Chris Farrell Pursuing Happiness Why is it that when writing the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson stated that American’s had the right to the pursuit of happiness instead of automatic happiness? Did he believe happiness was unachievable? In the book , The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jay Gatsby is in the pursuit of happiness trying by all means necessary to achieve this goal, the goal that all human kind shares, happiness. For his entire life, Jay Gatsby has been striving to find happiness.
From when he was a young boy keeping a journal on how to better himself, until his adulthood where he worked as a bootlegger. All of these activities had one main goal in the end; to better himself and to acquire a higher social status. He wanted to forget his childhood of poverty and move on to a life filled with riches. By doing so Gatsby believed he would win back the love of Daisy Buchanan, thus leading to his own happiness. Through symbolism in The Great Gatsby, it is shown that though people may go to great lengths in the pursuit of happiness, they do not always achieve it.
In The Great Gatsby, Nick’s mantle clock symbolizes Gatsby’s attempt to turn back time and relive the past with Daisy, and in order to find happiness that is what Gatsby must do. During this portion of the story, which involves the mantle clock, Gatsby is at Nick’s house for his first meeting with Daisy since they last met five years ago. The mantle clock sits upon the ledge above the fireplace looking over the reunion of the two. “His head leaned back so far that it rested against the face of a defunct mantelpiece clock, and from this position his distraught eyes stared at Daisy” (Fitzgerald 91).
As Gatsby stares at Daisy he is remembering the past they shared and the love they felt. In order to find happiness Gatsby knows he must make the past reoccur. His entire “pursuit of happiness” revolves around this idea, which is what the mantle clock symbolizes entirely. Gatsby becomes lost in his thought and his head drifts heavier and heavier upon the clock. Gatsby and Daisy begin to talk and Gatsby says to Daisy “we’ve met before”. “The clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers and set it back in place” (Fitzgerald 91).
The fact that the clock falls provides us with some foreshadowing. We see through this event that Gatsby will be unsuccessful in turning back time and never find true happiness. In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby’s possessions symbolize materialism, and are important in Gatsby’s pursuit of happiness. In the first scene where Gatsby’s materialism is shown Nick receives an invitation to a party at Gatsby’s mansion. He goes to this party, curious to find out who this fellow Gatsby is, and while at the party Nick tours the house and comes across a library.
In the library, a man that Nick refers to as Owl Eyes is sitting there admiring the collection of vintage books. “”See! ” he cried triumphantly. “It’s a bona fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me. This fella’s a regular Belasco. It’s a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism…”” (Fitzgerald 50). Owl Eyes is raving about the books. Hundreds of books were in this library of Gatsby’s, and not one of them had been touched. Every single one was in pristine condition. These books show the material aspect of wealth that Gatsby hopes will upgrade him in social class.
In Gatsby’s mind if he wants to win the heart of Daisy he must be at the same level of wealth as her. By having possessions such as the books Gatsby believes he will reach that level. Later on in the story, during Gatsby and Daisy’s first meeting, Gatsby decides he will give Daisy a tour of his mansion. They go up to Gatsby’s room and into his closet where piles of beautiful shirts are stacked high. “He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them one by one before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray” (Fitzgerald 97).
By tossing the fine shirts around Gatsby is trying to show to Daisy how meaningless they are to him. He is trying to show Daisy, through example, his wealth and social status. By doing so he makes Daisy cry, for she to is attracted material wealth. Both the books and the shirts are examples of the great lengths Gatsby goes to in his pursuit of happiness, and although they bring him close to his goal, he still comes up short in the end. In The Great Gatsby, the green light symbolizes Gatsby’s dream of wealth and social status, and achieving wealth and social status are key in
Gatsby’s pursuit of happiness. During the first instance of the story in which the green occurs, Nick is sitting on his front lawn admiring the summer night. He looks over to the mansion next door where he sees his neighbor (Gatsby,whom he does not know yet) standing outside his house gazing at something in the distance. “He stretched out his arm toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green, minute and far away…” (Fitzgerald 26).
Gatsby’s outstretched arms toward the green light symbolize him reaching for his dreams, and his happiness. The fact that Gatsby’s arms are out of reach of the green light is another example of foreshadowing. We learn from this that Gatsby will not reach his dream and will not find happiness. The green light pops up again at the very end of the story. Nick decides to visit Gatsby’s mansion once more after Gatsby’s death and can see, from Gatsby’s yard, the green light in the distance. “Gatsby believed in the green light , the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us…tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther….
And one fine morning-” (Fitzgerald 189). As Nick looks over the scene he realizes what Gatsby saw in the green light. Gatsby believed in his dreams and the exciting future that they had in store. Each day Gatsby strived for his dreams, he ran faster and stretched out his arms further. Though, as this quote demonstrates, opposite of what most people believe Gatsby didn’t wake up one morning with his dreams accomplished. His dreams never came true and Gatsby, even after a long pursuit, never found happiness.