Religious Iconography In 'the Great Gatsby' By F. Scott Fitzgerald

1030 words - 4 pages

Student #107Quit Lookin' at Me"There cannot be a God because if there were one, I could not believe that I was not He." - Nietzsche This is the state to which religion had fallen by the turn of the 20th century. The age of faith had truly ended in America. The vacuum created by our departing deity was filled with new philosophies of cutthroat capitalism and individualism. No longer were our actions constrained by a supernatural force; all bets were off and humanity went wild. This change in philosophy had its greatest impact in 1920s America, a time of prosperity and gaiety for all. The money was rolling and the bars were hopping everywhere from New York to California, and no man, woman or child went unaffected The apparent happiness of America was countered by a darker more sinister side; one of corruption and greed. In his novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald paints a sad picture of American life during the 1920s, its purpose and its occupants. They are the lost children of the 20th century, unconcerned with religion, God or any such "frivolous" things. Economics is the new religion, with the all mighty dollar as its deity. Fitzgerald articulates his feelings on this change through his portrayal of God and though the role that God plays in the lives of his characters. Both facets of his argument are intriguing, yet disturbing; creating a picture of amorality and opportunism in our country's finest decade. Through centuries of painting and sculpture, a distinct picture of God had been created. A majestic figure, clad is flowing white robes, commanding over the universe with effortless omnipotence. Fitzgerald rejects this ideal and creates a much more puzzling picture of his God; a dilapidated advertisement serves as the physical manifestation of God. "Above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg." (27) The doctor serves as Fitzgerald's symbol for the all-seeing God that watches over our every move. But this God has fallen into disrepair; it has "dimmed a little by many paintless days under sun and rain." (28) No longer do people work hard to get eternal paradise from God, now people work even harder the have temporary paradise from wealth. The irony of the whole situation is the physical reality of God's manifestation in The Great Gatsby. God is an advertisement, an influential element of the 1920s economy; hence God is represented by the very thing that is replacing Him. This contradiction of forms fits in directly with Fitzgerald's view of God and religion, as a...

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