I’ve fallen absolutely in love with The Great Gatsby, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing in general.
Gatsby’s tale contains a myriad of lessons to be learned, specifically regarding the handling of wealth and people and so forth. But the most prominent of these lessons is how we should treat the past.
The past should be cherished. I myself am a very sentimental person, and consider memories, both good and bad, incredibly dear to me. They are a part of who I am. Even memories of hardships and rough patches are important, for they hold the keys to lessons learned, strength mustered, and courage found. The present should take center stage, but sometimes it is necessary to glance back in order to see how far you’ve come. Remembering, cherishing, and occasionally acknowledging antiquity is a beautiful part of existence. Also, the extent to which we can do this, to remember and interact with the past, is wholly unique to humans. Animals are wonderful creatures, but I don’t think they can grasp memories as vividly as we can. We should use this special skill to our advantage, to learn from mistakes, to understand each other, to move forward.
However, the past is not to be dwelled on. There is a difference between acknowledging days gone by and obsessing over them. Gatsby’s approach to the past errs far on the side of the latter. His entire present centers around returning his life to the way it was when Daisy was in it. Instead of letting her become a beautiful memory, she becomes a fixation from which Gatsby cannot pull his mind. This tunnel vision prohibits Gatsby from recognizing that Daisy has changed. He cannot see, or rather, accept, that life has gone on; Daisy is not the girl she was, and their relationship, to be as it once was, is irreparable. His obsession with the past prevents Gatsby from truly living. Instead of learning lessons and acquiring strength that he can apply to his present, he seeks only to return to the way things were.
When regarding the past, if we focus only on what we have lost, we are unable to recognize what we have gained. We can never again live in days gone by; we can only cherish and learn from them.