Studies: The Waste Land Vs. The Great Gatsby

The Waste Land Vs. The Great Gatsby

An examination of the connection between F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby and T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land” reveals that Fitzgerald transposes the meanings and motifs of “The Waste Land” to The Great Gatsby. For instance, the poem begins with:

“April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing.”

Eliot sees the renewal of life doomed from the beginning, as in the end it will die anyway. Similarly, in The Great Gatsby, Gatsby tries to repeat the past and live his fantasy, yet he will never be able to achieve it.

In addition, another example is the physical description and resemblance of both of the landscapes. In The Great Gatsby, the valley of ashes is a waste land. Eliot enters into the barren land and describes how the roots “clutch” infertile ground, desperately seeking to gain something out of nothing. The valley of ashes is alike with its “fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens.” These descriptions suggest that no life forms can ever exist in the harsh environment and that the waste lands offer no forgiveness. The characters’ drift nature is yet another example. In “A Game of Chess,” the woman says despairingly:

“What shall I do now? What shall I do?… What shall we do to-morrow?

 What shall we ever do?”

Likewise, Daisy says in the first chapter:

“What’ll we plan? What do people plan?”

And once again in chapter Seven:

“What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon, and the day after that, and the next thirty years?”

The actions of these women show that they do not know how to manage their time wisely and they waste it.

Finally, the similarities between Owl-Eyes and Tiresias can be pointed out. Owl-Eyes has these “enormous owl-eyed spectacles,” is blind, “but perspective.” In the same way, Tiresias is also blind, but he foresees all. Both characters represent the eye of the mind.

In conclusion, T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” is influential to The Great Gatsby. Conversely, both of these fantastic works of literature share many of the same meanings and motifs.

 By Reda Dekar

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