The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby: You Can't Repeat the Past

Although Gatsby’s infatuation with the past is evident throughout the entire novel, it is this passage that demonstrates most clearly that his desire is clouding his reality. However badly he might want to return to the past, it is simply not possible. Despite all the effort Gatsby puts into acquiring his house and his considerable fortune, these accomplishments mean nothing next to the possibility of a declaration of Daisy’s love. When Daisy visits his house for the first time, Gatsby can focus on nothing but her appraisal of his mansion and “revalue[s] everything in his house according to the measure of the response it drew from her well-loved eyes” (91). He wants to seduce a society girl from Louisville into abandoning her marriage, ignoring the (perhaps misguided but nonetheless real) love Daisy has for her husband. This is especially obvious during their first reunion in Nick’s house, when Gatsby disturbs a broken clock over the fireplace: “Gatsby, his hands still in his pockets, was reclining against the mantelpiece in a strained counterfeit of perfect ease… His head leaned back so far that it rested against the face of a defunct mantelpiece clock” (86). The clock represents Gatsby’s desperate inner wish for his romance with Daisy to return with the same ardor it had many summers ago in Kentucky.

As the end of the novel demonstrates, however, Gatsby’s naïve expectations are never to be satisfied. When he puts Daisy up to the impossible and dishonest task of informing Tom she never truly loved him, she is unable to do so: “’Oh, you want too much!’ [Daisy] cried to Gatsby. ‘I love you now—isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past… I did love him once’” (132). Gatsby’s determination to repeat the past is what destroys his relationship with Daisy. Instead of accepting their current love in its more complicated evolved form, Gatsby flees, soon dying alone in a little-mourned incident at the hands of George Wilson.