatsby aspires to be rich and successful. When he falls in love with Daisy and wants to marry her, he realizes that he needs to be rich in order for her to accept his proposal. Gatsby dedicates the next five years to making money through questionable business practices and buys a mansion across from Daisy's. Nick, the narrator of the novel attends one of Gatsby's extravagant parties and quickly learns that the reason that Gatsby throws the parties is because "he half expected her [Daisy] to wander into one of his parties, one night" (pg 79). Fitzgerald emphasizes that Gatsby has chased after Daisy for 5 years and that has become his sole purpose in life. Gatsby has everything planned out for when he meets Daisy and "he wants her to see his house"(pg79). He bought a mansion in order for Daisy to realize that he finally fits her standards and she can marry him. Gatsby is a strong-willed man who demands that everything works out the right way just to impress Daisy. This personality trait is observed when Gatsby sends his men over to cut Nick's grass and makes the garden look presentable so that Daisy can see Gatsby's house just next door.
As Gatsby and Daisy rekindle their love affair, Gatsby finally realizes that he is achieving his dream. "Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her" (pg 93). Once Gatsby is sitting right next to Daisy, he forgets about the five years that will eventually ruin him. Daisy is a mother and a wife with a successful husband. Gatsby is blind to the fact that she won't throw all of it away to be with him, no matter how successful he becomes. He visualizes the past and believes he and Daisy are the same people who fell in love with each other five years ago. After their encounter, Gatsby devises a plan in which he insists he is "going to fix everything just the way it was before"(pg 110). When Nick warns Gatsby that he can't repeat the past, Gatsby brushes him off and the five years separating him from Daisy.
Gatsby's expectations are based on "ideal" events that have taken place in the past. He's obsessed with the Daisy that he met and not the one he knows now. As a person with an idealistic view of the world would do, he looks past the new Daisy and lives with the old one. However, the changes that have taken place in five years catch up to him. "There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams-not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion" (pg94). For years, Gatsby has idealized and prepared for the moment he meets Daisy extensively. By placing this moment on a high pedestal, Gatsby allows for his own disappointment. He wants to repeat the first moments he has with Daisy perfectly because he believes they are the key to making Daisy fall in with him again. Fitzgerald emphasizes that Gatsby leads to his own downfall by holding on to the past. The "colossal vitality of his illusion" has become the murder weapon waiting to kill him.
After Gatsby's death, Daisy moves on and away with her husband, Tom Buchanan. She has already moved forward and avoids creating a relationship with the past, unlike Gatsby. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past" (pg 180). Fitzgerald emphasizes that all the other characters in the book have moved on after Gatsby's death. Years after Gatsby, the characters in the novel are living their daily lives and they "beat on". However, aspects of the past constantly come back to remind them that they can't completely move on. The memory of Gatsby is the "current" pushing them back into the past. The fight they are willing to put up against the current is what will determine their success in reaching the future. When the characters allow themselves to be "borne back" into the past they will become Jay Gatsby. Therefore, the fear of falling backwards has given them incentive to "beat on". I have used samples found on They have a rich database of rhetorical analysis topics list. I used them to do my own papers.