Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thoughts on THE GREAT GATSBY by F Scot Fitzgerald

I really only read this novel because I have been haunted by it for years.  I chose not to read it in high school mostly because I never understood why people thought it was so great.  I could not get through ten pages of it, and I tried so many times to read it.  I just gave up on reading this book a long time ago.  But it was just sitting on my bookshelf looking back at me.  So many times I was upset at myself for not having read it.  Everywhere you turn, whether it is high on the wall at the books store, or in schools, or in people's conversations, you encounter The Great Gatsby.  So I finally gave it a go.

I personally didn't like reading it.  I disliked all the characters.  I didn't really like the style in which it was written.  I don't relate to any of the characters.  I don't relate to the times.  It isn't my type of story.  Yet, the book is still relevant today.  WHY?  One of the biggest questions in my mind is WHY is it still relevant?  Is it because it's so well written and it's one of the best written classics?  Or is it because it really deals with certain themes that are escaping me but at still present now?

After having given it some thought, the answer is a little bit of both.  It is definitely a well written book, not in my taste, but nevertheless really well written.  The narrator is sort of the eyes of the book.  He has sort of a neutral stand on the story.  His involvement with the characters is minimal, yet enough to give us a pretty detailed perspective. The storyline is multi-dimensional dealing with infidelity, money and entitlement, social status, family values, the 'callosal vitality of illusion', stigma, symbolism, and tragedy.

I think, more so than anything, this novel is still relevant because of a few important themes.  The first theme has to do with the rich upper class and their entitlement towards everything in life.  This theme runs throughout the book whether it's Tom's entitlement to Daisy because he's rich and him being nonchalant about infidelity, or whether it's with Gatsby and his entitlement to the riches and Daisy as he has gained upper status in society, or whether it's with Wilson and his entitlement to take a life, or whether it's with Daisy and her entitlement to get away with murder.  This theme is so big and so broad in the novel it kind of makes you sick reading about it.  Another theme is the idea of the American dream.  Has the American dream changed? or is it that it's just expected these days for Americans to accomplish their American dream?  How is the American dream different or just the same from what it was during the era of The Great Gatsby? Personally, I think the American dream, to accomplish a high status in society, to be able to afford all the materialistic things that money can buy, and to have the popular status of the richest people is what people still hope for.  But to some extent I think we also have our Nicks, who try to separate themselves and dissociate themselves from that world.  They wish for something more humble, something more simple, something more meaningful and depth-full in life.  So this is probably another great theme that makes The Great Gatsby still relevant even today.  Could it be the reason this novel is also relevant is because it has to deal with the eye-opening 30s?  The novel's character's are all in their 30s and also the writer himself published this novel in his 30s.  Could it be that our 30s is a time when we re-evaluate who we are, we question what we truly want, and we realize our nature, what has become of us, and what we truly want to become of us?  I think this is another reason this book is so relevant.  Our 30s is still one of the most important times of life that involves the question of money, character, direction, and truth rather than illusion.  Finally, let's not forget the ultimate focus of the book, Gatsby's fascination and obsession with Daisy - his ideal woman.  I think this is another reason this book is so relevant. I found that even if I couldn't relate to anything else in the book, I could relate to the fact that Gatsby had held on to the idea of the one woman everything made sense with.  He became what he was because he was going to get the woman of his life that way.  If he could get Daisy everything would make sense, only interestingly enough, he ends up dead because he so blinded by his idealistic love for Daisy.  Blind love only gets us in trouble, and in Gatsby's case, dead.

One last note.  I find it so interesting that the truths behind all the illusions, the real stories of how things really were as opposed to the illusions everyone played out, came to the surface in the face of a tragedy- Myrtle death and then afterwords Gatsby's death.  Tragedy and truth are truly best friends in life.

So really, now, I see that it is one of the best novels we know.  I am glad I have finally found out something about why The Great Gatsby is so great.  :)

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