F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is an overwhelming and thick-layered novel about love, exploring the social differences in America’s 1920s society
Many years ago I’ve read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby and it left quite an impression. Recently we were discussing the book and whether or not Jay’s love for Daisy was real. So I decided in order to be able to answer that question, to read again The Great Gatsby. It was thrilling to again connect to Jay, Daisy and Nick.
Through the eyes of narrator Nick Carraway, we perceive the story of the rich Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy. But Nick is not only just the storyteller, he is involved and chooses which information or events to be shared with the reader. Nick is a country boy who moves to New York to find employment in the bond business. He knows friends have done so and he looks forward to making a living far away from Minnesota. Nick ends up living the American Dream in Long Island, that is divided in two: The West Egg, where the ‘nouveau riches’ live and the East Egg, where the establishment resides, old money so to speak. Where Nick has little money he finds himself a small house next to the grandeur of Jay Gatsby’s mansion. But although he lives in the West Egg, Nick is an educated man who is connected to those living in the East Egg. For his cousin, Daisy lives there with her husband Tom Buchanan, a former classmate of Nick.
Where Nick socialises with the Buchanans, he also makes the acquaintance of his wealthy neighbour. Gatsby throws parties every night, his house fully illuminated at all times, a beacon of light overseeing the East Egg and its inhabitants. It becomes clear that Gatsby wants something: to be reacquainted with his former girlfriend Daisy, with whom he fell in love 5 years ago. While Daisy and Jay meet again and renew their love, husband Tom is having an affair but at the same time becomes very jealous. Narrator Nick is the middleman, befriending a girl who is a pathetic liar. Drama is in the air: Daisy has second thoughts about leaving Tom and marrying Jay, Tom’s mistress gets hurt and dies, an action for which Jay Gatsby is held responsible. The inevitable ending is tragic, the more because of the fact that we are shown Gatsby, the man behind the mask, his raison d’être, the driving and devastating force behind his actions.
The book is overwhelming and layered thick, it not only shows us a love story but foremost, it is a tale of living in America in the 1920’s, of the gap between the haves and have-nots and of the establishment and the newborn riches. It tells us the compelling and heartbreaking life of Jay Gatsby, who was lost forever after meeting Daisy. From then on everything he did and strived for was aimed at regaining Daisy’s love, to be in the same league as her, so to speak, to be someone worthy of Daisy’s love. We may envy Gatsby for the life he leads but it is all empty and hollow, only intended to be loved by Daisy. No one comes to Gatsby’s funeral or mourns his death, except perhaps for his father and his neighbour narrator Nick Carraway.
Even about Nick’s feelings we are left in the dark because he only shows us his emotions if and when he wants to. I think he does mourn, not only the life of Gatsby but of all those, that live idly and in decay, corrupted by wealth without any moral standards. To come back to the question I asked earlier: did Gatsby love Daisy? Yes, I think he did, in such a destructive way that he sacrificed everything, including his morality, to be worthy of her, expecting nothing less in return. No woman can answer such love and certainly not Daisy who intentionally married old money because she needs her comfortable surroundings. Gatsby died twice: first by being rejected (again) and second by the bullet. The first was all the lonely man behind the mask could endure, that mortal blow alone would suffice to end his miserable life.
How does the book reflect on and relate to Scott Fitzgerald’s life? There are so many fascinating details that that will have to be the subject of another, future blog…
About the Author
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was an American short-story writer and novelist famous for his depictions of the Jazz Age (1920s) as well as his private life in both America and France. He is one of the major American writers of the twentieth century — a figure whose life and works embodied powerful myths about the country’s national dreams and aspirations. Fitzgerald was talented and perceptive, gifted with a lyrical style and a pitch-perfect ear for language. He lived his life as a romantic, equally capable of great dedication to his craft and reckless squandering of his artistic capital. He left us The Great Gatsby (1925), Tender Is the Night and a gathering of stories and essays that together capture the essence of the American experience. His writings are insightful and stylistically brilliant; today he is admired both as a social chronicler and a remarkably gifted artist.
|Publisher||Scribner (September 30, 2004)|