Civil War Institute
“So, we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” These are the brilliant last lines of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, lines that speak to the fallibility of Gatsby’s American Dream and his inescapable, yet simultaneously unreachable, past. The legendary ending sentence in The Great Gatsby has captured me since I first read the book as a freshman in high school and made me want to read every Fitzgerald book I could find. The more I read, the more I realized the unique implications this famous last line had for Fitzgerald’s own life and literary career. Currently, Fitzgerald serves as the visible face of the Roaring 20’s, or the “Jazz Age,” a decade of extravagance known for dancing, drinking, and merry-making. As forward-looking as he may have tried to live his life, though, Fitzgerald found the past inescapable. “The Cruise of the Rolling Junk” is Fitzgerald’s first hint to the public that, despite his best efforts, he could not escape the past, particularly the Civil War, and neither could the Roaring 20’s. [excerpt]
This is the author's version of the work. This publication appears in Gettysburg College's institutional repository by permission of the copyright owner for personal use, not for redistribution.
Sauers, Cameron T., "“Borne Back Ceaselessly into the Past”: Fitzgerald’s Forgotten Civil War Literature" (2019). The Gettysburg Compiler: On the Front Lines of History. 342.