I had a difficult time choosing a title for Chapter Six. Obviously, it had to be "You Can't Repeat The Past." But it could almost as easily have been "The Unreality Of Reality." Or "From Nothing To Nothing." Or "Through Daisy's Eyes." Or "The Dance Is Unimportant."
So many great lines for a chapter that feels a little like an interlude...a strange juxtaposition to Chapter Five.
The main plot development in this chapter is that Daisy and Tom come together to one of Gatsby's parties. Finally. But, before that, Nick gives us a new L'histoire d'Gatsby. The true one this time, as far as we know. We learn, for the first time, that Gatsby has not been born into money like Tom or married into money like Daisy. He is a self-made man. He sprung, fully-formed, from his own imaginations. From the sense that he was never really a part of his family. From his insistence on the unreality of his reality. He is more than a self-made man, actually. He is a self made-up man.
(For those of you who are Mad Men fans, here's a really interesting blog comparing Jay Gatsby to Don Draper.)
We also learn, for the first time, that his real name, his legal name, is James Gatz. He changed it in an instant, but Nick hints that he didn't change it on a whim. Which made me want to think and talk about the two names. Gatz sounds (and is) ethnic. Polish. One of those Eastern European, non-Nordic names that Tom is so depressed about. Those races are rising up. James Gatz is proof.
Gatsby, on the other hand, sounds more sophisticated. More Western European. German even. While there is no record of "Gatsby" as a surname, there are lots of examples of Gadsby as a first name...even two or three literary examples, including a character in A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain. Gadsby means God's Boy.
The chapter is full of allusions to Gatsby as a Christ-figure. He goes into the water to save Cody as James Gatz and emerges, baptized, as Jay Gatsby. Nick explicitly states that he "was a son of God...and he must be about his Father's business." In the final page and a half, we see Gatsby's incarnation at the hands of a woman. Gatsby made flesh.
But, before we delve into that a little more, I want to look at Gatsby's power and the limits of that power. Up until this point, Gatsby has been able to orchestrate the events of the story. Of New York, even. He may have even fixed the World Series for Pete's sake.
Here's what he can't do, though. He can build a world for Daisy. He can bring her there. But he can't impress her husband. He can't make her see the world the way he sees it. She will see it through her own eyes. And he can't repeat the past. Not even the Son of God can repeat the past. He can only erase it, rename it...redeem it.
I would love to reprint the entire final page and a half here. From "...One Autumn night" on. I love the description of the cool night with the "mysterious excitement" (I have felt this so many times. What is it about brisk air that makes us want to laugh?) I love the half-remembered line that Nick never speaks at the very end.
Most of all, I love Gatsby's recollection of the first time he kissed Daisy. He sees it as his incarnation. Mixing his eternal, incorruptible dreams with her "perishable breath." This is the moment he chooses Daisy over himself. Over his dreams. He knows that, alone, he is indestructible. With Daisy, he is bound. His mind will never "romp again like the mind of God." At the end of this party with the champagne and the music and the dancing...the dance is unimportant, the dance is nothing...it may be that he regrets that moment.
What do you think? Is this final page a fair representation of love? Is love an incarnation? Agreeing to be made flesh? Binding your imagination and your future to something perishable? What do you think of Gatsby as a (deeply flawed) Christ figure?