The Great Gatsby
Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Well, about six weeks ago, she heard the name Gatsby for the first time in years. It was when I asked you – do you remember? – if you knew Gatsby in West Egg. After you had gone home she came into my room and woke me up, and said: "What Gatsby?" and when I described him – I was half asleep – she said in the strangest voice that it must be the man she used to know. It wasn't until then that I connected this Gatsby with the officer in her white car. (4.145)
This "strangest voice" tips us off that Gatsby is more than some dude Daisy used to flirt with. She had some real feelings for him—and those feelings of the past are about to burst into the present.
"It was a strange coincidence," I said.
"But it wasn't a coincidence at all."
"Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay." (4.147-151)
Gatsby's entire present existence—the house, the money, the pink suits—is constructed so Daisy will notice him. It may look like he's living for the moment, with his flashy parties and careless wealth, but he's actually stuck in the past.
He had passed visibly through two states and was entering upon a third. After his embarrassment and his unreasoning joy he was consumed with wonder at her presence. He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an over-wound clock. (5.111-114)
What happens when you finally get what you've been working toward for years? For most of us, achieving a goal comes with a letdown. Having something in the present is never quite as good as your past self imagined it would be.