Claremont Review on Gatsby

Speaking of Gatsby (see below), the Claremont Review of Books has a great essay by William Voegeli entitled Gatsby and the Pursuit of Happiness: Money and morals and the American dream. Unfortunately this particular essay is not available online!

The essay struck me because after reading it I feel I have more insight into the characters and issues involved in the book but I also feel like it expanded my knowledge of ideas. Since it is not available online allow me to reproduce its conclusion as food for thought:

The tragedy of Gatsby suggests a paradox about America?: our moral principles, the fundamental commitment to equality voiced by Mr. Carraway at the beginning of the book, are a source of stability and sobriety fore Americans, while our material circumstances, the “fresh, green breast of the new world,” let our imaginations soar. Even as the New World was seen as a new Eden, where mankind was given a second and last chance to author a new, better history for itself, Americans see their country as a place where anyone can create a new future, or even a new past. The most American, the most winning, and most disquieting thing about Jay Gatsby is his casual assurance that nothing is settled merely because it has already happened. If we don’t like the hand we’re dealt, the world we live in, we have the right and duty to call for a new one.

An America full of Jay Gatsby’s would be convulsive, disordered, impossible place to live. But an America with no on like Gatsby, no such heroes in its life or fiction, would be, in its way, unendurable, too. To miss what is great about Gatsby is to miss something essential to what is great about America. The problem poised by Tocqueville remains: to make the world safe for greatness like Gatsby’s while keeping it safe from such a greatness.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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