Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Page Count: 180
Original Publication Date: 1925
Genre(s): Classic lit, Fiction
The Great Gatsby is often referred to as the greatest American novel ever written. That, of course, is up for debate. Whether or not it’s the greatest American novel, or if it’s just a great novel, is up to you, my dear reader. I, personally, think it’s one of the best. There are few novels I will read and re-read, especially with so many new novels being published every year. Gatsby is one of those rare novels, as this is my third reading of it.
I first read it the first time in high school, like most other people, and instantly enjoyed it. This was the same year Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation hit the big screens (but I’ll save those opinions for another post). I read it again in my college American Literature class and was surprised that my professor actually disliked the novel. And now, as a third time, I have read it with my very small book club consisting of myself, my girlfriend, and our mutual friend. My girlfriend and I always disagree when it comes to the novel, so interesting discussions were generated. I can’t wait to see where I’ll be in life when I read it next.
As you either already know or could probably guess, The Great Gatsby is about a man named Gatsby. But the story is told from his neighbor’s perspective. In his late twenties, Nick Carroway moves to West Egg in New York and winds up neighbors with Jay Gatsby. When Gatsby discovers Nick is the cousin of Daisy Buchanan, Nick’s boring summer quickly turns into a wild, dramatic ordeal of which Nick becomes stuck in the middle.
Though the narrator, Nick isn’t really a part of the story. He goes places and does things, but mostly he is just a bystander, narrating from the sidelines, almost. I think that’s what I find most fascinating about the novel, actually—that Nick, although a character, is less of a player in the story and more of a narrator with a name. Right in the opening paragraphs, Nick talks about Gatsby in the former sense, and even says “Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book,” as if Nick himself is the author. So, that’s how I read the story: as Nick’s story. I like Nick a lot. He’s a good guy with an honest heart (or, at least, he makes himself out to be). He’s also hilariously sarcastic and always makes me laugh no matter how many times I’ve read the sentiment.
I also want to mention the other characters, because they are the integral elements to this story. I know how I feel about Nick, as well as Daisy and Tom. My opinion of them almost never changes. Daisy, though funny in her own way, comes across more as childish and flighty. Honestly, she seems kind of mental. My girlfriend usually argues that Daisy is a victim, but this time around she seemed to agree with me in that, though we can have sympathy for Daisy, she is more like her husband Tom than she wants to believe, making her more of a villain. As for Tom, I can never find a redeeming factor to him, except this time I related to Nick’s description of him:
“[He was] one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anticlimax.”pg. 6
I feel that on a spiritual level…
Gatsby is a lot harder to figure out. He’s a complex character that I’m never sure if I like or just pity. He is endearing at times, but he’s also extremely obsessive, kinda creepy, and also a little…unwell. I never dislike him, but I do waver back and forth between like and non-like.
The story itself is like a rollercoaster. It starts out slow introducing the characters and the setting, but once Gatsby becomes a central figure in the story, the novel slowly gains speed until the climax: the hotel scene. This is when things suddenly speed up, and the tone of the novel changes along with the characters. After this scene, it’s almost like reading a different novel entirely. I love that. I love how this one climactic scene so drastically changes everything.
And clearly the writing is the best part. Fitzgerald had a way with words unmatched by most writers. He gives the twenties this air of nostalgia, riches, and wild fun, while also highlighting the grim and slimy. Here in 2018 we’re almost entering the ’20s again, and because of this novel, I guarantee many will throw Gatsby-themed New Years parties. I know I probably will.
I honestly could write a paper about this novel, but I won’t; I want this more to be a book review rather than an academic analysis. I guess what I’m trying to say is, this is a great novel, and if you hated it when your teachers or professors made you read it, read it again and discover something new. It’s worth it.
–“I was within and without, simultaneous enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”
–“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had.”
–“Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it?”
–“I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”
–“I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires.”
–“Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.”