Every novel is a hypothesis. It is an accumulation and performance of ideas that may or may not hold true towards ones own phenomenological reality. In some cases, they may hold thematic, metaphorical, observational or fantastical truths that make them valuable in absence of experiential data. The Great Gatsby has offered excellent guidance towards the phenomena of self that dominates philosophy of self by which many live life by. The idea of self is that many of us live by stories that we have created for ourselves and measure all of our successes, failures, joy and defeat are as a result of this story. In the case of Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan is Gatsby’s sense of self. The poetry and thought weaved around the image and memory of her are less to do with Daisy and more to do with Gatsby. Daisy is the image of aesthetic beauty, wealth, attitude and temperament that explain Gatsby’s desire to achieve the American, or the New York, dream. She is a story which transcends the narrative of capital and power accumulation that has defined the man Gatsby has become. Gatsby likes to offer the impression that Daisy, or his sense of Daisy, is the legitimation for the accumulation of wealth and power. Luhrman’s film suggests that Gatsby’s greatest desire is to associate himself with the symbols of old money or defeat the symbols of old money that have been denied to him through birth. This is demonstrated in Gatsby’s pursuit of Daisy, where Gatsby’s most violent reaction comes following the assertion from Buchanan that he was born different to himself and Daisy, suggesting that wealth anxiety is Gatsby’s greatest source of pain. Therefore, Gatsby’s sense of romantic self has been written around social, economic and psychological factors that allow him to make sense and meaning of his actions.
Fitzgerald writes ‘no fire and freshness can challenge what a man can store in his ghostly heart’. Talking from experience, men have an extraordinary ability to dress women in symbols and poetry, making the romantic self-one of the most potent parts that man can write for himself. Unfortunately, these desires are seldom egalitarian. In fact, a handful of women, perhaps even those that can be counted on one hand, have the ability to inspire and define a gentlemen’s sense of romantic self. Fitzgerald says of Gatsby ‘he knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God’. When Gatsby replaces God with Daisy, he is replacing one faith for another. Like the Bible, Gatsby’s idea of Daisy, the performance of a man that has spent thousands of dollars and hours conditioning his mind towards the image of Daisy, is an all encompassing narrative that characterizes his attention.
How is it then that a fictional narrative around the idealised person of the opposite sex can act as the single subject of someone’s attention? Are men enfeebled or strengthened by an ability to be conditioned by a narrative sense of ‘the one’? Are the chosen women aware of the power they possess within the minds of men? Are the chosen women aware of the symbolic power they possess within society?
What is certainly the case is that within situations where a woman becomes the measurement of a man’s meaning and the expression of financial strength and imaginative creativity that you have a recipe for mass instability and suffering. Thousands of Men with all the capabilities truly believe that a rare female is the true object of their investment and talent and hundreds, perhaps even thousands of men condition themselves, the books they read, the places they frequent, the clothes they wear, within the image of say five women. In addition, the more men invest themselves within these women the more they become associated with symbols and gifts that lead towards ever more swathes of men falling in love with these five women. One can imagine pornographic taxonomies being created in the image of these five women and men then settling for women that remind them of sense of self they have created around the given five women.
Of course, amongst these poetic narratives one may be able quite easily to point out similarities between the selected women, nonetheless, this doesn’t take away from the fact that within the eyes of these legions of men, these femme fatales belong to them. Everyone creates a case, everyone writes a script, everyone belongs to a constellation of data points that evidence why they are the best suitor for the chosen femme, regardless of whatever romantic situation these women may already find themselves in. Just as Daisy, and the symbols associated with Daisy, becomes Gatsby’s referential self, Daisy can also be used to measure the worth of Gatsby’s self against other men. Such is the competition surrounding these chosen women that to win these woman’s appreciation is a measurement of a man’s greatness in relation to all the other men that desire her. The Great Gatsby allows us to watch what the realisation of our romantic selves might look with violence, disappointment and stoical faith.
If we were trying to deconstruct how a female has the ability to make the strongest sense of a man’s self, I would provide the following answers and observations:
- Faith in one’s sense of romantic self is based on the belief that the selected individual is the right person for you, and similarly that you are the right person for them. Gatsby assures Daisy that they won’t runaway but shall stay in West Egg even with Buchanan living opposite. This exemplifies the romantic self’s amazing ability to transcend rationality. In turn, unrequited love or never experimented romance might serve to confirm one’s compatibility with another because they have never been given evidence proving otherwise. Beyond the abstract association with symbolic association, we may have direct experience of feeling physiologically at ease and strength with the selected individuals. If one finds that they are at greatest comfort or strength with the given individual then one is likely to assume they are the best fit for companionship. Alternative considerations that make the right one may include cultural, political or social factors.
- The problem of who you spend your only life with is one of, or if not the most, important problem that you can solve. After spending probably too much time watching the films of Eric Rohmer I had to ask myself why it was I was so enamoured with these aesthetically gorgeous sequences of essentially the same story told in different locations with different actors. I concluded that the pursuit of companionship and romance offer our most important lessons on how to prevent loneliness, how to find excitement and all the spatial, social, cultural, economic and political benefits that might come from companionship.
- We have no idea what to do with our thoughts. Therefore, the idea of the self or the romantic self is a very effective way of conditioning thought, because it gives us a centre of attention amidst agitated and untrained minds. Thought is the most addictive substance on the planet and therefore we get addicted towards thought patterns like the romantic self. The romantic self may have the effect of evoking feelings of creativity, justice, melancholy, innocence or stoicism. When one learns to meditate one has the ability to locate exactly in the mind and body where recurring sensations of love and hate emerge in the body. One may find that whenever they are obsessing over Alessandra Mastronadi they experience the exact same physical sensation in the face. In absence of learning how to meditate we have been given no defence beyond sleep, booze, conversation, television and reading to rescue us from the mercy of our thoughts. In turn, one can effectively deconstruct the true nature of emotions like addiction, desire, love or hate. The relationship to thought is key to understanding how Gatsby is able to stay in love with Daisy for 5 years without seeing her. Billie Eilish talks excellently about her teenage love for Justin Bieber, a man she had never met yet felt he was wedded to her, I have had much less extreme affections that were expressed in public for both Sharon Van Etten in 2019 and Emma Stone in 2017. The delusional aspect of the Romantic Self is best demonstrated in Anna Karenina, where Levin becomes dissatisfied with his relationship to Kitty after making his intention to marry her the main object of his efforts for years, until he is disappointed with the reality of his dreams. In the end, Levin finds greatest satisfaction through philosophy and spirituality. Given that we are discussing the importance of the philosophy of the self in this context, I would posit one is better rewarded through commitment towards a philosophy like mindfulness meditation where one is better able to understand the manifestation of self and the relationship towards thought.
- Even if the narrative self that we build around individuals fails to provide us with lifelong meaning and satisfaction, these women may still offer legitimate representations on the symbols that we associate to them. For instance, Gatsby’s association with Daisy’s beauty, her family, her wealth and her life in New York are, aside from perhaps her beauty, objective facts about her life. Therefore, women have the ability to be the representatives and associates of capabilities, symbols and lifestyles that serve to differentiate them from other women and create qualitative differences within the romantic imaginations of men.
- The Romantic Self is in direct correspondence with the culture. If one believes themselves to be a romantic self they are in correlation with all the plays, films, television series and music on affection with the culture serving to condition the individuals imagination on love and deepening connection towards the cultural items.
- We are built to reproduce. Therefore, bodily functions like sexual organs make us well adapted towards adoring figures of beauty, and intuitively it seems to me likely that our psychology is created to satisfy these reproductive needs.