I wanted to coincide this post with the publishing of my poem, “Gatz the Great,” but then I got very sick. Instead, I am posting this almost a week late, and I feel embarrassed for that. However, the series goes on!
Last time I did a story of the week post, I talked about three books that had a significant impact on my knowledge of English literature. I discussed One Hundred Years of Solitude in great detail and campaigned for people to read it. Now, I will be discussing a more well-known, popular book, I believe. The Great Gatsby is a perennial novel. It transcends its time period and has great importance in American literature. When I read it for the first time, I knew I was reading something special, something great. Gatsby!
I’m sure almost everyone on WordPress has read this book or have been exposed to it before this post. I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to shed new light on it, but I do want to showcase my appreciation for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s greatest work here.
While although I can summarize the plot fairly quickly, there is much more to be analyzed about the plot within. One of my greatest praises for the book–and one I’m sure others share as well–is how, in its shortness (it rounds out at around 200 pages usually), it manages to create one of the most realistic, intriguing, and complicated scenarios in American literature. A man who has returned from WW2 (Jay Gatsby) seeks to find his pre-war lover again (Daisy Buchanan) and discovers that she lives in New York City with her husband (Tom Buchanan.) He moves to NYC in an effort to rekindle their flame.
At its most basic level, that is the plot of The Great Gatsby: a love story. But it’s also a tale of redemption, economic pursuit, cultural gratification, popularity, the American Dream, and others. I enjoy this book because it seeks to create a simple and understandable narrative with a much more complex thematic and symbolic infrastructure. Because the story is about love, it will stand the test of time. But because the story is about much more than just love, it will be read in literature classes for many more years.
One of the essential structures created by Fitzgerald is the dichotomy of Old Money versus New Money, used symbolically through the novel. This dichotomy was at its most prominent during the Roaring Twenties of American history, when America was supposedly at its economic and cultural peak, and when this novel takes place. Simply put, Old Money represents people who inherited their money and did not work for their wealth. New Money represents people who participate in shady or opportunistic practices in order to make a name for themselves, and to reach wealth. In New York City, the section or town of West Egg is dominated by New Money and East Egg by Old Money. The Buchanans live in East Egg, and Gatsby lives in West Egg. The distinctions are clear, then.
However, with all this said, we are leaving out who, arguably, the story is all about! The narrator! Nick Carraway, the relatively modest neighbor of Gatsby in West Egg, comes from the Midwest to study at Yale. There, he meets Tom Buchanan. Nick is Fitzgerald’s way to epitomize the (somewhat) upper-class shooting for the American dream. Nick, and one other character who I have yet to mention, are America.
When Nick comes East to NYC, he has grand ideas for how successful he may end up becoming. Along the way, he realizes, through a few important events, that the American dream he had been shooting for was a myth, an illusion all along. It was not within his reach because Old Money was always there to blast his dreams to peaces, or perhaps the dreams of some of his friends.
Nick Carraway learns from Gatsby, as he also learns from Buchanan. Because he is friends with both of them, he is capable of seeing through both of their eyes, capable of understanding them. What he discovers by the end of the novel is what makes it all worthwhile. Nick is my personal favorite character in this novel.
George Wilson, a car garage owner in the “Valley of Ashes” (more on that later), is married to Myrtle Wilson. The Wilsons are the other half of the American dream: they represent the lower class attempting to reach impossible heights. George Wilson buys the garage with hopes that he can achieve economic stability and possibly prosperity somehow. However, he is exploited by Tom Buchanan for his cars, while Tom is also having an affair with his wife, Myrtle.
It’s one giant jumbled and complex situation that ultimately goes to show that the American Dream is, in the end, a farce. Fitzgerald believes that so long as Old Money has authority over the world, the presence of New Money will never be respected or successful.
And then there’s Gatsby, the titular character with a knack for economics who ruins his own dreams by believing too much in the power of love in a much-too-civilized world. His life depends on the past, and not on the future.
If you haven’t read The Great Gatsby before, I recommend you pick it up. It’s a perennial classic, and for good reason. It is a Great American Novel in itself. My favorite part of the book is not the complicated plot or anything like that, it is the writing style of Fitzgerald. He writes beautifully. Every sentence he writes feels alive, vibrant. There’s a classic quote on nearly every page.
For those of you who have read the book before, and have studied it diligently, you know that I have left much out of this review. Too much detail and information can, at times, be overwhelming. Especially with this book!
I hope you all enjoyed this latest Story of the Week segment, I know I did! If you’d like, I love to chat with commenters about literature so drop a comment and we can do just that!
Thanks for reading, and until next time!