Jay Gatsby as bold sensualist : using self-reliance and Walden to critique the jazz age in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
Fjeldstrom Puff, Jennifer Joy
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For years F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has garnered attention from critics as having a relationship to American transcendentalist thought. While most acknowledge Jay Gatsby’s corruption and materialism, they continue to hold on to a belief in his supposed idealism and difference from other characters in the novel. Even critics who note irony in the novel do not recant their arguments regarding Gatsby’s romanticism. One cannot make a straightforward connection between transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau without noting how Gatsby is truly a perversion of transcendental ideals. Specifically, in examining Gatsby with Emerson’s concept of self-reliance in mind, it is clear that Fitzgerald could never see Gatsby as a self-reliant individual. Indeed, Gatsby fails in every test that can identify him as being a self-reliant man. He is materialistic; he breaks the law for no larger purpose; he loves an insignificant and vapid woman who is as materialistic as the rest of this corrupt society; he has no true identity; does not dispute the contention that the ideal of self-reliance is noble, it argues that such an ideal is unrealizable in the corrupt and materialistic society of the Jazz Age.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
Copyright DateOctober 2003
F. Scott Fitzgerald; Transcendentalism; Bold Sensu