Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Do I think Gatsby is a hero?

John Green has a great video about the first 6 chapters of The Great Gatsby. He calls for viewers to answer the question "Is Gatsby a hero?" in the comments section. Boy did I run out of space on that fast.

Long answer: Gatsby is most definitely on a quest. Nick at one point says he "found he had committed himself to the following of a grail." The Holy Grail is an interesting symbol for the American Dream, as is Daisy: the Grail is of course an object of spiritual value, (Hello! it's "Holy"), but it also holds great monetary value (at least it was believed to be all gold & jewelly until Indiana Jones’ Last Crusade came along). Similarly, Daisy can be seen as a valuable object (she's filthy rich, & every guy seems to want to possess her with the possible exception of her cousin), but there is also an intangible something about her that transcends all that. 
The knight who would seek the Grail had to be pure of heart. Nick makes this comparison because he sees something pure & innocent in Gatsby, even though that innocence might just be his incredible naivete in believing that he could ever be part of that “old money” society. I think Gatsby & Nick both saw something spiritual in that dream, the way the American Dream is so often talked about in noble terms (no matter where you come from, you can achieve greatness if you try hard enough) when on another level it’s just as Eddie Izzard described: get all the money in the world, stick it in your ears & go PHTHHHHHH!!
So the question really is: Do we agree with Nick?
I think I do. It’s really hard for me to argue with a narrator, no matter how hard I try.

Short answer: Yes. I should have said that first & saved you the TL;DR.

Counter question: Did The Catcher in the Rye make oblique references to Gatsby? (Hint: the answer is yes. Because I think so, and I’m the teacher. Nyah.)