One of the greatest endings in American literature can be found in
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald ties in many themes that were used throughout the entire novel together in the last seven paragraphs to produce a unified piece of literature. Since the ending is the last thing a reader remembers, a good ending is essential to unify and summarize the themes of the novel for a greater impact on the reader.
“Gatsby’s house was still empty when I left – the grass on his lawn had grown as long as mine. One of the taxi drivers in the village never took
a fare past the entrance gate without stopping for a minute and pointing
inside; perhaps it was he who drove Daisy and Gatsby over to East Egg
the night of the accident and perhaps he had made a story about it all his
own. I didn’t want to hear it and I avoided him when I got off the train.”
This entire paragraph signifies the grave change that has occurred
in Nick’s life. Just as Gatsby’s house is empty, so is Gatsby’s dream unfulfilled. Gatsby’s vision of the American dream destroyed him and left no remnants behind. The grass is symbolic of their belief in the American dream. During Gatsby’s life the dream was very much alive for him. He cared more for the dream than he did for truth. During his life while the dream was still very much alive, the grass was cared for attentively just as his goals were cared for
attentively. After his death, the grass had no one to care for it just like the dream.
The grass was just as long and uncared for as Nick’s symbolic that Gatsby’s
dream was just as dead to him now as the dream had been dead to Nick. Both the grass and the dream were just as alive as they were dead in that though
Gatsby could no longer care for either one during his death, there would always
be someone else to carry on the dream, and a new resident in the house to cut
“I spent my Saturday nights in New York because those gleaming, dazzling parties of his were with me so vividly that I could still hear the
music and the laughter faint and incessant from his garden and the cars
going up and down his drive. One night I did hear a material car there and saw its lights stop at his front steps. But I didn’t investigate. Probably
it was some final guest who had been away at the ends of the earth and didn’t know that the party was over.”
This paragraph also illustrates the difficult change and the end of
the dream. The first part displays Nick’s reaction to the great change. Unable to accept Gatsby’s death so easily without remembrance of his wild parties, Nick
escapes into the city to avoid those memories. The phrase “the party was over” is very important to the end of the book. Not only does it intensify the somber
mood and bring the entire book to prepare for the final end, it gives us an idea of what Nick’s future is to become like. The parties and the unrealistic dream that Gatsby held highly are now over. It’s time to get serious and forget the silly hopes and concentrate on fulfilling more reliable dreams.
“On the last night, with my trunk packed and my car sold to the grocer, I
went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house once more.
On the white steps an obscene word, scrawled by some boy with a piece
of brick, stood out clearly in the moonlight and I erased it, drawing my shoe
raspingly along the stone. Then I wandered down to the beach and sprawled
out on the sand.”
With the phrase “huge incoherent failure of a house”, one could change the words around and say “huge incoherent failure of a dream” to mean
that the dream was too vast, too difficult to accomplish. On Nick’s last night to change his mind before he deletes the dream from his life, he takes a long look at what’s left of the dream, and the house.
“Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound.
And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailor’s eyes – a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered
in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory
enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this
continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood
nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something
commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”
The picture that Fitzgerald has painted in our minds with the
entire book and this paragraph is bleak and mournful. The big shore places
being closed, few lights, a shadowy ferryboat moving across dark waters with
the moon’s gloomy glow looking sadly down upon the land, just as God’s eyes
look sadly down upon the flamboyant immoral culture on the cover of the novel,
are all contributers to the dismal feel of the book.
“And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream
must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in the vast obscurity
beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.”
The green light is extremely important thematically because of its
implied meaning. The green light was symbolic not only of Gatsby’s hope, but of
a reminder to him of what he had come to New York for. Seeing that green light
so close, yet far away would egg Gatsby on to achieve his goal: Daisy. To
accomplish his idea of the American dream he had only to win Daisy. The ironic
phrase “old unknown world” that Fitzgerald uses is also of importance. In
accordance to the American dream theme, it means that the world, though it
may be young, is still wholly unknown and unconquered. Conquering the
unknown and discovering all that there is to be discovered ties into the dream.
The fact that Fitzgerald uses the green light and the old unknown
world together just illustrates the theme further. The green light is one of the few things reliable and known in Gatsby’s world. It pushes him to further
accomplish his mission, to grasp the mysterious.
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year
recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will
run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
A common theme in American literature is that of the constant
exploratory journey. Part of the American dream consists of the idea “to go
where no man has gone before”. We incessantly strive to improve, to do new
things and go to new places. Although this theme is not uniquely American, but
universal, it has become most closely related to the American frame of mind and
is often seen as a huge part of the “American” dream. Fitzgerald includes this
idea in this paragraph with the phrase “run faster, stretch out our arms farther”. The whole concept is to achieve the dream as fast as possible, to spread your wings further, to chase after your future until you grasp ahold of it.
Though there are several other themes covered in the ending paragraphs of the novel, the former are some of the most signigicant and repeated in the novel. All readers of this novel can appreciate the unity created in Fitzgerald’s ending. By tying all of his themes throughout the novel together
at the end, he has accomplished a “whole” novel. So you read on, eyes against
the essay, laughing at my pathetic ending.