“… But I didn’t call to him, for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone. He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling involuntarily. I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light.”
This is a quote from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I loved studying this text with my teacher, Ms Byers. She had two earrings in each ear, an infectious laugh and was partial toward Doc Martins. There was a dramatic edge to her voice as she read excerpts of the book to us, sitting on the corner of a desk at the front of the classroom.
I was completely drawn in by this novel to the point where I looked forward to English class. I enjoyed it more than anything I’d ever studied before. At 14 years old I, somehow, related to the kind of melancholy that Gatsby felt when he reached toward the green light that symbolised his love for Daisy.
I don’t know why this was. Maybe I liked following Gatsby’s reckless desire to impress Daisy, his love, with extravagant parties and plans. Maybe I wanted him to achieve the ultimate goal of obtaining the green light. A light that was “impossible to obtain,” as Ms Byers used to remind us.
We all strive to have things that are unobtainable to us. We want that which we can’t have, and, like Gatsby, we reach out toward it. Sometimes if we focus too hard on it we can self-destruct with the need for the light. Meanwhile, the days pass us by as we continue to waste our time wishing for that which is unachievable. Some sit alone obsessing over a failed marriage, and some long for the chance to reunite with an estranged child. Some people want to dive back into the past and erase words that put a series of actions into place. Actions which led them to the predicament they are now in. Some people just wish that things had, simply, turned out differently. Hoping. Wishing. Striving. We all do it. It’s okay to do it. But, Ms Byers was right all those years ago. Sometimes that light we reach toward is, ultimately, unobtainable.
“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 then one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
It really doesn’t matter what Ms Byers said then or what I say now because some of us will always reach toward that unobtainable and distant green light.
Hoping. Wishing. Striving.