Jason's Reviews > The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
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Aug 03, 07

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Recommended for: people who can read

Most Americans are assigned to read this novel in high school. Few American high schoolers have the wherewithal to appreciate this novel in full. I certainly did not. It is on a shortlist of novels that should, every 5 years starting at age 25, return to any American's required reading list.

First things first: The opening of The Great Gatsby -- its first 3-4 pages -- ranks among the best of any novel in the English language, and so too does its ending. Both for their content and for their prose, the latter of which is stunning and near perfect throughout the novel.

As for that between the novel's opening and conclusion, two things first. (1) History is fairly clear that the term "the American Dream" did not exist at the time Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, and regardless it almost certainly did not exist in the popular consciousness. (2) Few great American novelists after Fitzgerald have not attempted to write "the great American novel". Most of these efforts are absurdly long and often tortured. The Great Gatsby, on the other hand, is relatively short, fluid, and of seemingly effortless yet pristine expression. At a point in history where Fitzgerald's express focus could hardly have been a tale regarding "the American dream" per se or the writing of "the great American novel", Fitzgerald nevertheless crafts the definitive tale of "the American Dream", as well as, his successors' endeavors aside, "the great American novel". Period.

In not so many pages, Fitzgerald paints a brilliantly cogent picture of the potential pleasures, joys, and benefits an individual might deem achievable -- uniquely so -- in an America filled with possibilities. Paired with that picture, Fitzgerald besprinkles The Great Gatsby with the numerous pitfalls and evils that both stand as a barrier to what's imagined achievable in America, and threaten to accompany that which is achieved. Neither the quest for, nor (if possible) the achievement of, the American Dream is a thing untainted. Nor, in Fitzgerald's view, can it be.

Fitzgerald, frankly, writes all that need be written on this subject; whatever his successors' ambitions may be. And he writes it in prose so perfect, so impressive, and so beautiful, I occasionally find myself at a loss to name a novel in the English language constructed with greater skill, and apparent ease thereof.

In short: The Great Gatsby is an inimitable wonder of American fiction. And, for lack of a better word, an "application" of the English language that has few equals. The novel is astounding.
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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Tracy O Yes. You got it.


message 2: by Jay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jay Kim yes it is and i was one of high school students who read this book, and it was wonderful book..


message 3: by Reggia (last edited Nov 26, 2010 02:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Reggia Indeed! it was the prose itself that so enchanted me.


Rolls cool man. cogent and clever.


Rolls I think that though the phrase "american dream" was not coined til later, Horatio Alger certainly had stuffed the idea that a man can rise from "rags to riches" (yeah another cliche. i know. i know.)firmly in the american public's sack of fantasies long before Gatsby. It's Gatsby's idea that money automatically equals respect and acceptance that dooms him.


blue corpse I completely agree with your initial statements--Gatsby is so oft overlooked and under-appreciated by those subjected to it during highschool. While the quality of Fitzgerald's prose could be appreciated (or pointed out to) anyone, it is the mere fact that most people, as they go through life, find themselves in the shoes of one of these characters of misfortune that there are such divisive views between the young and old readers of this masterpiece.


Gary the Bookworm I agree that it is wasted on teenagers. When I reread it in college I was stunned at how powerful it is. Reading again in my forties provoked different reactions. Life Huckleberry Finn it needs to be revisited often over a lifetime.


message 8: by James (new) - added it

James Copeland I was one of the few people in my high school class that found this book powerful and entertaining.


Lena Tumasyan Totally agreed with you. I was NOT able to follow this book in High School and quite hated it. Now, in my wise years lol, I have a better appreciation.


message 10: by Taylor (new) - added it

Taylor Gillespie I thought it so bad, I literally couldn't read past the first chapter in high school. I had to fail all the tests. But what I wanted out of a book then was much different.

Now much older, I'll have to reread it and see what it has to offer. I'm interested in what it meant to be American in different time periods; what was similar and different to now.


Frederico I'm in high school and decided to read this by my own, not school. And it's so freakin awesome


message 12: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill Szczytko The last paragraph is all you needed for your review. ;) Just brilliant.


Candice Altman I absolutely agree. I did not appreciate this novel when I was younger. I picked it back up recently and was struck by the beauty of the prose and the relevance of the plot. Genius.


Marie Glad I'm not the only person who reread this and realized how incapable I was of understanding it as a high schooler.


Andaleeb Great review ! It makes me want to read it again.


Marilyn Beautiful review. I have to recommend listening to the Blackstone audio. It's like listening to a long poem.... Just an excellent experience


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