Writing Catalog

Cooper Mlakar

Grade: 12

University School - Hunting Valley

Instructor: Scott Boehnen

The Journey Is Greater Than The Destination

Critical Essay

The Journey Is Greater Than The Destination

The most famous American novel, The Great Gatsby should be famous not for its portrayal of the corrupt 1920s, but rather for its final and puzzling sentences. On the last page of the novel, Scott Fitzgerald reflects on Mr. Jay Gatsby's life. In doing so, he mentions his dream of one day attaining Mrs. Daisy Buchanan. Daisy is portrayed as a green light. On the last page, Fitzgerald explains that Gatsby never lost hope of grasping the light. He always strives to one day reach it no matter how many times it slips through his fingers. Fitzgerald says that "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then…tomorrow we will run faster" (Fitzgerald 180). Throughout his journey, Gatsby always holds onto his hope. He always wakes up the next morning and strives to eventually one day reach the green light. Therefore, Fitzgerald has an optimistic attitude towards dreaming as a means of striving towards a goal, but the error of all three levels of dreaming is overvaluing the goal over the process.

The first level is Fitzgerald's optimistic portrayal of Gatsby's dream. His dream of having the ideal life with Daisy. Gatsby knows that he wants Daisy, and he sees that as something to strive for. He recognizes he must change himself to reach this goal. He begins to alter his routine by creating a schedule and a list of goals he must accomplish. For instance, on page 173, there is a schedule Gatsby made for himself that prompts him to wake up at 6:00 am, Workout, Study, play sports, build his character, and study needed inventions. At the bottom of the list were "General Resolves." This consisted of saving money, personal hygiene, prohibition of drugs, and other tasks. Gatsby takes a step into creating this persona that would impress Daisy. On the last page, Fitzgerald acknowledges this journey that Gatsby had embarked on to reach his goal of Daisy. Fitzgerald says, "He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it" (Fitzgerald 180). Gatsby had changed his whole life so he could become closer to grasping his dream. Fitzgerald's metaphor, expressing how a dream can be physically grasped, sympathizes with Gatsby on not achieving his goal. The error is him reaching for his dream of Daisy. The green light symbolizes daisy, and therefore Gatsby's dream. Ironically, light is unobtainable, and consequently so is Gatsby's dream. He is first seen by Nick for reaching for the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. Nick notices the "extraordinary gift for hope" that Gatsby has (Fitzgerald 2). The reason why Fitzgerald is optimistic is because of Gatsby's unbroken hope towards achieving his dream. He mentions that he cannot grasp it, however, Gatsby has an "extraordinary gift for hope" that keeps him motivated to do better.

The second level of dreaming was the Dutch Sailors' dreams of endless opportunity in the New World. Dutch settlers were one of the first to explore the New World. Their vision of freedom rushed to their heads as they could almost do anything they desired. As they land, they stare at miles and miles of forest that "pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams" (Fitzgerald 180). The forest tempts the settlers as it appears to be free, open, and calling for them to strive towards their dreams. This example of a superlative characterizes the forest as the greatest temptation the settlers encountered. Although they can never make the New World perfect, they can always strive to make it almost perfect. This translates over to their dreams as well, along with all dreams. The error in their dreaming is their selfishness towards the New World. They lose sight of what is already there. They are so focused on creating a perfect world, where they should be grateful for what they will accomplish and what is already there.

Finally, the third level is the idea that all humans dream, and that all humans should aspire to catch their dreams. Fitzgerald begins to talk in the first person at the bottom of page 180 as he starts to include society in his explanation of dreaming. Like Gatsby's particular dream and the Dutch Sailors', Fitzgerald mentions that the perfect dream, the ideal dream, will never be reachable; "that year by year recedes before us" (Fitzgerald 180). It is impossible to grasp on to the perfect dream as it will always just be out of our reach, our being society's. We can keep striving to accomplish the goal, but no matter what, the dream will always slip out of our hands. In addition, Fitzgerald uses a metaphor to compare dreaming to physical activity such as running and rowing; "tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms father…So we beat on, boats against the current" (Fitzgerald 180). Fitzgerald not only compares dreaming to just running and rowing but all sports. He does this to express the error in society's dreaming. Humans are keyed in on winning. We are focused on bringing home a trophy, medal, money, or some sign of success. Society has limited itself to tunnel vision when striving towards its goal. They do not realize the small accomplishments that come with their physical endeavors, such as conditioning themselves, creating bonds with teammates, and making memories.

Fitzgerald has an optimistic attitude towards dreaming as a means of striving towards a goal, but the error of all three levels of dreaming is overvaluing the goal over the process. All the dreams overlook the journey that is taken. For Gatsby's sake, he only sees and wants Daisy. He ignores all the positive that comes out of striving towards the dream. Likewise, the Dutch Sailors lock onto the idea of creating the perfect society and ignore the benefits that they have created along the way. They wanted to change their way of life and remove themselves from the toxic lifestyle they were in. They become selfish and greedy towards the forest and their dream. Lastly, society struggles to see the value in the journey. Humans tend to set their minds on the hardware, the destination, and set themselves on winning and accomplishing their goal, rather than enjoying the never-ending chase towards their dream. Fitzgerald is optimistic about dreaming. All three levels of dreaming have errors. But the good that comes out of chasing one is much more valuable than the actual grasping of a dream.