The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
1998 (originally 1926), 172p
Read from my husband’s shelves
Nick Carraway is a young man recently returned from the war when he decides to go to New York City and do what other young men his age are doing in droves – learning the “bonds” business. His family agree to fund him for one year and he takes a house on the West Egg of Long Island, directly opposite the more fashionable East Egg, where Nick’s cousin Daisy lives with her wealthy husband.
Nick finds himself living next to Jay Gatsby, who throws fabulous parties. Everyone who is anyone finds themselves rolling up to Jay’s house and partaking in the fabulous liquor on offer and the socialising. Having watched from afar several times, Nick finds himself in attendence one night with a friend of Daisy’s, even though he admits that he like most people, has no idea who his host is – in fact, he’s never set eyes on him. There are rumours abounds about the mysterious Gatsby and it seems that no one really knows him. Something that he mentions in passing to a man at the party, only to be informed that the very person he is talking to is indeed, Gatsby.
Nick and Jordan learn that Gatsby knows Daisy from before the first World War – in fact they were in love. But Gatsby was nothing and Daisy was from a wealthy and respected family and ended up marrying her rich, former football-playing husband who now has affairs. Gatsby asks Nick to set up a meeting with Daisy, desperate to see her after all these years. It seems that everything Gatsby has done, his attempts to secure money and raise his profile, has been in an attempt to find people that know her so that he can reconnect with her. Through Jordan, he has finally found someone at his parties who can introduce him to Nick who can give him what he wants. And that sets the characters on a course for mostly heartbreak and tragedy.
I never read The Great Gatsby for school, it wasn’t part of our curriculum. I’ve never really had a huge interest in reading it either, but I did add it to my list of 50 Classics for the Classics Club for a few reasons: firstly, we own it. Neither my husband nor I are quite sure how this came about, he thinks his brother left it at his house at some stage. Also I know people that absolutely adore it and others that loathe it. I wanted to see where I fell. It encompasses an era that I usually enjoy reading about but actually haven’t read too much of, the 1920’s.
As most people know, The Great Gatsby is told through the eyes of mostly a mere onlooker, Nick Carraway. He’s not particularly central to the story other than serving as a way to bring back together Gatsby and Daisy, which sets in motion the events that lead to tragedy. It’s unusual to read a book from the point of view of such a character and it did often work, because you received a more complete picture than had it have been told from the point of view of Daisy or Gatsby but sometimes it didn’t, because you felt like that you were potentially missing a lot of things that were occurring when Nick wasn’t around.
I don’t tend to like books with morally bankrupt characters and there are a lot of unlikable people here, none more so than the selfish and vacuous Daisy and her equally hideous husband Tom. Daisy is thin and brittle, seemingly rather unhappy – and who wouldn’t be with the abusive, philandering Tom? Daisy gives off the whole aura of trying far too hard, presenting an illusion of how happy she is in her huge house with her rich husband and her wonderful clothes and the never ending supply of alcohol and fun. Tom is hypocritical and repulsive, one of those types that crushes your hand in a handshake to prove how alpha he is. He has a lover on the side that he makes no secret of – he takes Nick to see her, even though Nick is Daisy’s distant cousin, which I found to be crass.
Gatsby is an enigma, a presentation of apparently old money and an Oxford education that turns out to be false. He’s perhaps the one character in this farce that I felt for (in a small way) because I do believe that he loved Daisy and thought that they would find some way to be together. In that it seems he gave Daisy more courage than she possessed and his attempts to cover up for her at a later date lead to his downfall. I vaguely sympathised with Gatsby’s need to reinvent and better himself in order to feel like he had something to offer but in the end, I severely question whether or not Daisy was worth it at all. Perhaps that’s the great tragedy of this novel, that he tried so hard to be something that he thought she would go to and in the end, his love for her wasn’t enough and the fact that even after that he still covered for her. I found myself wondering what happened to Daisy after the events at the end. Did she care? Did anything from the latter part affect her at all? I would suggest not.
I struggled with what to rate this one. The story isn’t to my liking and as I mentioned, the characters are mostly loathsome or I was ambivalent about them, in the case of Nick and Jordan. But I did like the writing – I think the writing is quite amazing. It was going to be a 6 but in the end I booted it up 1.
Book #56 of 2013
The Great Gatsby is the 7th novel out of 50 read for the Classics Club. I’m still behind! I should’ve read 10 by now.