7. Desire in the Waste Land
A night scene by El Greco
Ultimately, Nick's effort to "make History" completely symbolic involves anesthetizing himself to some of the "Jazz Baby's" disturbingly modern agitation. Resembling Miller's Mara, Fitzgerald's Daisy is too much an event rather than a thing, a voice rather than a face, to be directly subsumed under an epiphantic vision of the "significant, elemental, and profound." But Fitzgerald's narrator is resourceful, finding a modern means to attain unity of vision and image in the midst of chaotic noise:
We were sitting at a table with a man of about my age and a rowdy little girl, who gave way upon the slightest provocation to uncontrollable laughter. I was enjoying myself now. I had taken two finger-bowls of champagne, and the scene had changed before my eyes into something significant, elemental, and profound.
As in the account of Owl-Eyes in Gatsby's library, Fitzgerald's self-deprecatory humor couches a serious technique of reading and writing--announcing, in Eliot's terms, "a step toward making the modern world possible for art." To symbolize is to discover the one dispersed in the many. In jest Fitzgerald reveals that an under-determination of the many, even if it be alcohol induced, produces much the same symbolic results as what Freud called over-determination. But when toward the end of The Great Gatsby more earnest symbolic effort is required, Nick turns from alcohol to Freud and is instructed in the rescue of Gatsby's dream by his own "El Greco" dream of West Egg:
I see it is a night scene by El Greco: a hundred houses, at once conventional and grotesque, crouching under a sullen, overhanging sky and a lustreless moon. In the foreground four solemn men in dress suits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress. Her hand, which dangles over the side, sparkles cold with jewels. Gravely the men turn in at a house--the wrong house. But no one knows the woman's name, and no one cares.
Nick's dream poses the problem of Daisy in terms that Gatsby, for whom Daisy remains the "king's daughter, the golden girl," never fully perceives. Under a "lustreless moon" Daisy is revealed to be but another deceptive creature of the night. Sober and plotting she is dangerously incompatible with Gatsby's dream of total fulfillment, but known for what she is she may be handled symbolically. Unconscious, uncalculating, and unnamed, her body may be carried into a house not her own and made into an object of symbolic desire in place of Myrtle's corpse--"no one cares." Whatever alternative aesthetic might properly "house" Daisy is rendered progressively "inessential" by the rise of The Great Gatsby's triumphant symbolist aesthetics:
And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered for Dutch sailor's eyes--a fresh, green breast of the new world.