Monday, 20 May 2013

Gatsby and the elusive pursuit

Kristi Mair writes...

Jay Gatsby (left), the 1920's darling of New York, sets up shop in West Egg.

Gatsby is known for throwing parties littered with celebrities and politicians, for his love of expensive English tailoring, and his propensity to buy the best that money can obtain.

The Great Gatsby looks at this unusual drive to acquire wealth and spend it on others and asks "why does he do it?".

The answer lies in Gatsby’s hope that, by obtaining wealth, he may receive something far greater.

His ultimate goal is the love of Daisy, a woman he hopes will be enticed to leave her cold, adulterous husband for him; the one man who truly loved her.

Daisy, though, is not the dream woman of Jay’s imagination.

She is someone unable to feel love unless it is expressed through material provision.

There is one particularly poignant moment in the film where Daisy notes the beautiful, grandiose flowers filling the room upon her arrival for afternoon tea with her cousin and utters, "he must really love me".

Gatsby's love is reduced to what he can provide and magnanimously display to Daisy, and she revels in the frivolity.

As Jay’s pursuit of Daisy nears consummation, tragedy strikes and she mistakenly kills Tom’s lover with a borrowed motor car.

The repercussions of this fatal night play out in a series of sad and tragic events leading to the apotheosis of the film, where Gatsby is left with literally nothing.

No friends, no well-wishers, and most tragically, no Daisy.

Daisy chooses to stay with her husband and once more, they move to another city, where they can consume and suck the life out of everything around them and then retreat into their wealth and reputation.

The Great Gatsby is a tale of hope; hope of a dream fulfilled, but also of the stark superficiality behind the trappings of money.

Gatsby built his life around her and the film raises the question of whether there is any person or object which merits such complete devotion and sacrifice as Jay displays in his pursuit of Daisy.

Will the passing sands of time and undulating inconsistencies inherent to human emotion and greed leave us with nothing more than a gaping unfilled chasm?

Or might there be someone for whom we can confidently abandon all else, and whose promises – “I will never leave you or forsake you” and “I will give you rest” – are not the first step towards disappointment, but instead open the door to a relationship which enriches (rather than destroys) those who pursue it?

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