Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Publish Date: April 10th, 1925
Genres: Classic, High School
A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, The Great Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning–“Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.
It’s also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby’s quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means–and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby says admiringly. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy’s patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is considered one of the greatest American novels of the 20th century. Appropriately, I was assigned to read it for my American Lit. class. And of course I was the genius who left it to the last minute and was forced to read it over the course of two days. Fortunately, the book is relatively short, and despite my skimpy allotted reading time, this is one of my favorite classics. And no, that is not solely based upon the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio starred in the movie adaptation. As an added bonus, my teacher is showing us the film during class over the next several days. But enough of my ramblings about my 10th grade English class.
The story is retold by the writings of Nick Carroway, who serves as the first person narrator throughout the novel. Set in 1922, the book centers around the fictional city of West Egg in Long Island, New York. When Nick moves to West Egg at the beginning of the novel, he quickly hears rumors circulating about his mysterious millionaire neighbor, a many in his 30s by the name of Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is known throughout New York for his infamous parties held at his lavish estate. The source of Gatsby’s wealth, however, is not immediately apparent and becomes a central question as the narrative progresses. As Nick befriends his new neighbor, he uncovers the secrets of Gatsby’s past – secrets that he alone has heard. When Nick learns of the significance of the green light that can be seen across the bay from Gatsby’s dock, he realizes that Gatsby is a man overcome with loneliness and grief. Buried in a world of fantasy and illusion, Gatsby remains rooted in the past, oblivious to the ever-changing world around him.
When I initially dove headfirst into the book, I had minimal knowledge of the plot and characters. I don’t even think I had read the back cover prior to reading the book. Therefore, I was under the impression that I was launching into an epic love story between Daisy and Gatsby. I could not have been farther from the truth. The Great Gatsby is certainly no sappy romance. Instead, it recounts the story of a heartbroken man wishing to rekindle a romance with someone who has already moved on. While the characters’ true thoughts and intentions are not immediately apparent, they become more transparent as the plot unravels, revealing their defining traits and characteristics.
My favorite component of this book was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing style. He was gifted with words, weaving a flawless novel that captivates and enchants readers. Looking beyond the face value of his writing, a series of hidden meanings and underlying themes are revealed, making it evident why this book has withstood the test of time. F. Scott Fitzgerald drew from his own personal experience while writing The Great Gatsby, expertly incorporating raw emotions into his work. The tragic ending leaves much up to the imagination of the reader, establishing several unanswered, lingering questions.
I also enjoyed the depth and personalities of the characters. Each character has complex and conflicted emotions which gradually become apparent. Bonds are formed and broken as the characters shift and change, revealing their true identities as the novel runs its course. I was intrigued by the backgrounds of each respective character, which remained mysterious and uncertain for the majority of the book. The brief snatches of information that were revealed breathed life into each character, making them realistic and three-dimensional.
While I wouldn’t recommend attempting to read this book in two days, I would recommend it to anyone who has not yet had the opportunity to read it. It certainly surpassed my expectations of any classic. It’s modern language and setting are easily comprehensible, setting it apart from many other classics. Despite its somewhat slow start, the plot quickly picks up, captivating readers until the very end. It was definitely worth reading, and I would be more than willing to reread it a few years from now.