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Viren Kumar Mrs. Parato AP Language and Composition March 2, 2013 Society’s Shadow Goals, objectives, targets, and ambitions are incentives that drive one to emerge from their comfort zone. Each individual, rich or poor, isolated or active, normal or abnormal, has a way to communicate with others and act in society based on personality. Most people want to be accepted by others to fit into society and be “normal”. There is always one person who has a different perspective than everyone else’s and is uniquely considered an “outcast”.
In the novel, The Great Gatsby, author F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays Jay Gatsby as an isolationist that is compelled to play ambiguous roles in society to obtain the green light across the channel, which in effect causes Gatsby to be placed in a nerve-racking situation. Society is a big influence on Gatsby and his actions. He is first introduced by Miss Baker. “[Nick] decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him at dinner, and that would do for an introduction” (Fitzgerald 20).
Nick Caraway is a parallel with society because he is influenced by the thoughts and ideas of others that structure society. Since Miss Baker mentions Gatsby over dinner, Gatsby is seen as an interesting topic that needs to be explored. Jay, being an isolationist that he is, tries to hide himself from society by displaying motions hinting to people like Nick: “But [Nick] didn’t call to him, for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone” (20).
Gatsby makes a “sudden intimation”, and it seems that Gatsby knows there is someone watching him and observing his every action, and in attempts to isolate himself and avoid being “[called] out to”, he makes a subtle allusion to the fact he wants to be left to himself (20). Thus society forces Gatsby to make the movement he makes by gossip and communication. Society’s observations in this passage will show to define many of Gatsby’s actions as the novel progresses. People have secrets in their life that can determine who they truly are; Gatsby has his own that are the power that compels him to act the way he does.
Gatsby is carefully observed, and as he involuntarily “glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far way, that might have been the end of a dock”(Fitzgerald 21). Gatsby stares at a distant green light, which implies a special connection between the two. Considering “he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way” and that Gatsby “was trembling” his secret relation with the green light must be special because one does not tremble for any reason (Fitzgerald 21).
There is an emotional bonding that may date back a long time. His yearning for the light—”stretched out his arms”—is foreshadowing for the rest of the story where he struggles to obtain this light (21). An obvious tension between the relationship of Gatsby and the mysterious light is visible from the “trembling”, and this tension creates the ambiguousness in Gatsby’s role in the novel (21). Fitzgerald uses figurative language to introduce the protagonist, which exemplifies Gatsby’s mysterious appearance to emphasize his perplexing personality.
As Nick is outside his home after a night with the Buchanan’s, a strange yet familiar silhouette appears just on the other side of his yard, in his neighbor’s yard. “The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight” (Fitzgerald 20). This cat, in turn, is actually Jay Gatsby. Although, the comparison that Fitzgerald makes with Gatsby and the cat does serve as a tool to analyze his characteristics. Felines tend to walk in a stealthy manner at night, and they are very cautious about being watched. The comparison indicates that Gatsby was trying to be wary of his surroundings.
Gatsby may be the figure, but noticing that there is no adjective on the noun, “figure”, whereas throughout the rest of the passage there are many adjectives to describe his surroundings, this anomaly provides Gatsby as a figure the appearance of an inexplicable figure (20). With his “hands in his pockets”, this signifies a sign of secrecy to illustrate his complex personality (20). Gatsby may have wanted to protect some secrets about the green light. Gatsby’s method of an introduction is an explanation of the ambiguous role he is going to play and the uncomfortable nature of his future situation.
The Great Gatsby is a novel that depicts the role of Gatsby as one of an isolationist that is forced into an ambiguous role in society. Through misinterpretations of his actions, he is thought to have a misleading identity. As society observes the fascinating movements of Gatsby in his yard, the motions that Gatsby performs communicate thoughts of isolation to society, but later on in the passage, motions such as the stretching out of the trembling arms, represent predictions of society pulling Gatsby into societal problems and issues.