Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rereading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great GatsbyIn my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. "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."

The first time I read The Great Gatsby a few years ago, I didn't much like it. But I think that's because I didn't completely "get" it. And I still don't completely get it. But I really loved it the second time around. The Great Gatsby is the story of J. Gatz, who renames himself Jay Gatsby. He returns home from the war to discover that his sweetheart has married a wealthier man. He builds up a huge fortune, reinvents himself, and moves into a gigantic mansion across the bay from Daisy's home. He starts to throw huge parties which become very famous in the area; people flock from all over. The book is narrated by Nick Carraway, Gatsby's neighbor, and very possible the only non-muddled person in the book, though he has his own problems too. Gatsby meets him and solicits his help (Nick and Daisy are distant cousins), which Nick agrees to.

The book is short, but really thought-provoking, and I can see why it's a classic. The language that Fitzgerald uses is just amazing. It's lyrical, and really deep and thoughtful. The story itself is rather silly; it's the writing that makes it so great. I wasn't all that fond of Fitzgerald's short stories, and I erroneously came to the conclusion that I don't like F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing. But I loved The Great Gatsby so much.

Another really amazing element of the book is just the character sketches. I love how Daisy and her husband Tom are described: "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..." I really loved that description of a carelessly wealthy couple. There are so many other great parts, but I can't include them all. You know what? Just read the book, and give it a try.

In the end, the rich are portrayed as...well, careless. Daisy really is not a good character, and though Gatsby is all right, he's totally misguided.  Nick is a bit of a coward, Tom I really hated, and Mr. and Mrs. Wilson are kind of subject to the whims of the wealthier. The decadence of this period is portrayed so well. The decadence, and yet the deep sadness, and the urge to forget.

I recently watched the 2000 film version, and I think that helped me get into the book more. The film is very faithful to the book, and much of the dialogue and narration is the same, word-for-word. I would highly recommend this great twentieth century classic, and I may try Tender is the Night next.

Read The Great Gatsby:
  • if you like Scott Fitzgerald
  • if you like books set in the 1920's
  • if you like books set in Long Island and New York City
180 pages.
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

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