Gatsby’s Rolls-Royce : reflections on the automobile and literature
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This article discusses the relationship between the automobile and literature in the early twentieth century. Beginning with a general account of the relationship between the automobile and literature, the final section focuses on a key text, The Great Gatsby, and its treatment of the theme of cars. The essay is discursive and does not attempt to be a definitive account of the topic, which is a vast one, but makes observations which could perhaps lead to further critical discussion. Beginning with the racing driver Sir Henry Birkin’s reproaches to poets for not celebrating the heroism of motor racing, the article concludes by contrasting the idealistic notion of racing with Birkin’s own death, seeing a similarity in it between Jay Gatsby’s illusions relating to the automobile and his own tragic end. The article discusses how cars can symbolize human attributes and aspirations, and how they in their turn have contributed to the modern conception of tragedy.
Pearce, B. 2016. Gatsby’s Rolls-Royce : reflections on the automobile and literature. English Academy Review. 33(2): 52-67.