The Green Light

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.”


Last Page of The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. 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 once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an esthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . And one fine morning —

So, we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.


3 thoughts on “The Green Light

  1. My favorite novel.

    On my 60th birthday my father sent me a simple framed page of handwritten cursive that looked familiar. At first I mistook it for my own words as I started to read it, thinking he was sending me some old scrap of my early writing. As I read the words I had read so many times before I realized it was the last page of Gatsby, in Fitzgerald’s own hand. It turns out my father had gone down to Firestone Library in Princeton and convinced a docent to pull the page from the original manuscript and copy it for him so he could send it to me. It hangs on the wall of my bedroom as a constant reminder of so many things; the importance of writing down our thoughts, the power of words to communicate important themes, and the eternal and enduring nature of Truth spoken with clarity.

    There has been a great deal of fortuity in your last few posts- at least for me. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, they have brought me a great deal of inspiration at precisely the right time.

  2. What a story! The original handwritten page that I posted above. Your father must have been an amazing person. It has always been one of my favorite quotes from The Great Gatsby. So lyrical and beautiful with powerful symbols. I originally had the quote in a longer blog but began whittling away the longer blog until just this was left.

  3. Over the almost six decades since I first read Gatsby, this has been one of my two favorite passages in 20th century literature (the other is the ending of Joyce’s The Dead). I have read and reread these words and marveled at their beauty and haunting impression. Thanks.

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