Literature, by its loosest definition, is any written work, which surprisingly includes songs. If you’d told me this a few years ago, I would be surprised to hear that songs are worth anything at all, as I went through a very critical phase of detesting pop music, which consists of all song except for dubstep, and was stubbornly fixed on only listening to instrumental classical music. However, my appreciation of song has grown as a result of listening to songs that are not pop and acknowledging that some pop songs are really catchy.
Sometimes songs are an integral part of a work, like a musical. Other times, it is but a small component of a work, like in The Great Gatsby.
“In the morning,
In the evening,
Ain’t we got fun”
“One thing’s sure and nothing’s surer
The rich get richer and the poor get – children.
In the meantime,
In between time -“
It’s a bit ironic that the song says that the poor get children, as Daisy and Tom have a child, Pammy. They are not materially poor, but rather mentally poor, poor of character. They have an inability to sympathize with people who aren’t wealthy and even at the end, are not happy nor unhappy. Pammy, supposedly the expression of Tom and Daisy’s love, appears only twice in the novel, which suggests that the love between Tom and Daisy is flimsy at best, simply a convenient arrangement.
Lyrics have meaning, not only on their own, but also in the bigger picture. Klipspringer, who is playing the piano, attempts to play another song, “The Love Nest,” twice, but fails the first time, claiming that he hadn’t practiced in a long time. He is able to play the song after Gatsby eggs him on; this mirror’s Gatsby’s attempts to win Daisy’s affections: the first time he lost Daisy, but that was due to no fault of his own, as he had to serve in World War 1 and was stuck at Oxford due to a mistake. Gatsby is sure that with enough practice and planning, he will be with Daisy once more. The lines, “In the morning,/In the evening,/ Ain’t we got fun,” refer to Gatsby’s seemingly endless parties, which Gatsby arranged to have a chance, no matter how slight, of meeting Daisy again. Gatsby was extremely concerned with Nick’s opinion of him (Gatsby) because Nick was his ticket to seeing Daisy again. Gatsby tries to be casual when meeting Daisy again, but in addition to moving around stiffly and laughing almost mechanically, “he [Gatsby] was pale, and there were dark signs of sleeplessness beneath his eyes.” Gatsby would prefer if everything ran according to his plan like a recorded song, but Daisy is the impromptu improvisation that throws Gatsby off and enchants him simultaneously.
Check out more work by Kathleen Tyler Conklin: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ktylerconk/