Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby” is a book that has stayed with me since the first time I ever read it. An evocative tale submerged in a world of kaleidoscopic glamour and lavish parties, it takes the readers a while to accustom their eyes to the damnation and sorrow that is eclipsed by the shadow of the American Dream. I decided to revisit this book over the weekend as a break from all the other essays I have to write and books I have to read for my classes. And I am glad I did so; it made me realise exactly why this book is on my favourites list!
Well crafted and neat, Fitzgerald’s prose pays homage to its generation and is arguably one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written. Claimed as one of the most moving love stories of all time, “Great Gatsby” will never cease to captivate the hearts and imaginations of generations to come.
Our view of the 1920s has always been through a hazy glass of romantic speakeasies and glorious jazz, with glamour and money aplenty. That dreamy view is shattered as “Gatsby” offers damning and insightful views of the American nouveau riche in the 1920s – the curtains have lifted on everything we believed and knew about the 1920s. Fitzgerald seems to have had a brilliant understanding of lives that are corrupted by greed and are incredibly sad and unfulfilled. Overall, “Great Gatsby” is a product of its generation – with one of American literature’s most powerful characters in the figure of Jay Gatsby, who is urbane and world weary. The way I see it? Gatsby is really nothing more than a man desperate for love.
The power of Gatsby as a character is connected with his wealth. From the very beginning of the novel, Fitzgerald sets up his eponymous hero as an enigma: the playboy millionaire with a shady past who enjoys frivolity and ephemera that he creates around him. However, the reality of the situation is that Gatsby is a man in love, nothing more. He concentrated all of his life on winning Daisy back.
It is the way that he attempts to do this, however, that is central to Fitzgerald’s world view. Gatsby creates himself, both his mystique and his personality, around rotten values. They are the values of the American Dream, that money, wealth and popularity are all there is to achieve in this world. He gives everything he has, emotionally and physically, to win, and it is this unrestrained desire that contributes to his eventual and heartbreaking downfall.
In the closing pages of “Great Gatsby”, Fitzgerald allows the readers to consider Gatsby in a much wider context. Gatsby, and the Buchanans, are all inextricably linked to a society that shaped much of the 1920s and 1930s. Like his novel, “The Beautiful and The Damned”, Fitzgerald attacks the shallow social climbing and emotional manipulation which only causes pain. With decadent cynicism , the party goers in “Great Gatsby” cannot see anything beyond their own enjoyment. Gatsby’s love is frustrated by the social situation and his death symbolises the dangers of his chosen path.
Fitzgerald paints a picture of a lifestyle and a decade that is both fascinating and horrific. In doing so, he captures a society and a set of young people, writing them into myth. Fitzgerald was a part of that high living lifestyle, but he was also a victim of it. He was once the beautiful, but also forever damned. In all its excitement, pulsating with life and tragedy, “Great Gatsby” captured brilliantly the American Dream in a time when it had descended into decadence.
There are many novels which claim that they are the greatest love story of all time. In my opinion, it is only in the case of this novel that the statement can be applied and be true. I highly recommend you add this to your reading list if you have not already done so, and what better time to read it than over the Christmas Holidays!
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on ‘Great Gatsby’ and let me know what you think about the book in the comments below!