Lisa's Reviews > The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
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Mar 10, 08

Recommended for: Anyone!
Read in February, 2008

** spoiler alert ** I first read the Great Gatsby when I was sixteen. Gatsby’s relentless pursuit of unrequited love was enough to set my adolescent pulse racing and send me to the library with the grand ambition of reading everything Fitzgerald ever wrote. A decade later I am even more awed by the book than I was the first time I followed Gatsby’s story through the breathless pages of Fitzgerald’s modernist American classic.
The story takes place over the course of one summer, not coincidentally beginning just before Independence Day. The narrator, Nick, moves to a peninsula out side of the city called West Egg which looks straight across to its physical double, East Egg. Despite the outward similarity of these two locations, the inhabitants of East Egg are from old money while the prosperity of the citizens of West Egg is due to much more recently acquired wealth. The towns are therefore described as, in actuality, bearing a “bizarre and not a little sinister contrast” to one another. This juxtaposition sets up a narrative of the push and pull of opposites: east versus west, new versus old, truth versus illusion.
The two worlds of West Egg and East Egg are brought onto a collision course through Nick who rents the house next door to James Gatsby’s enormous mansion and who happens to be the cousin of Gatsby’s love interest, Daisy, and friend to Daisy’s old moneyed, old fashioned husband, Tom Buchanan. As the summer unfolds, it becomes clear that none of the characters are whom they appear to be, Gatsby is not from a rich family nor is he an alumni of Oxford, as a matter of fact, when he first met and fell in love with Daisy he had almost no money at all. Tom is an outspoken proponent of the traditional family structure while he simultaneously carries on an affair, and Daisy is neither quite as brave nor quite as independent as she would like the world to believe. Even Jordan Baker, Daisy’s friend who has an affair with Nick that summer, is a professional golfer who has been accused of cheating and is described by Nick as “incurably dishonest.” Each character can also be understood to stand for a different arch type within American society, Tom is the wealthy patrician, carrying in his blood and his bearing decades of privilege and position, yet he has recently begun to read pseudo-science books about the impending fall of civilization. In other words, that civilization which has been shaped and protected by men in Tom’s social class is in jeopardy. Daisy is a modern woman, witty and provocative, she has even had sex before her wedding night, but when she announces to Nick that she is sophisticated he feels “the basic sincerity of what she has said.” Flappers of the twenties may have looked and behaved unconventionally, but when it came right down to it, most of them married men liked Tom who could provide them with material security. Jordan is more the truly modern woman, a professional who mostly takes care of herself, but she has achieved this position through various acts of dishonesty. Gatsby, of course, is the self made man, the challenge to the established order of society. It is not Gatsby’s existence that threatens the world of East Egg, America has always boasted of self-made men, it is the fact that he has suddenly come so close. He is just across the bay and his mansion, while gaudy and tasteless, is nevertheless every bit as big as Tom’s. Gatsby is finally in a position to make a claim on Daisy’s love, and therefore on Tom’s social superiority. He is so close to fulfilling the American dream he can almost reach right out and touch it.
Like Fitzgerald himself, Gatsby pursues his dream through the vehicle of fiction. Gatsby invents a new persona for himself in order to enter Daisy’s world; Fitzgerald created windows into the lives of the rich and glamorous and through these stories, became a figure of fame and fortune himself. In the end, Gatsby does not succeed in winning Daisy, but it isn’t really about her, it’s about his dream, his belief in limitless possibilities, that quality of bravery and ingenuity that has come to be known as the American dream. “The orgastic 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--"
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Brendan Gleason i hated being told what to read in school, so i rebelled in my understanding and enjoyment of some great literature(which really only hurt myself). but the one's that i've gone back and re-read have truly impressed me. Most of them anyway(still couldn't get into "Einstein's Dreams" or "The Martian Chronicles"). But i definitely enjoyed Gatsby, and your review was spot on. i would've written, "I liked it" and been done, but i guess some are a little more eloquent than me. nice work.


Lisa Either a little more eloquent than you or else with a lot more time on my hands =)
Lisa


Emily Beautiful review


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