Chapter 9, the last chapter of the novel, is used by Fitzgerald to create a sense of finality for the reader, suggesting ‘the party was over’. This chapter allows him to make his final comment on the unfulfilling nature of the American Dream, and the nature of the people that lived in the ‘Roaring Twenties’. The chapter is made for the obvious purpose of being the conclusion to the story. Rather than leave the ending ambiguous as many authors do, Fitzgerald wraps up the narrative decisively. This sense of finality of the book allows the reader to come to final conclusions and judgements of what they have seen. An open ended book can allow readers to come up with their own endings, but a book with a definitive ending allows readers to see what happened and then decide what it means. Fitzgerald allows the reader to form their own opinions on the events that definitely happened in the story, giving a greater sense of meaning and attachment to the story.
Nick narrates the chapter from two years later, looking back at the final days he spent in New York. Throughout the chapter Nick shows his disgust and contempt for the East of the U.S., clearly preferring ‘[his] Middle West’. Fitzgerald does this to make us, as readers, antagonise the East society as the main cause of the tragic events of the novel. He does this by showing Nick, the one involved in most if not all the events of the novel, completely appalled at the actions of people that have made their lives in the East. This is particularly shown when Nick initially refuses to shake Tom Buchanan’s hand. He has correctly deduced that Tom was the one who told Wilson that Gatsby’s car was the one that ran Myrtle over, and out of his ‘provincial squeamishness’ he did not shake hands.
He does ultimately shake hands, but only out of pity and as a sign of farewell so that he does not have to see Tom again. We are meant to feel Nick’s relief of not having to see this clear representation of all that was wrong with ‘old money’ and the novel’s portrayal of the East; that it was essentially ‘careless people, [who] smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness… and let other people clean up the mess they had made’. At first, Gatsby seems to represent the success story of the American Dream. He creates his own fortune and earns great wealth and material possessions; but, in the end, his dream fails anyway. At the conclusion of the novel, Gatsby does not get what he wishes. ‘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,’ Gatsby’s death without the total commitment from Daisy that he always sought after is a tragic display of the reality of the American Dream: that it has been corrupted from the ‘pursuit of happiness’ to the ‘pursuit of wealth’. Fitzgerald uses the distortion of the readers’ perception of the American Dream so that we pity the unfortunate characters of the novel: Gatsby, Jordan, Daisy, Tom; who despite having money, do not seem to have true deep happiness. Overall, Fitzgerald uses the closing chapter of the novel for exactly its intended purpose: to finish the novel. We see the end of the story of Gatsby and the effect he had on people and reflect on what it truly meant.
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