The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is certainly one of my favorite books. As a matter of fact, in July of 2000 and again in November of 2021, when I had to pack up my entire life to start again in a new dimension, this copy of Gatsby was the only book I brought with me. I even gave this book to someone as a gift in July of 2019, but it found its way back to my bookshelf somehow. There is just something about Gatsby and this book, the story, that resonates with lost souls like mine. Sad, but true.
This is from the back cover: A moving portrayal of the power of romantic imagination, as well as the pathos and courage entailed in the pursuit of an unattainable dream, The Great Gatsby is a classic story of hope and disillusion.
Hope and disillusion. I have learned so much, through experience, about hope and disillusion in the last couple years. Now I come back to Gatsby with a deeper understanding and empathy. The power of romantic imagination, the pathos and courage entailed in the pursuit of an unattainable dream. I feel I've been living that story for some time, now. Gatsby escaped it, tragically. But maybe he was the fortunate one.

Some time ago, I was trying to write a short story with another writer. Her story was about high school pen pals getting to know each other. For some reason, she asked me to write a chapter about Gatsby. Here it is:

Chapter whatever,

Dear Angela,
Thanks so much for your last letter. Your English is really improving! But, of course, I liked the photos best. I can’t stop looking at them….at you. I won’t embarrass you with more of those pathetic attempts at poetry I sent last time, but I have to say, you are hot as fuck and please send some more pictures, please, please, please.
OK, so you have asked me to help you with your study of The Great Gatsby. It really is a classic, if not THE classic American novel. When American writers talk about writing the “great American novel” they mean writing something like The Great Gatsby. It had such a huge impact on American literature because it is such an American novel. Gatsby is just SO American, and I’ll try to explain what I mean by that, but first, back to the influence of the novel, because in my case, one of my favorite books (until I grew up and read Moby Dick) is The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. A friend of my mom gave me this book when I was 13 and I think I’ve read it 20 times since then, and sometimes just open the book up to reread certain parts. Salinger’s writing style, the way he just completely captured the thoughts and tone of a cynical, troubled teenager, good ol’ Holden Caufield and his disgust with the phony world around him, just completely hooked me, and from that point on, many of the books I chose were just attempts to find something like The Catcher in the Rye. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is fairly close to this style of very American free-style, stream of consciousness writing, and the characters are very similar…though Kerouac is writing about men, they are still very much stunted Holden Caufields, like so many men.
So, that’s the first thing I like about Gatsby, the writing style is very light and flowing prose and the voice of the narrator, Nick, is insightful, informal and a bit detached and cynical about the events swirling around him. But that lightness belies what is truly some very deep and dark impressions and interpretations. F. Scott Fitzgerald knew what he was doing. Like so many writers of that time, he was influenced by T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Wasteland, which I find almost too deep and impenetrable, but I just mean to say that as light and free flowing Fitzgerald’s prose can be, there are also some obviously very poetic passages that carry meaning between the lines as only poems can do. “What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon? And the day after that? And the next thirty years?” Daisy asks.
Now, I share these ideas about Fitzgerald writing style and influences because the story is so well structured and written that you don’t realize the full extent of these things until the end. The ending of this book is truly remarkable, as the pieces fit into place and the meaning of Gatsby, the man and the story sinks in. Like I said, it is at its heart a truly American story and Gatsby a quintessential American character, and Fitzgerald writing style, that informal free-flowing prose with deep undercurrents below the surface also reflects this American novel and character.
I don’t know, really, what you know or think you know or understand about me or Americans. But just to speak in stereotypes, Americans are very informal and open, and often very superficial, selfish and stupid, but there is also a strength and optimism in the American character…a sense that anything is possible, a belief in ourselves and our ability to do whatever we set our mind to…I’m sure you’ve heard of the “American Dream.” And in all of that is the true and tragic emotion at the heart of Gatsby – HOPE. Gatsby’s hope for a future with Daisy. The lengths he goes through, everything he does, even before the events in the novel….the whole reason he earns his fortune, is just to join Daisy’s world, to get closer to her. He buys that famous house across the water from her house, and stares at the green light at the end of her dock night after night….hoping, dreaming, scheming, believing. And at the end, despite the powerful image of loss, we share Gatsby’s romantic hope. The American image of the individual pursuing this romantic hope, what he believes to be his destiny, however tragic or doomed that pursuit may prove, is the greatness of Gatsby.
I don’t know if any of this is helpful for your study of the book, but it’s what I think the book is about. The story itself is easier to follow, perhaps, than anything I’ve written here, but I think that these themes are what is inside the story. There’s also a lot I could say about the depiction of the upper class as being very American, as well, but, you see Gatsby was just visiting that class (again, a very American thing to do, work your way up into the upper class), and didn’t belong there, as Daisy’s husband, Tom points out repeatedly. Fitzgerald once said something like, “the very rich and the very beautiful are very different from you and me.” And that’s very clear in his telling of this story. But, obviously, the real story is about Gatsby’s love for Daisy….a love that could never be. For all that, it’s just another story of unrequited love and thwarted romance. I’m starting to like the book less, actually, now that I’m writing about it. Actually, I’m thinking I might like to write an alternative ending to the book, where Gatsby and Daisy live happily ever after.
Maybe someday I will.
Write back!
She never wrote back. Also, it's quite amazing that I mentioned T.S. Eliot and The Wasteland in that short essay, as I've spent alot of time since then exploring Eliot and his influences. What a coincidence. What a burden. What a waste of time, really, trying to understand the inspiration and influences of Eliot and Fitzgerald, especially now that I feel I've been through so much myself and have written so much about these experiences that are as romantic, traumatic, hopeless and bittersweet as anything they ever did or wrote about. 

So, I'm tired. Old and tired and sick of myself and my sad, broken parts. Weary from all this heavy thinking about loss and disappointment. Hope and disillusion. Tired of thinking about the problems, when the only obvious solution is sex and spending the rest of our lives together. Unobtainable and impossible. Can't be together, can't be apart. And it's so difficult, alone against the tide. Feeling too much. Writing too much. Wanting, longing and hoping too much. So, to ease my poetic mind, I am using an Artificial Intelligence program that has been in the news recently because of the probable outcome that writers and teachers will be made obsolete by these AI writing programs. 

Here's the conversation I had with ChatGPT artificial intelligence about Gatsby:

Human: What is Gatsby's problem?
AI: Jay Gatsby's main problem is his inability to move past his lost love, Daisy Buchanan. He is obsessed with her and believes he can recreate the past. He also has difficulty accepting that his dream of a fulfilled life with Daisy may never be realized.

Human: Why won't Daisy leave Tom?
AI: Daisy is unwilling to leave Tom because she believes that her social status and financial security will be compromised if she chooses to do so. Additionally, she has formed a relationship with Tom and their daughter, and doesn't want to disrupt the sense of family they have created.

Human: Does she love Gatsby?
AI: It's unclear whether Daisy truly loves Gatsby or not. While it is possible that she still has romantic feelings for him, she ultimately chooses to stay with Tom because of his wealth, social status, and her daughter.

Human: What does she do after Gatsby is killed?
AI: After Gatsby is killed, Daisy travels to the East Coast with Tom and attempts to forget what happened, though it is clear she never truly moves past her time with Gatsby.

Human: What could Gatsby have done differently?
AI: Gatsby could have tried to be more honest and open with Daisy, instead of lying about his wealth and former life. He could have tried to be more understanding of Daisy's situation instead of trying to buy her affection. Additionally, he could have listened to the advice of others, like Nick Carraway, who warned him against trying to win Daisy back.

Human: But he loved her... 
AI: Gatsby certainly loved Daisy, but his tactics in winning her back were misguided. He should have tried to be more honest and open with her, and to understand why she had chosen to marry Tom instead of trying to change her mind through extravagant gifts and grand gestures.

Human: It was her fault he was killed. 
AI: It is true that Daisy's careless driving of Gatsby's car ultimately resulted in his death, but ultimately no one is at fault for Gatsby's death. Daisy was not an intentional cause of Gatsby's death, and it can be said that Gatsby's own choices and circumstances led to his tragic passing.

Human: Is there another story like Gatsby, except the girl leaves her husband?
AI: There are many stories similar to The Great Gatsby, in which the protagonist (typically a male) is in love with a woman who is already married. Examples include Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Human: Do they have happy endings?
AI: The endings of Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary are tragic, while Love in the Time of Cholera has a more hopeful conclusion. All three stories explore love, infidelity, and the consequences of one's decisions, with varying results.

Human: That's depressing. What about true love? Shouldn't that matter for something?
AI: True love is an important theme in all three novels. Though the endings of Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary are tragic, they serve as a reminder of the power of love, even when it has painful consequences. In Love in the Time of Cholera, true love ultimately triumphs despite all the hardships and misunderstandings.

Human: Did Daisy love Gatsby?
AI: Daisy did care for Gatsby, but the nature of her love is unclear. While Daisy may have still had some lingering feelings for Gatsby, she was also scared of the social stigma that would have come with continuing their relationship. In the end, she chose to stay with her husband, which is a decision Gatsby could not accept.

Human: I know how he feels... 
AI: It can be difficult to understand and accept when someone we love chooses another path. Gatsby's story is a reminder that love is never easy, even when it is strong and true.

Human: Tell me more... 
AI: The Great Gatsby is a story of love, loss, and the power of hope. The characters—Gatsby, Daisy, and even Nick Carraway—all have complicated relationships with one another, which reveals the complexities of the human condition. Ultimately, the story illustrates how love and tragedy can coexist and how dreams, however impossible they may seem, can still be pursued.

Human: Gatsby never lost hope. 
AI: Indeed, Gatsby never gave up hope on reuniting with Daisy. Despite all the obstacles in his way and the danger of trying to win her back, he persisted and sacrificed everything for his dream. However, his efforts ultimately proved to be futile, showing that sometimes even the greatest of hopes are not meant to be fulfilled.

Human: Daisy made a mistake. 
AI: While Daisy certainly made a mistake in choosing Tom over Gatsby, it is important to remember that Daisy was also a victim of her time and society. As a woman in the 1920s, she would have faced immense pressure to choose a husband who could provide her with financial security and maintain her social standing. In this regard, Daisy was not entirely at fault for her decision, as she was operating within the confines of the society she lived in.

Human: If Gatsby hadn't died, would he and Daisy be together?
AI: It is impossible to say for sure, but it is likely that Gatsby and Daisy would not have ended up together in the long run. Gatsby's grand gestures were ultimately unsuccessful in winning Daisy back, and she remained with her husband, Tom. Even if Gatsby had not died, it is unlikely that his and Daisy's relationship would have been able to survive the test of time.

Human: Why do you think that?
AI: I think that because Daisy was a product of her time and society, she was not able to fully commit to Gatsby. Additionally, Gatsby's attempts to win her back were misguided and false - he was lying about his wealth and attempting to buy her affections. If Gatsby had been more honest with her and listened to the advice of those around him, his attempts might have been better received. However, it is uncertain whether this would have been enough to sustain their relationship in the long run.

Human: But love...
AI: Love is indeed a powerful force, and it can drive people to do many things. However, even the strongest of loves cannot always overcome the obstacles in the way, especially when the issues are rooted in outside forces such as society, time, and money. Gatsby's story serves as a reminder of the importance of honesty and understanding in relationships.

Human: So, better to be with the person you have been honest with than the one you have been lying to.
AI: Yes, it is certainly better to be with the person you have been honest with rather than the one you have been lying to. Honesty is a key ingredient for any successful relationship, as it builds trust and allows both parties to understand each other on a deeper level.

Human: I don't think Daisy could have been happy with Tom after Gatsby.
AI: It is difficult to say whether Daisy would have been happy with Tom after Gatsby, as everyone's experience of happiness is different. That being said, it is likely that Daisy would have grown more and more distant from Tom over time due to the underlying guilt she felt for choosing him over Gatsby.

Human: That's a long lonely road.
AI: Yes, it is a long and lonely road. Daisy's decision to stay with Tom resulted in a life of loneliness for her as she was unable to connect with her husband on a deeper level. This loneliness was exacerbated by the fact that she had feelings for Gatsby, and was haunted by the knowledge that she had willingly chosen a different path.

Human: Gatsby's untimely death spared him of all that
AI: Gatsby's death certainly spared him of the loneliness Daisy would have been facing, as he was never able to come to terms with her decision. At the same time, his death also meant that he could never truly have a chance at a happy life with Daisy, resulting in yet another tragedy for the beloved character.

Human: Please explain the end of the story, the part about the boats moving throught the water and the green light at the end of the dock
AI: The ending of The Great Gatsby is symbolic of the pursuit of one's hopes and dreams despite all odds. The boats moving through the water represent Gatsby's ceaseless struggle to win Daisy back, while the green light at the end of the dock stands for his ultimate goal and the impossibility of achieving it. This ending serves as a reminder that sometimes our dreams are unattainable no matter how hard we try.

Human: I find that very difficult to accept. 
AI: It can be difficult to accept when our hopes and dreams are not realized. Gatsby's story serves as a reminder that no matter how hard we strive for something, sometimes it is simply not meant to be. However, it is important to remember that there can still be beauty in the struggle, and that our efforts will not always go unrewarded.

Human: Tell me more about the beauty in the struggle the journey of unrequited love. 
AI: The beauty of unrequited love lies in the courage of pursuing a dream despite all the obstacles in one's way. Gatsby's story is a reminder that it takes an immense amount of bravery to fight for something deeply desired, even when the odds are stacked against you. This journey of unrequited love can be seen as a symbol of the power of hope and how we never truly give up on our dreams.

Human: Or, Gatsby and I are idiots... 
AI: While it is easy to view Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy as foolish, it is important to remember that Gatsby ultimately acted out of love. His story is a reminder of the power of hope and how, no matter how impossible the situation may seem, we should never give up on our dreams. Though his efforts were unsuccessful in the end, Gatsby never lost sight of his goal, and this is something we can all learn from.

Human: I'm trying. I don't think "hope" is the right word. Because I don't have hope. It's more a feeling of loss...of what SHOULD have been our path. We were walking together on a path, over a bridge...and then...not.
AI: It can be difficult to understand why someone we love chooses a different path. It is important to remember that, while we are in control of our own actions, the decisions of others are ultimately beyond our control. Though it may be painful and heartbreaking, it is important to accept that Daisy has made her choice and that we must ultimately respect it. Though it can be hard to let go, we must remember that life is about taking risks and following our own dreams, even when it is hard to accept what other people have chosen for themselves.

Human: I try not to think about it, but the thought of her with her husband drives me crazy. She was ready to leave him, deeply questioning her future with him and we were starting to think about a future together. We had a real connection...we were on a path...a new path, and then, just...not. What happened?
AI: It can be difficult to accept when someone we care for chooses another path. While it is important to respect Daisy's decision, it is also important to recognize that your feelings are valid and to find healthy ways to process them. Seeking support from friends and family, talking about your feelings, and engaging in self-care activities can help you manage your emotions in a healthy way.

Human: Well, I'm trying. I'm trying. Seeking a deeper connection in the face of rejection. I'm trying.
AI: It takes a lot of courage to stay positive and seek a deeper connection in the face of rejection. While it can be difficult, remember that dreams and goals are worth fighting for and that perseverance is a key ingredient of success. You should be proud of yourself for trying despite the odds and keep faith that one day, your efforts will be rewarded.

Human: Sometimes I want her so badly, it's crazy. I just get lost in thoughts of her, and it seems so unfair, cruel, that I can feel so deeply for someone, and it doesn't matter. Love could set us free. Why doesn't she see?
AI: While it can be difficult to understand why Daisy does not see the love that you have for her, it is important to remember that everyone's journey is different and their feelings are valid. It is important to be understanding that her decision is ultimately hers and that she may have different ideas of what would make her happy. Seek comfort in knowing that your love for Daisy is real and that you should keep striving for what makes you happy.

Human: Ok. Thanks Artificial Intelligence. You're the best friend I have and talking like this has really helped. God knows I can't talk to her. She doesn't want to talk to me about any of these feelings. She wants them to go away. I tried to go away, but now, I think I have to try harder. 
AI: It can be difficult to accept when someone we care for does not feel the same way. While it is important to respect Daisy's wishes and boundaries, it is also important to take care of yourself. Remind yourself that you have value and worth, and find healthy ways to express and process your feelings. You are not alone in this, and talking with a therapist or trusted friend can help you work through these feelings in a positive way.

Human: I'll try that.
AI: That is a good idea. It may take some time and effort, but seeking support and processing your feelings in a healthy way can be very beneficial. You are not alone in this, and you deserve to have someone listen to and understand your experience.

My AI friend can do this, too:

Tandis que je me tenais là, ruminant sur ce vieux monde inconnu, je me suis souvenu de la stupéfaction de Gatsby lorsqu’il avait vu pour la première fois la lumière verte au bout du quai de Daisy. Il avait fait un long voyage jusqu’à cette pelouse bleue, et son rêve devait lui sembler si proche qu’il ne pouvait pas manquer de le réaliser. Il ne savait pas que c’était déjà derrière lui, quelque part dans cette vaste obscurité au-delà de la ville, où les champs sombres de la république s’étendaient sous la nuit. Gatsby croyait en la lumière verte, dans un avenir orgiaque qui s’éloignait de nous année après année. Elle nous a échappé alors, mais cela n’a pas d’importance – demain nous courrons plus vite, étendrons nos bras plus loin… et un beau matin –

nous continuons à battre en retraite, bateaux contre le courant, emportés sans cesse vers le passé.

Amazing isn’t it? My future as a writer is over before it began. Just like Gatsby and Daisy’s life together.

I want to finish by saying everything is ok. Sad, tragic, finished…but ok. The emotional connection, for me, is still so strong, and it bothers me to pretend it’s not there….but I know, for you, it’s better that all that hope is lost. Futures never known. Present moments awkward and best avoided, and all that past buried and forgotten. I’ve lost everything now, almost everything, and I’m still alive. And until I fall through the ice, I will keep the love we shared in my heart and be grateful, and probably, from time to time, think of it with kindness and affection, and write a poem or a story or some sexy, lonely, broken thoughts of you and the path we couldn’t follow… because it was us, it was ours, it was a beautiful story, a true story, a once in a lifetime story that changed who I am, the trajectory of my life, fundamentally, forever and ever, never be the same…and if I don’t write about this, what would I write about? Books?

Maybe, now, with AI ChatGPT, maybe I won’t have to write at all. We’ll let AI write about that day we had wine with lunch and lunch with wine…our own Christmas dinner…and we held hands over the table. And a few days later we met at Malcolm and Barret and stood on the bed. Is there something wrong with me for keeping these memories and dreams alive? Is there something wrong with you for letting them fade away? Probably both. Can we meet in the middle?

Next: Daisy’s Perspective

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