Biblical Allusions In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

1393 words - 6 pages


     The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald tells the story of a world lost to superficiality and greed. Falsehood and deception are the currency which fuels the characters in the novel. Dwelling in this fallen world, Fitzgerald has placed a fallen god. Gatsby is bathed in descriptions that identify him as the Son of God. Fitzgerald makes a conscious effort to clothe this character with imagery and actions to make him the patron deity of this fallen world, but Gatsby is too much enveloped by his surroundings to save them and is consumed in the attempt. Despite the biblical allusions, strong images and explicit statements identifying Gatsby with Christ, the prevailing tone of the novel prevents him from being a Christ-figure.

A strong pattern of biblical allusions establishes an image of Gatsby as Jesus. The very first description of Gatsby conjures biblical images. Gatsby is described as having "a heightened sensitivity to the promises of life" and "an extraordinary gift for hope" (6). Jesus "came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn. 10:10). Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, identifies hope as the second of the three theological virtues (13:13). Furthermore, Nick describes Gatsby's handwriting as "majestic," suggesting the kingship of Christ (46). Gatsby's kingdom, like Jesus' is "not of this world" (Jn. 18:36). When Gatsby stands in his yard, surveying the stars, Nick describes him as laying claim to a section of the "heavens" (25). Gatsby's parties are even reminiscent of biblical themes. Nick observes that "people were not invited; they went there" (45). This recalls the parable of the wedding feast, in which, lacking invited guests, the king sends his soldiers out to the highways to gather revelers. This allusion is continued when Nick comments "I had been actually invited" (45). The parable concludes with the reflection that "many are called, but few are chosen" (Mt. 22:14). At the party, one of the girls states that Gatsby "doesn't want trouble with anybody" (48). Jesus described himself as "gentle and lowly in heart" and commanded his followers to "turn the other cheek" (Mt. 11:29, 5:29). When Nick prepares to leave the party, he looks for Gatsby "to apologize for not having known him in the garden" (57). These words echo two major biblical images. First, Adam hides from God in the Garden of Eden. Even more closely tied to this image is the scene at the empty tomb where Mary Magdalene mistakes the risen Jesus for the gardener. Gatsby's mysterious origins allude to the confusion about Jesus' authority. Tom asks "where is he from, I mean? And what does he do?" (53) When Jesus preaches in the synagogue at Nazareth, the people ask "Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?" (Mt. 13:34) On at least two occasions, Gatsby tells Nick that they are "going up": first in the hydroplane and later when they "ride up" to New York for lunch (57, 68). This ascendant diction suggests that, like Jesus,...

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