Chapter 6 gives the reader a glimpse of Gatsby the Dreamer, of how the poor James Gatz became the rich Jay Gatsby. What I love about this chapter is how Fitzgerald states something seemingly trivial and mysterious about Gatsby in the beginning of the chapter and then uses that information to solidify Gatsby’s fate.
Also, within the flashback, Fitzgerald uses beautiful word combinations and images to create a cadence that mimics, and sometimes symbolizes, the beat of time. I love this sentence for that reason: “He stayed there two weeks, dismayed at its ferocious indifference to the drums of his destiny, to destiny itself, and despising the janitor’s work with which he was to pay his way through.”
Early in the chapter, Nick decides to reveal some truths about Gatsby, but those truths play out more like a dream:
[Gatsby] was a son of God . . . and he must be about His Father’s Business, the service of a vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.
The idea that Gatsby is God-like is followed by the seemingly contradictory idea that God’s business is to create a deceptive beauty, but this paradox rings true in the end. Regardless, the 17-year-old Gatsby creates visions of who he wants to become as a man, and, by staying faithful to that vision, he does fulfill his dreams.
The only vision he can’t completely grasp is who he will share his life with:
But his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor. Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an oblivious embrace. For a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.
Gatsby didn’t have problems getting women; however, the women he got, he didn’t want. He, therefore, began to imagine what it would feel like to be with the right kind of woman and created images that filled him with hope. He knew that as the god of his own imagination, he could create any life he wanted. He envisioned a life that had no words to describe the beauty and abundance that he could surround himself with.
The following images at the end of Chapter 6 remind me of Peter Pan, a boy who can stay immortal in Neverland if he remains a boy forever. It wasn’t until he met Daisy that his immortality was threatened:
His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. 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. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.
These “unutterable visions” connect to the “fantastic conceits” and the “ineffable gaudiness” earlier in the chapter that he envisioned for himself. Gatsby knew that Daisy’s “perishable breath” would put an end to the world he created–his own Neverland. When he finally gave in to her mortality and felt her respond to his kiss, he was transformed from a god to a mere man, directing his path, but also sealing his tragic fate.