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Seeking Lost Paradise: An Archetypal Interpretation of the Great Gatsby

Author GuoHua
Tutor WangShengLi
School Zhengzhou University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords archetype myth paradise lost quest story symbol Gatsby
CLC
Type Master's thesis
Year 2004
Downloads 1325
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As one of the greatest novels in American literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has aroused great interest of study. The writer of this present thesis is always fascinated by the novel’s mythic quality and Jay Gatsby’s mythic stature, and conducts the research of exploring this mythic quality of this novel. This thesis attempts to use the archetypal criticism to probe into the mythological archetypes in this novel, including its themes, characters, structure, plots and symbols.The thesis is composed of three chapters, plus the introduction and the conclusion.Introduction gives a very brief review of different studies that have been done to the novel, followed by the reason why the writer of the thesis chooses the present direction of research. With a detailed explanation for using archetypal criticism as the theoretical basis for the study on the novel, the concrete research questions are put forward: What kind of myths and archetypes dose Fitzgerald draw on in this story? What profound meanings are revealed? How dose the use of archetypes contribute to the work’s connotations?The first chapter, the archetypal analysis of characters, tries to find out the archetypes of the leading character Jay Gatsby and other characters related to Gatsby. Fitzgerald ingeniously gives the main characters ?Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom ?many traits of mythical (biblical and Greek) archetypes. On one hand, the archetypes of Adam and Jesus Christ can be found in Gatsby, and on the other, he is also compared to the sun-god, Apollo. By comparing him as Adam, Fitzgerald stresses Gatsby’s innocence, warmness and ignorance of time. This archetypal image is furthered by the relationship between Gatsby, Daisy and Tom. Gatsby is fascinated by Daisy and tries to retain her in his self-made Garden of Eden, but Daisy is seduced by Tom. Together with Daisy, Gatsby loses his paradise. Fitzgerald underlines the likeliness of the virtues and the tragic fate between Gatsby and Jesus Christ. Gatsby is virtuous nobility in the sordid world , and he is used as a source of power by the people around him. Being slandered, he is implied to be the scapegoat. Fitzgerald also emphasizes Gatsby’s youthfulness, brightness and energy through the displacement of the archetype Apollo. The archetypeof Daisy is the mixture of Eve and temptress, which reveals her fatal seduction. Tom’s is Satan in disguise, both sharing deceitful, vicious and cruel nature.Chapter Two deals with the archetypal structure and the archetypal symbols. The time sequence ?the coincidence of the narrative with the cycle of the seasons ?is an archetypal structure which can be traced in the story. And Gatsby’s life experience fits in with the pattern of biblical tragedy: the rising, seeking paradise, losing paradise and sacrificing. Concerning the plots, Fitzgerald makes use of the biblical mode of conflicts between the virtuous and the evil by converting it into the conflicts between Gatsby and the society and the conflicts between idealism and reality. Dominant archetypal symbols in the novel are garden, the valley of ashes, water and color. They give the novel a mysterious coloring, strengthen the tragic atmosphere and highlight the themes.Chapter Three interprets archetypal themes of the novel. One of the archetypal themes Fitzgerald adopts is "paradise lost": Gatsby’s loss of his Garden of Eden, of his innocence, love and life. An atmosphere of yearning for the lost past penetrates the whole story, suggesting a permanent seeking by the Americans for lost paradise. The other theme is an old mythic theme: the quest of Grail. Gatsby is a hero committing himself to the following of his grail: his love and his ideal. Though a failed hero, he possesses grandeur.Finally comes the conclusion: Fitzgerald’s use of archetypes in The Great Gatsby reasons. When these archetypes are interpreted in terms of sources of the novel, they constitute an integral part of Fitzgerald artistic creation and effectively convey his intention. By making full use of archetypes, Fitzgerald reve

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