The Great Gatsby
by F.Scott Fitzgerald
In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write “something new–something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.” That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald’s finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning–” Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.
It’s also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby’s quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means–and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel’s more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy’s patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.
My Thoughts: Confession time, The Great Gatsby is one of those books I’ve usually claimed to read, but never have. Turns out my friend Steph really loves this book, so she lent me her copy so that I could stop lying and start reading.
I’ve really come to discover that I like the 1920’s. There was something about the style, the attitude, the decadence of the age that really appeals to me. It’s like the 1920’s were so shocking that the 1930’s and 40’s had to be extra buttoned up to make up for the misbehaving 20’s. What made this book unique for me was that it was written during the actual time period, unlike most of the books I’ve read the past couple of years set in that time period but written now.
Of course with The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald showcases the shallowness of the age too, at least amongst the elite. Daisy, the love interest of Gatsby, is particularly shallow. She’s very pretty, and very charming, but mostly Gatsby has raised her on a pedestal. She has become an object, a goal, something more than human. And while normally those on a pedestal fall, this time you get the story of what happens to the people that topple with them.
There are many villains in The Great Gatsby– the careless Daisy, the brutish hypocrite Tom, the cheating Myrtle, the shady and corrupt Wolfshiem, but there are plenty of other selfish and opportunistic people floating around Gatsby’s world. It’s a sad thing that after he dies all these people who were happy to drink his wine and eat his food can’t be bothered to publicly mourn him. Even Nick Carroway, our narrator, isn’t without fault- he spurns Jordan, although he does so in part to sever his ties with the people and the attitude that he finds villainous.
Did Daisy and Tom live happily ever after? Absolutely not. I’m sure there were fights and affairs. I’d like to think that someday the guilt consumes Daisy… but I rather doubt that. She is just a poor shadow of the woman Gatsby, and even Nick, imagine her to be. Maybe I’m not being fair to her, and I realize fear is a strong driving force in her character, but she let me down when she chose to let Gatsby take the fall, so screw fairness.
Who was Gatsby in love with? I think he merely loved and worshiped his idea of Daisy. Maybe dying the way he did prevented that love, with it’s false premise, from killing him more slowly. His life was wasted on trying to obtain something that didn’t even exist, and it’s all the more tragic because his drive and ambition was so strong that had it been directed towards a worth while cause, the world would have been a better place.
Hopefully Nick settled down with a nice Midwestern girl and was able to put the past behind him. He’s the only character who seemed to realize what a horrible existence he’d been living.
I’m excited to see the new movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby, but I’m sure as hell bringing tissues! The previews have already shown that it’s going to look gorgeous, and the actors all seem capable.
‘There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.’
Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry.
No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will will store up in his ghostly heart.
‘I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone’s away. There’s something very sensuous about it- overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands.’
Angry as I was, as we all were, I was tempted to laugh whenever he opened his mouth. The transition from libertine to prig was so complete.
The Great Gatsby gets a Midnight Book Rating of: