Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
What I love most about The Great Gatsby is the language. Angelic and perpetually spellbinding, Fitzgerald weaves together words with ease and grace. His descriptions are in-depth and yet, visceral:
“He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”
Nick Carraway moves into a small home in West Egg. His neighbor, the mysterious Jay Gatsby, lives in an obscene mansion and throws outlandish parties. Carraway finds out that Gatsby is in love with his cousin, Daisy, and Carraway ends up entangled in a web of deception, love, lust, and superficiality.
My favorite aspect of The Great Gatsby is the underlying themes and Fitzgerald’s scrutiny of the American dream.
Gatsby is indeed “Great”. His dreams are bigger than the world in which he resides, and as a result his life is taken from him (spoiler). Blinded by love (or maybe lust), Gatsby pursues Daisy, his childhood sweetheart, after obtaining the wealth he thinks she deserves. His naiveté leads him to believe that the money will unite them. How that wealth is achieved is never actually spelled out, but one can read between the lines in this case. He fails in getting the girl though, because, well she’s married first of all. She’s also well versed in the song of “old money” and the security it brings, which is something her husband provides– even if he is a borderline misogynist.
Though not well received when originally published in 1925, The Great Gatsby has stood the test of time. The novel has been assigned in countless classrooms and analyzed time and again. And one must ask why this is so. Is the book soap-opera dramatic? Yes. Is is a bit unbelievable? Absolutely. Does it accurately portray the disparity between rich and poor? Old money and new money? The issues that exist for those less fortunate? Does it criticize the so-called “American Dream”? Yep.
Fitzgerald’s novel transcends the test of time, because it speaks directly to the timeless issue of societal standards, class, and inequality (in whatever form that may take).
I recommend reading this book more than once. One cannot completely appreciate the intricate language and fleshed out themes the first time. I read this in high school and again in college (and again after that), and it has impacted me in different ways each time. And to end, one of my favorite quotes:
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby