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Comparing the Past in The Ice Palace and The Great Gatsby

The Nature of the Past in The Ice Palace and The Great Gatsby

In “The Ice Palace” and The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald explores the nature of the past. He shows us that we can neither return to nor escape from the past. In “The Ice Palace” he writes about the pasts of two different societies, the North and the South. In The Great Gatsby he writes about Daisy’s relationships with two men, Tom and Gatsby. “In both of these stories some characters want to escape from the past and others want to return to the past”(Pendelton, 37). These characters find that neither of these is possible, that the past and the present have become intertwined.

The first society Fitzgerald deals with in “The Ice Palace” is the North. Here people try to ignore the past. We see this when Harry Bellamy tells us that “Everybody has a father, and about half of us have grandfathers. Back of that we don’t go”(Fitzgerald, “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” and Other Stories, 72). They have no interest in what has gone before. Even their buildings are new. An example of this is the library of the Bellamy house. Many of the books haven’t been read and the items in it “all looked about fifteen years old”(71). The epitome of Northern buildings is the ice palace, which stands for a winter and then melts away. It is an attempt at a building without a past, built fresh each time. In the Southern graveyard, when Sally Carrol is talking about Margery Lee, Harry Bellamy looks at the grave and says “There’s nothing here”(68). To him headstones have no reality beyond the immediate physical one. In the North the snow hides the gravestones, making each “a light shadow against light shadows”(80). The hiding of the headstones demonstrates the entire Northern attitude toward the past. They feel that it isn’t important and should be ignored.

Despite all of these efforts the North is unable to escape the past. The gravestones may be covered with snow, but they are still there. Eventually the snow will melt and everyone will be able to see them. Even the ice palace, the attempt at a building with no past, falls victim to it. The last time an ice palace was built was in 1885, but it is still “peopled by those shades of the eighties”(80).

gattom Importance of the Automobile in The Great Gatsby

The Importance of the Automobile in The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was written about a time of gaiety for a certain set of people. One of the major thematic aspects of the book is driving and the automobile. At the time the book was written the car had begun its establishment as a national institution. This is apparent in one of the central events in the book. Tom’s unfaithfulness first comes to light from a car accident in Santa Barbara. He misguides the car and the misdirection of his life is made glaringly evident. The automobile affected Fitzgerald and it influenced the writing in The Great Gatsby.

Driving is equated with living. Nick Carraway, describing their ill-fated trip from New York in Chapter Seven of The Great Gatsby says, “…we drove on toward death…”(143) This is both literal and metaphorical. They were driving toward the horrific scene of Myrtle’s death. The entire novel deals with living, which is a movement toward death. Driving becomes a metaphor for living. Automotive transport becomes the rhetoric for describing everything. Even nature is related to automobiles. Nick describes the season in terms of elements associated with cars. “Already it was deep summer on roadhouse roofs and in front of wayside garages where new red gas-pumps sat in pools of light…”(25). For these people driving is about the new way of getting around quickly and living life fully. No one is exempt from being touched by the influence of cars. Fitzgerald incorporates the automotive metaphor into every aspect of his novel.

This is especially evident when Fitzgerald describes people. Often the basic terminology used is automotive related. Daisy describes Tom as a “great big hulking physical specim…

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…ed” that draws the automobile metaphor into it. It is the hit and run style of living that makes The Great Gatsby such a wonderful book, and Fitzgerald’s continuous use of cars helps to keep this a vivid image.

Works Cited

Berman, Ronald. The Great Gatsby and Modern Times. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1994.

Dillon, Andrew. “The Great Gatsby: The Vitality of Illusion.” Arizona Quarterly 44.1 (1988): 49-61.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York. New York.: Scribner., 1995.

Godden, Richard. “The Great Gatsby: Glamor on the Turn.” Journal of American Studies 16.3 (1982): 343-371.

Mizener, Arthur, ed. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963.

Trilling, Lionel. “F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Critical Essays on Scott Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby.” Ed. Scott Donaldson. Boston: Hall, 1984. 13-20.

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