The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
So who am I to review such an iconic novel like The Great Gatsby, or any classic for that matter? So much of Gatsby has been analyzed, critiqued, loved, abhorred by bored high-schoolers, etc., that it’s almost impossible to write something that would add to the canon of criticism and not just be repeating what’s been said before.
A classic is something that withstands the test of time, right? That the fundamental principles that govern the book, the essence and soul of the characters, and the issues and concerns that they deal with, reveal truths about society, or government, or relationships, or human nature, that are still relevant today. Therefore, I will try to write something through that lens, but also include aspects like readability – whether it’s worth a go, or something best left to struggling third-year English majors.
Gatsby is considered one of the “great American novels.” Wikipedia told me that in addition to Gatsby, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Invisible Man, and Beloved, among others, could all be considered the Great American Novel. You should have read at least some of these in school. If not, I’m sorry because the school system failed you.
I’ve read The Great Gatsby twice – once for school in the 11th grade and last spring because Baz Luhrman was doing a remake of the movie. Cheers, Leo.
I read that The Great Gatsby changes every time you read it. I remembered nothing about it besides that famous last line. On my second, most current reading, I struggled through the beginning until the story took off, but I found the characters memorable, the themes grand, and the plot engaging. I was also attracted to the melancholy nature that surrounded the story. Also, can we bring back men saying “Old sport?” Because that would be awesome.
Told from the perspective of Nick Carraway, a bond salesman turned writer, we learn the story of Jay Gatsby, Nick’s extremely wealthy neighbor, who harbors enough hope, optimism, and disillusion to power the entire West Egg. The story focuses on his undying love for Daisy Buchanan, Nick’s cousin and a socialite. Set in the 1920’s in a fictional Long Island town and in New York City, the narrative provides a significant social commentary.
I think that the themes of The Great Gatsby are grand, relevant, and encompassing of American society then and now. Some of these are:
- Living in the past
- New rich vs. old rich
- Wealth, greatness, and individualism
- The decline of the American dream and the limits of opportunity
- Attractiveness of glitz and glamour
- Long Island (not really, but geography plays a large part in the novel and I’m from LI, so this excites me)
On another note, I think that Daisy is the original Regina George. Can you see it?
It’s easy to see why Gatsby is a great, iconic novel. However, is it my favorite of the “great American novels?” No, I don’t think it is. Gatsby just doesn’t grab me and stay with me like some of the other novels. (For me, that book is To Kill A Mockingbird.) That being said, I realize that it’s an important book.
The best part of the novel for me was the writing. It is so poetic. Here are some passages that stood out:
- “I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” — Daisy Buchanan, revealing that she may know about Tom’s affair and that she’s not as obtuse as we think.
- “It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard-drinking people.” — Jordan Baker (or anyone who has been to a frat party).
- “Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby. What foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.” — Nick Carraway, summing up Gatsby’s true, pure character versus the character of those around him.
- “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” — Nick Carraway (quoting his father). Some advice for the ages y’all.
- “I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” – Nick Carraway. Don’t we all know someone like this? And I think the term ‘careless people’ describes it beautifully.
- “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – Ah, that famous last line.
- There is a whole Tumblr of Great Gatsby quotes.
- Have a book report on Gatsby? Watch this fantastic crash course on YouTube.
- Some interesting Great Gatsby trivia.
Still Relevant: Yes
Readability: Fairly High
Worth reading: Yes