Monday, July 8, 2013

Why Gatsby is So Great

The Great Gatsby is my favorite book. I was so excited about the movie coming out in May that my coworker was asking me what the book was about and why I liked it so much.  I actually had a hard time answering.  I had to admit a few things.

First, all of the characters are horrible people who lie and deceive and ruin each other. Probably the most likeable character is Nick, the narrator, but even he seems na├»ve, and he tries his best to be a decent person but ends up getting sucked into the circus. Even “The Great Gatsby” is not perfect.  He is mysterious, and you don’t know quite how to judge him. Gatsby leans towards likeable but you don’t know enough about him or his past to definitively trust him or to say he totally deserves what’s coming to him.  One of my favorite quotes describes the group of characters quite well.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” 

Anyway, I let my coworker borrow my copy of the Great Gatsby. I got to work today and she informed me that she had “finished my stupid book.”  I was shocked. She had hated the book and called it a waste of time. So I did the best I could to defend the American classic.

I haven’t decided if I am just a pragmatist or a cynic at heart but I love the drama of the story. I love that the ending is messy and not everything works out perfectly.  I don’t always appreciate when story lines are neatly tied up. Sometimes it’s great just to feel, and to look on in amazement as your literary world goes up in smoke, so to speak. Not all of the time, but sometimes. The Great Gatsby is one of those instances where the ending just fits.

Fitzgerald really helps you experience the flashy and vibrant lifestyle of the characters.

“The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.” 

The whole book is written extraordinarily well. There are words and passages that literally swallow you up.

“For a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.” 

“I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye. I like to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was going to enter their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove."

I love that this is a book that makes you think. You begin to examine the different characters, their motivations, and their relationships throughout the book. You wonder “Why is Gatsby so enamored with Daisy?” “Does Daisy love Gatsby enough to leave Tom?” “Is Nick justified when it comes to helping Gatsby, or more misguided?”

Most of all, this book is a perfect example of the American Dream. Always chasing something bigger, better, and more expensive. Conveniently my favorite quote from the book relates directly to this idea.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” 

I know people are entitled to their opinions but actually HATING The Great Gatsby just baffled me. How do you feel about the book?

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