Les jeux et les hommes

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Roger Caillois

In the summer of 1922, Nick Carraway is a young man. He moves to New York from Minnesota, determined to learn about the business of bonds. He decides to rent a house on Long Island, in an area of "new rich" called West Egg. It is a fashionable and stylish place, and the people who live there have not had their wealth long enough to have made deep social connections. They are also more likely to display their riches and show off for other people. Jay Gatsby lives next door in a huge, Gothic mansion. Every Saturday night, there is an extravagant party at his house, but Gatsby himself is rather mysterious. No one knows that much about the man.

Even though Nick lives in West Egg, he actually has connections in East Egg, where the "old money" individuals live. He has also been Ivy-League educated at Yale. One evening, Nick goes to East Egg to have dinner with his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom. While Nick was at Yale, Tom was one of his classmates. Tom and Daisy introduce Nick to one of Daisy's friends, Jordan Baker. She is beautiful, but quite cynical about life. Despite this, she begins a romantic relationship with Nick. While Nick is visiting, he also learns that Tom and Daisy do not have a good marriage, and that Tom is carrying on an affair with Myrtle Wilson. She lives in the Valley of Ashes, with is an industrial dumping ground between New York City and West Egg. It is not long after discovering this that Nick goes to New York City with Myrtle and Tom. Tom has an apartment he keeps for parties, and at one such party – a gaudy, vulgar affair – Myrtle starts taunting Tom about his wife, Daisy. Tom breaks her nose.

Eventually, as the summer moves toward fall, Nick is invited to a party given by Gatsby. He finds Jordan Baker at the party, and they are both able to actually meet Gatsby. He is much younger than they would have expected, with a remarkable smile. He calls everyone he meets "old sport," and has taken on an English accent. During their time at the party, Gatsby asks if he can speak with Jordan alone. Nick learns about his neighbor through Jordan, as she tells him about her conversation with Gatsby. In the course of their one-on-one conversation, Gatsby informs Jordan that he was acquainted with Daisy in 1917, back in Louisville. At that time, he was very deeply enamored with her. Now, he spends nights staring at the green light that is visible on the end of her dock, which is just across the bay from the mansion in which he is currently living.

The only reason he is living so lavishly and throwing all kinds of parties all the time is to get Daisy's attention. He wants to impress her with the wealth and power he has. He wants Nick to create a reunion, but he is concerned that Daisy will not come to see him if she is concerned that he still has feelings for her. In order to make sure that Daisy will come to see him, Gatsby has Nick invite Daisy to have tea with him at his house in West Egg. She does not know that Gatsby will be there, as well. Their reunion is very awkward, but they are able to reestablish the connection they had in the past. Their love is rekindled, and they start an affair. It does not take long before Tom becomes highly suspicious of the relationship that his wife is enjoying with Gatsby.

During a luncheon that is taking place at Daisy and Tom's home, Tom notices how much Gatsby is staring at Daisy. The passion that he feels for her is not something he can disguise, and Tom comes to the (correct) conclusion that Gatsby is completely in love with Daisy. Even though Tom is cheating on Daisy with Myrtle, he is very upset at the idea that Daisy would ever consider cheating on him. The entire group is forced by Tom to drive to New York City. At that point, he confronts Gatsby in the Plaza Hotel. He states that Daisy and he have a history, and that Gatsby could never understand that. He also tells his wife that Gatsby is a criminal, and that the fortune he has created is from illegal activities and bootlegging alcohol. Daisy decides that her allegiance lies with her husband. In an effort to prove that Gatsby cannot hurt him, Tom sends Daisy back to East Egg with Gatsby.

Tom, Nick, and Jordan drive through the Valley of Ashes, and they see that Gatsby's car has been involved in an accident. It has hit Tom's lover, Myrtle, and killed her. When they get to Long Island Nick learns that it was not Gatsby but Daisy who was driving the car. However, Gatsby is going to take the blame. The following day, Tom tells George, Myrtle's husband, that Gatsby was the one who was driving the car when it hit and killed his wife. George assumes that Gatsby was her lover, and does not realize that her affair was with Tom. He goes to Gatsby's mansion, where he shoots and kills him. Then George takes his own life because of what he has done and how he cannot live without Myrtle.

There is a small funeral for Gatsby that is arranged by Nick. After the funeral, he ends the relationship he had with Jordan. Then he moves away from West Egg and goes back to the Midwest. He does that in order to escape the disgust that he feels for the kind of people who are in his life, and the type of people with which Gatsby associated. There is so much moral decay and emptiness among the people who live in West Egg and East Egg, that Nick cannot stand to live there anymore. He reflects on the problems that Gatsby faced, and how the dreams he had of Daisy were corrupted by dishonesty, wealth, and greed. In the same way, the American dream that was supposed to create individualism, joy, and contentment has come apart and developed into the pursuit of money. Gatsby had the power to take his dreams and move them into reality. That made him "great." Still, Nick believes that the era of dreaming – the era in which he currently lives – has come to an end. This is a reflection of all that has changed in his life, and all that has changed in the country during the time period.

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