Keats and Fitzgerald

"Already with thee! Tender is the night," (Keats, "Ode to a Nightingale")

There is then attention to the fabulous as they ride in the car of the Shah of Persia in Paris and their party swells with people at each phase of the evening "as if by magic" (88). The spectacular in this world imbued with Romantic significance as the book opens on a fragment from Keats' "Ode to a nightingale". Harold Bloom points to Fitzgerald's deep affinity with Keats as "there is a perpetual encounter between the mortal poet or man-of-imagination (Gatsby, Diver) and an immortal or perpetually youthful goddess- woman (Daisy, Nicole, Rosemary)" (Bloom, p.3). Romantic motifs abound throughout book one as Imagination is celebrated, the sublime, the sense of the transcendental imbued within the description of the setting of Villa Diana on the cliffs surrounded by inspiring sea-scapes and rugged cliffs and the edenic garden. There are fireflies riding in the dark air around Villa Diana and the "ghostly wash of the Mediterranean" (44) withdraws into the dinner guests. Rosemary is said by Abe North to be "Plagued by the nightingale" (52).

The nightingale is symbolic in the Romantic tradition. It harks back to Keats' poetic expression and ideal of artistic achievement. Imagination in Keats is revelled in but also shown as precarious and an indulgent escape from the real world in "Ode to a Nightingale". The last stanza is shot through with uncertainty about the relation between the real and the ideal or imaginative.

"Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music - Do I wake or do I sleep?" ("Ode to a Nightingale")

Is the imaginative transfiguration that transcends the worldly a deception? Fitzgerald then is given to doubt the relation between the poetic world he creates and the real world; reconciling the worldly and ideal realms is not easy. The ivory tower of the Divers up on a hill, and their self-imposed exclusion from the rest of the world with their permanent umbrella is presented then with ambiguity. They are in retreat from reality to make their own escapist world. For the magic of the Divers to work it is necessary "that such a detachment from the world had been attained" only then do they reach the peak of their existence and an apogee of conviviality:

"... the Divers began suddenly to glow and expand, as if to make up to their guests, already so subtly assured of their importance, so flattered with politeness, for anything they might still miss from that country well left behind. Just for the moment they seemed to speak to everyone at the table, singly and together, assuring them of their friendliness, their affection" (44).

The Divers' show and behaviour is dependent on the audience, their sense of identity then appears composite and contingent on those around them. They speak 'singly and together' establishing their apparent simultaneity and unity but also the contrary of their dividedness and singularity; the ideal of their relationship and the reality within that is presented.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.