Graduation Year

2004

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Sipiora, Phillip

Co-Major Professor

Broer, Lawrence

Keywords

narrator, Fitzgerald, Caraway, existentialism, faith

Abstract

Although F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby has received extensive critical attention since the middle of the century, there remains an unaddressed and unanswered question that demands further exploration: what makes Gatsby "great?" It seems that the source of Gatsby's greatness, for narrator Nick Carraway, is that Gatsby has a quality that sets him apart from others: it is not a "flabby impressionability," but a "heightened sensitivity to the promises of life" and "an extraordinary gift for hope" that Nick has never seen before, nor does he expect to see again (6). I contend that what Nick sees as Gatsby's belief and hope in the possibilities of life are embodied in what Kierkegaard discusses in his works Either/Or and Fear and Trembling as choosing to live an ethical existence free from the pain of the material world.

Gatsby makes this choice (of living ethically) when the young James Gatz chooses to become Jay Gatsby and free himself from the pain of losing Daisy. Through this choice, according to Kierkegaard, the ethical individual is inducted into the knighthood as a knight of infinity. If the knight makes one more movement, he becomes a knight of faith who believes, "Nevertheless I have faith that I will get her--that is, by virtue of the absurd, by virtue of the fact that for God all things are possible" (Fear and Trembling 46). Gatsby is a "son of God" that "sprang from his Platonic conception of himself"; he is a Kierkegaardian knight who has chosen an ethical existence; he is a knight who has the ability to look impossibility in the eye and still have faith to the point of absurdity, even if a reunion with his love (Daisy) is not possible. This is Gatsby's "extraordinary gift for hope," which Kierkegaard attributes to "the only great one," the knight of faith.

Thus, Nick's narrative is not only a canonization of his "great" knight, but an imaginative recollection that traces the movements of his knight, Gatsby, down the same path Kierkegaard imaginatively follows and observes his great knight of faith in Fear and Trembling.

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