Life is a balancing act between the past, present, and future. Expressing guilt and regret about the past is almost instinctual, but we accept that it is unchangeable and we put it behind us. However, there are some, who so desperately cling to the idea of the past and believe that they have the power to repeat it. While an action can be repeated in order to emulate an action of the past, the entirety of the moment can never be recreated. This is due to the fact that unlike a physical action, the emotions and intent behind the action are impossible to duplicate.
The character Jay Gatsby in Fitzgerald’s iconic novel, The Great Gatsby, embodies the desire to, “beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” (189). Regarding his relationship with Daisy, Gatsby tries so desperately to override this inability to repeat the past. Gatsby, “wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: “I never loved you. ” After she had obliterated three years with that sentence they could decide upon the more practical measures to be taken,” (116).
What he did not realize is that even if Daisy had returned to her relationship with Gatsby after the five years they were separated, it would not be the same as it was. Though the action of the relationship would be repeated, the emotions and intent behind the actions would have been altered, mostly due to the factors of time, environment, and the changes in both Gatsby and Daisy since their relationship during wartime. When Gatsby made the statement, “’Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!
He did not take into consideration that Daisy is not in the same emotional state as she was five years ago, and neither is he. For an individual, history can never be recreated. This is because the personal change that occurs after the first instance stands in the way of repeating the past. Daisy is now married, and a mother, and Gatsby spent the past five years trying to be the person he thought Daisy wanted him to be, and he changed so much from the man she used to know.
Nick observed, “he talked a lot about the past and I gathered he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy,” (117). They both evolved from the people they were during their relationship during the war, and because of this, even if they were to be together again, their relationship would be completely different. This can also be attributed to the environment in which their relationship first blossomed in comparison to the environment of life five years later. Their love was heightened by the dying need for hope during the time of war.
They can repeat the action of their relationship, but contrary to Gatsby’s belief, it will never be recreated to what it once was due to the change in Gatsby and Daisy, the environment, the circumstances, and the emotion behind it all. Though it is unmanageable to recreate the past, the maxim, “History often repeats itself,” exists because of the misunderstanding that action is the only factor in recreating a moment. In reality, the intent and emotional connection are what make the moment unable to be recreated. The most basic of examples is this: every morning, Monday through Friday, I come into school.
Though my actions are repeated everyday, some days I am exhausted and don’t wish to speak with anyone, other days I am in the sunniest of moods. At first glance, it appears history repeats itself each day I repeat the action of walking into school. However, everyday I have a different experience based on my emotions, environment, and other circumstances that affect the entirety of the situation. History is more than just a simple action, as the maxim, “history often repeats itself,” suggests; it incorporates all aspects of the situation, not just the face value of the deed itself.
Though actions throughout history are often repeated, this does not merit to the statement, “History often repeats itself. ” Other factors that need to be considered are the changes in people, environment, emotions, and circumstances. As much as Gatsby believes in the ability to repeat the past, he does not realize that the past is made up of more than just actions. Unfortunately for Gatsby, just because an action can be repeated, does not mean that one can repeat or recreate the past.