The Great Gatsby: F Scott Fitzgerald

One of my favourite lines ever is Jay’s reply to Nick when he suggests that Jay can’t repeat the past. “Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”

I guess it is human nature to want to believe that Jay is wrong. Going back, finding the path you should have taken, that’s hard. Easier to believe it is right to stay where you are.

And yet, as a historian, it is terribly obvious to me that Jay is quite right. Indeed, consider the famous observation by Nick that ends this book:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Mostly we do nothing but repeat the past. Unfortunately it is often the wrong past.

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