“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” The most famous among The Great Gatsby quotes is the novel’s final sentence, restating its central theme. It reflects Jay Gatsby’s inability to let go of the past. His efforts to bring it back are barely worth it.
The Great Gatsby is generally considered to be one of the main novels of the Roaring Twenties. That time is characterized by a widespread disregard for tradition and the past. High on prosperity and freedom, Americans embraced materialism and hedonism. The novel sheds light on the shortcomings of this mentality. Fitzgerald demonstrates the powerful hold that the past has on its protagonist, Jay Gatsby.
Although wealthy, famous, and successful by the time standards, Gatsby is not a happy man. The driving purpose behind his pursuit of wealth and fame is his desire to be accepted by Daisy. She was his first love but has married another man. The symbolic literary device of the green light on Daisy’s dock across the bay represents this hope. At the same time, it underlines the distance between Gatsby and its fulfillment. His efforts to resume their past relationship are futile because the currents of time have long since pulled them apart.
The quote meaning becomes incredibly rich in this historical and personal context. As a man of the Roaring Twenties, Gatsby persistently pursues his personal objective. He doesn’t lose hope despite harsh reality. He struggles against the current, but contrary to recent conviction, such a struggle is doomed to failure. Fitzgerald shows that, no matter how we struggle, the past remains in the past. The present is also doomed to become the past, putting the vanity of his generation into perspective.