In my continuing quest to read some of America’s greatest novels and authors, I recently took a stab at The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This was one of those books that I was supposed to read in high school, but faked my way through instead (sorry, Mrs. Federovitch!). Anyways, I thought it was high time to actually read the thing and see what all the fuss was about. Honestly, most of the books that I was supposed to read in high school but didn’t are apparently pretty good books. So I went into The Great Gatsby thinking better things about it than I did in high school.
What I Liked
The Great Gatsby is a pretty quick read.
What I didn’t Like
The characters. Seriously, there are no characters in this entire book that I find sympathetic. You have Nick, the narrator, who moves out to Long Island not because it’s convenient for his work, but because that’s where the rich people live. He starts a relationship with Jordan, a smart and cynical athlete, and their relationship looks promising, like it might rise above the frivolity and gaudiness of the people around them. Then it just ends. You have Daisy, Nick’s cousin, who is happily married to Tom, yet is willing at the drop of a hat to consider continuing her relationship with Gatsby. Then there’s Tom, who has a mistress of his own, yet becomes enraged when he sees Gatsby making eyes at Daisy. Then there’s Gatsby himself – not even his real name, might I add – who has apparently spent his entire life since meeting Daisy in some sort of weird pursuit of her. He throws all these lavish parties for the sole purpose of gaining a reputation as a partier so that Daisy will hear his name. In his mind, she will hear his name, remember their brief relationship, leave Tom immediately, and run to him, and they will live happily ever after. Honestly, the only character I can have even a little sympathy for is George, the husband of Tom’s mistress Myrtle. But then he goes and screws that up by foolishly murdering the wrong man after Myrtle is killed, then committing suicide.
The plot. It’s a total soap opera, but not in a good way. The characters are all frivolous and one-dimensional. Once the big reveal that Daisy and Gatsby knew each other before the War, it’s also completely predictable. It’s also completely illogical.
The overall message. Fitzgerald’s overall message seems to be that the nouveau riche of the 1920s were some messed up people. More depressingly, he seems to also be saying that the American Dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness has degraded into a mere pursuit of obscene wealth and hedonism, and is therefore dead.
The Bottom Line: -5 Cannarfs
I found The Great Gatsby pretty uninteresting. There were no arresting characters, plot devices, or themes, in my opinion. I said before that I went into this reading thinking better things about this book than I did in high school. What I mean by that is that I expected it to be a so-so read. The reality is that The Great Gatsby only lived up to my high-school expectations of it, which is to say that I probably wouldn’t read it again if I had any choice about it.
-5 cannarfs (what’s a cannarf?).