Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scribner, 180 pages

"In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, 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."

I planned on reading this book ages ago, but held off on it because one of my elective classes I was taking in school ensured me that we would get to it. Unfortunately, there just wasn't enough time and room in the curriculum so I never got the chance to read it. Thank goodness my copy was just lingering, sitting on my night stand urging me to open the novel and read on! I was pleasantly surprised with The Great Gatsby. I found it to be an amazing novel, especially for a classic. I wouldn't recommend this book to just anyone though, mostly to those fellow book enthusiasts who treasure the words and the pages. Overall, The Great Gatsby was terrific!

At the very beginning of the novel we are introduced to the main character, Nick Carraway. Nick Carraway is currently living on Long Island in West Egg, NY. On the other side of Long Island is East Egg, NY where more of the richer subside. Nick is looking for work in the bonds business and lives opposite to his cousin Daisy of whom lives in East Egg. Nick is probably one of the most honest characters in the book because the majority of the others such as Tom Buchanan and Mr. Jay Gatsby himself are very hollow people. And by hollow, I mean mostly superficial chasing after money and status. These hollow personas are usually what turn a lot of people off to The Great Gatsby. I've heard quite a few complaints about well, who would want to read about lavish lifestyles, constant parties, and those pursuing people of whom they don't genuinely love? The point of The Great Gatsby isn't simply about those things; it runs a lot deeper and is why it is such a classic in time. Gatsby as a character remains quite a mystery for most of the novel. We actually aren't even introduced to him until Nick meets him at one of his extravagant parties. Most of the people who attend Gatsby's parties don't even know who Gatsby is himself or how he acquired his fortunes or even what his history is. I thought this aspect added to the plot of the novel because throughout reading I kept questioning to myself who the real "Gatsby" was. Again, with the hollow characters, we have Daisy and Tom Buchanan. Tom is having an affair with a woman named Myrtle, while Daisy finds her connection to Gatsby and that's where things start to get interesting. Gatsby has this idea of Daisy because of their relationship they've had in the past and it brings up a bigger concept behind loving someone versus loving the idea of someone. I'm not going to say I loved all the characters because most of their ideals were very immoral counter to what I believe in, but I thought Gatsby was a cool character and Nick also, although he manages to get involved with some people he probably shouldn't.

The symbolism in this novel, where to even start! First off, we have the green light which is on Daisy's dock across the bay where she lives in East Egg. This is what Gatsby is forever peering out at, representing his longing for her. There is also the Valley of Ashes where Myrtle Wilson lives. It definitely isn't a pretty sight there and shows how all Americans are searching for that "Great American Dream." The symbolism goes on and on really so I'm not going cover all of it. I'm sure you could spend days and days breaking apart the chapters because there's lots of it in there!

When talking about classics, the writing is a huge factor into what makes it so timeless. F. Scott Fitzgerald has some very beautiful writing that you could probably recognize anywhere. One quote that really made me think was when Daisy was talking about hoping for a little girl.

"I hope she'll be a fool - that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."

This truly demonstrates the kind of hollow characters that were in The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald's writing never waivers and is strong throughout with a broad vocabulary and lots of imagery and metaphors.

The plot in the novel actually surprised me more than I thought. I guess I really hadn't a clue what I was in for considering prior to reading the book all I knew was the time period it was set in, during the roaring twenties. But it's a lot more complex than one would think and after reading the book I kept on analyzing how the ending came about and how character's continued to lead their lives. The ending was spectacular and that's all I can say because I don't want to give anything away, of course!

If you're looking for a short classic, I say go for The Great Gatsby. It really is a marvelous novel that analyzes the way hollow people live their hollow lives. I also like how you can read it and take what you will from it. Sure, there are plenty of messages, but they aren't forced upon you, only encouraged. This is definitely a great classic to start with if you're trying to branch out and read some more classic novels. Just make sure that before reading you're aware that the characters are not necessarily there to be adored and simply eat the novel with an open mind!

Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.

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