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NOVEL REFLECTIONS ON THE AMERICAN DREAM

MATTHEW BRUCCOLI: Anything and everything seemed possible in the 1920's.

THE GREAT GATSBY: There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whispering and the champagne and the stars.

NARRATOR: This is the voice of dreams; it is our capacity for wonder set down to words. In THE GREAT GATSBY, if only for a brief moment, anything seems possible.

THE GREAT GATSBY: There was dancing now on the canvas in the garden, old men pushing young girls backward in eternal graceless circles, superior couples holding each other tortuously, fashionably and keeping in the corners...champagne was served in glasses bigger than finger bowls. The moon had risen higher, and floating in the Sound was a triangle of silver scales, trembling a little to the stiff, tinny drip of the banjoes on the lawn.

THE GREAT GATSBY: I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby's house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited, they went there. They got into automobiles which bore them out to Long Island and somehow they ended up at Gatsby's door. Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission.

RICHARD YARBOROUGH: We see Gatsby's world first; then we see Gatsby. We see Gatsby's possessions first; we hear about the parties; we hear about the car; we hear about the mansion. It allows for Gatsby to be created as a myth is created, so Gatsby himself becomes dream-like.

GISH JEN: It's like approaching a mansion, you know, where you have the long, long approach up. The fact that you have the long driveway leads you to expect something great at the end. And so there is a way in which, by delaying Gatsby's actual physical presence, Fitzgerald builds him up and he makes the story that much more important, and he makes it resonate that much more loudly.

NARRATOR: Our first glimpse of Gatsby, the things that Fitzgerald reveals to us, are the imaginings of a dreamer. We hear that Gatsby is the son of a wealthy middle-west family who are all dead. He was educated at Oxford. He has lived like a rajah in the capitals of Europe, hunted big game, even served with valor in the Great War.

THE GREAT GATSBY: He reached in his pocket and a piece of metal, slung on a ribbon, fell into my palm. "That's the one from Montenegro." To my astonishment the thing had an authentic look. Orderi di Danilo, ran the circular legend, Montenegro, Nicolas Rex. "Turn it." Major Jay Gatsby, I read, For Valour Extraordinary.

MORRIS DICKSTEIN: We see Gatsby's story through the eyes of other people, primarily the narrator Nick Carraway. The effect of that is, that we don't see Gatsby from the inside. We see the spectacle of Gatsby. And he preserves the mystery of Gatsby.

MATHEW BRUCCOLI: If there were no Nick Carraway to act as a filter, as an interpreter, Gatsby would seem a ridiculous character.


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The American Novel