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"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back, ceaselessly into the past". What significance do these closing lines have for our understanding of the novel as a whole?

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Introduction

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back, ceaselessly into the past". What significance do these closing lines have for our understanding of the novel as a whole? The main theme of this novel is "dreams", the achievement of dreams and what effect that has on the characters. All the characters in "The Great Gatsby" have a dream - some have achieved their dream and accepted this, some have achieved their dream and "like boats against the current" try to recapture their dream. However, this is unrealistic as explored throughout the novel is the fact that once dreams are achieved, they are corrupted and can never be achieved again. The first example of this we see is Tom who reached "acute excellence at twenty-one". Everything after is described as an "anti-climax" and that he would "drift on forever seeking...some irrecoverable football game". Tom has no dreams left and the image of Tom's character we get is due to this lost hope, his controlling nature and violence is because of this vanished aspiration. ...read more.

Middle

When he achieves her the second time, he realises how much he had lost. When Gatsby has made his money from crime and it is this crime that Fitzgerald chooses to define the era. Attention is paid to the music and the dress of the era, but crime - bootlegging during time of the prohibition - becomes the focus socially. It highlights the "moral failure of a society obsessed with wealth and status." [1]. Boats beating against the current could also be used to describe moralistic people trying to avoid this crime and the attraction of money that this crime brings. Nick sees himself as moral and a "good driver" - a metaphor used to describe somebody on the 'straight and narrow road' - and when asked by Gatsby if he'll work with himself and Mr Wolfshiem - in the suggestion of crime related business - Nick turns it down and returns to his ultimately unsuccessful but legitimate business. The idea of boats against the current seems a failing task. ...read more.

Conclusion

Nick holds Gatsby, perhaps unrealistically, perfect. "Gatsby turned out alright the end; it is what preyed on Gatbsy, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and shortwinded elations of men". He hangs on to his original idea of Gatsby being influenced by the corruption, and not Gatsby adding to the corruption already in place. Nick even goes as far to run out graffiti written about Gatsby after his death. Nick can be seen as the boat, beating back against time and Gatsby's reputation. In conclusion, the significance of the last line of the novel can relate to many aspects, and helps us understand the theme of the recapturing a dream already corrupted. It suggests that even if you realise your dream has gone it is better to try and strive for your dream, otherwise you end up as Tom and Daisy drifting and smashing until there is nothing left. [1] - Tony Tanner, "Introduction to the Great Gatsby". Penguin Classics, 1990. Nikki Broadbent ...read more.

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Response to the question

Response to Question
This question requires candidates to apply the final lines of the novel to the novel as a whole and see how it relates to themes in the novel. The candidate focuses on dreams in the novel, and ...

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Response to the question

Response to Question
This question requires candidates to apply the final lines of the novel to the novel as a whole and see how it relates to themes in the novel. The candidate focuses on dreams in the novel, and this is good as it allows in-depth analysis of one area of the novel, which is preferable to shallower analysis of a wider area of the novel. The fact that the candidate has discussed the different ways in which the novel can be read, in light of the lines in the question, shows that they are aware that there are different ways of reading the novel and different conclusions can be made. This is an impressive skill and is one required at A Level and not really at GCSE, but if candidates are able to do this, then it would demonstrate to the examiner a very strong candidate, most likely A* standard.

Level of analysis

Level of Analysis
The level of analysis in this essay is generally of a good standard, but could be deeper. I feel this is particularly the case with the penultimate paragraph (considering Nick's idealisation of Gatsby), as the candidate writes that "Another significance the sentence [...] holds for our understanding can be in relation to Nick’s romanticised idea of Gatsby" but never explains exactly how the two relate. Is Nick one of the "boats against the current", or is Gatsby? Why is this? Candidates need to make sure that they use the PEA (or PEE) structure for their essays, which is Point, Evidence, Analysis (or Explanation) to ensure that every point they make is well-developed and will gain them marks, otherwise they are just wasting time in the exam or taking up space in what may be a limited word count for a coursework essay. However, as this is the penultimate paragraph, it is understandable that the candidate might have been running out of time, which also highlights the need for candidates to try to get into the habit of good timekeeping in exams, and it's definitely a skill that becomes more important as you move on to A Levels and beyond.

Quality of writing

Quality of Writing
The candidate shows a mature and controlled writing style. The introduction is good, and presents a good overview of the candidate's essay, however I think it would be better to separate the part about Tom and make that a separate paragraph. This is not particularly important and the examiner would not penalise a candidate - at GCSE the structure of essay, as long as it is not problematic or makes the essay confusing or unreadable, is not important. They italicise quotations, which helps to mark them out a little from the rest of the essay, but I personally feel that it is irrelevant and somewhat pointless. It is definitely not something that is needed to get top marks, and candidates shouldn't feel any pressure to use this style.


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