The Great Gatsby (1925)
by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
F. Scott Fitzgerald has been called by critics “the prophet of the Jazz Age.” He was less a prophet than a cross between Peter Pan and a hopeless romantic, much like his character, Jay Gatsby, in The Great Gatsby. “Fitzgerald was overcome with the glamour of New York and Long Island. To him, it was ‘the stuff of old romance,’ ‘the source of infinite possibilities.’”[i] The stuff of old romance always turns out to be the “stuff” of the sensation center, which has us seeking affection, esteem and pleasure. The outcome is predictable.
After marrying Zelda, his soul-mate in self-indulgence, “Their public life for the next ten years epitomized the dizzy spiral of the 1920s—wild parties, wild spending—and, following the national pattern, they crashed spectacularly in the 1930s. Zelda went mad [and] Fitzgerald became a functional alcoholic.”[ii] Things romantic are part of the larger illusion of P-B and ultimately end in disappointment. “Fitzgerald once said, ‘America’s great promise is that something’s going to happen, but it never does. America is the moon that never rose.’”[iii]
Or perhaps Fitzgerald never grew up and realized that “we” are the ones that determine what happens in our lives. Children often feel powerless in the world—adults choose to be powerless; and then they think of themselves as victims blaming fate or other people for their not attaining what should or could have been.
Gatsby seems autobiographical foreshadowing the author’s own downfall. “He expects more from life than the other characters, who are all more or less cynical. He is an eternal juvenile in a brutal and corrupt world.”[iv] Not able to exhibit rational and adult behavior, Gatsby meets a violent end due to illusion, misunderstanding, lies—a typical P-B narrative—with the typical tragic ending.
The victim mentality is one of the inevitable results when we fail to take responsibility for our behaviors, when we surrender to life in P-B. In not distinguishing between reality and illusion we give away our power to be the author of our own story. We then become passengers on a rudderless ship tossed and broken by the conditioning of false-self energy centers, romantics without a destination, drunk with self-indulgent delusions trapped in a fiction whose ending is self-pity.
[i] Magill, Frank N. [ed.]. Masterpieces of World Literature. New York: Harper, 1989, page 349.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in printed books by Roy Charles Henry.