Prompted by the release of its umpteenth cinematic adaptation, I have just reread The Great Gatsby for the umpteenth time. I was particularly struck this time around by the degree to which the novel’s ultimate emotional payoff seems so much greater than what would appear to be warranted by the emotional entanglements of its caricaturish, at times almost cartoonish characters (Gatsby himself occasionally comes off a little like an older, hopeless-romantic version of Richie Rich). That Fitzgerald achieves this feat is due in large part to the novel’s magisterial, sweepingly poetic and universal last page. It is the closing lines of this last page to end all last pages that this drawing seeks in part to illustrate [spoiler alert!]:
“…I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning-
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”