That blasted green light! Gatsby clinging to it for dear life. Reading The Great Gatsby feels so awfully bittersweet. Fitzgerald’s talent as a writer is beyond words in my opinion and he’s quickly climbing the list of my most beloved authors. I’m shocked at how long it took me to reread Gatsby’s story since my introduction as a high school junior. I suppose I feared being disappointed. That somehow the past 11 or so years had jaded me too much to find Jay Gatsby a remarkable character. Thank the literary gods my fears have been put to rest and I can honestly say Fitzgerald’s crowing achievement will always hold a special place on my shelves. With the movie looming on the the not-so-distant horizon, I knew now would be the perfect time to revisit my old friend Nick as he told this short little tale of the slippery American Dream.
I’m fairly certain no one needs a serious synopsis. Jay Gatsby is a self-made man from humble origins who becomes this larger than life personification of the American Dream. Unfortunately, his own ideas of success and happiness are never obtained because the woman he loves – the incredibly vapid Daisy Buchanan – will never be his. No matter how shiny his house, how green his grass, or how deep his pockets.
My favorite writers all tend to have one thing in common – the ability to write something, even the ridiculously mundane, and make me drool while reading it. My heart pitter-patters at long, luscious prose far faster than a deftly plotted masterpiece. And while I can definitely appreciate both, beautiful words will always win. The Great Gatsby is just that – freakin’ beautiful words and full-bodied sentences. This very book and all of Fitzgerald’s other work demonstrates while I’ll never actually write anything myself. I could never even come close to his genius.
I’m swooning all over this blog post! So sorry, y’all. Let’s get back to business. What surprised me this time through was how short the novel is – how succinct. I remember agonizing over this narrative in high school only to fly through it as an adult. The novel suffers not at all from its brevity, but rather benefits from the swift pacing and nearly overnight downfall of this colossal man-giant. The book is one huge symbol and filled with literary technique. Quite literally, literary terminology leaks across the pages. I can understand why this would turn away some readers who prefer a more abstract rendering on existentialism, but I love this no-nonsense approach. It’s definitely a wonderful teaching tool and I easily grasp why The Great Gatsby is read so often in school. It’s also, hands-down, Fitzgerald’s most accessible story and the one I recommend unfamiliar readers begin with.
As far as the characters are concerned, they, admittedly, are mostly detestable. Daisy and Tom especially. But as John Green says in his crash course youtube video (I’ll link it below), the characters don’t have to be likeable to be interesting. What’s fascinating about Daisy is how a man like Gatsby could become so enraptured by her as to ruin his entire life. These people existed and still exist. We read about them in magazines and hold them high on gilded pedestals. Reading The Great Gatsby gives us a lens not just to view the 1920s Long Island elite, but to help us understand hero worship, idolatry, and celebrity which we all fall victim to at some point. Do the things to which we aspire, our own American Dreams, actually have any valuable substance or will we all end up face-down in a pool when our dreams come crashing (pun intended!) down around us?
I’m excited to see the film in May. While the casting has me scratching my head a bit, I do think Leonardo DiCaprio will be a great Gatsby. The vibrant cinematography will add an interesting juxtaposition to the somber realities of the movie’s end. I’ll be there opening night and hope you other bloggers will be as well so we can all share our experiences. The more the merrier, and this is one story that deserves all the attention!