After the Great War, the mysterious Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire, pursues wealth, riches and the lady he lost to another man with stoic determination. He buys a mansion across from her house and throws lavish parties to entice her. When Gatsby finally does reunite with Daisy Buchanan, tragic events are set in motion. Told through the eyes of his detached and omnipresent neighbour and friend, Nick Carraway, Fitzgerald's succinct and powerful prose hints at the destruction and tragedy that awaits.
I spent a lot of time in the bathroom, then. In the cold winter months, my bedroom and bath - the farthest rooms in the house - were always the hardest to heat, and the warmest place in my small, teenage refuge was just by the bathtub, next to the heater set in the wall near the floor. Whichever year it was - was I 15? 16? - I spent a lot of afternoons there, lulled by the warmth and the calm, sea green tiled floors. I read "The Scarlet Letter" there, and tried to read "Moby Dick"; I plowed through Alfred Bester's "The Demolished Man," and finally learned that while I had no love for "Huckleberry Finn," there was a lot of Twain I thought was really good. Most of all, I remember "Gatsby," devoured quickly in just two or three reading sessions, and for once I don't recall my mother ever insisting I "come out and rejoin the world."
It's interesting coming back to "Gatsby" after all this time. I've lived a lot since those days of whenever-teen, and I come back to "Gatsby" as someone who has at least *thought* herself in love, and definitely someone who has been caught up, unhealthily and unavoidably, in an attraction to someone I couldn't have. It's appropriate that I re-experience the book just as I've made a clean break of that relationship, and while there weren't any big scenes or tragic consequences, it all makes those feelings Fitzgerald writes about - loss, betrayal, the realization that you won't be the one "chosen" - much more personal. And of course, what "Gatsby" proves is that we all have those feelings. We all lie to each other; we all cheat; we all play mercilessly with each others' hearts. It's true. It's not the whole picture of human relationship, but that much is true. And we always hurt others as much, if not more than we hurt ourselves.
When I was a teenager, Jay Gatsby was a mysterious character, a figure both tragic and a bit sexy - the Beast of the famous fairy tale, waiting for Beauty to break his enchantment. I grieved for him but I didn't understand how much he had sewn his own destruction. He built himself up, and in almost one fell movement, he knocked himself down. Now I see him in less mythic and far more familiar terms. Gatsby is anyone who knows they shouldn't say something, but says it anyway. Gatsby is anyone who can't stop themselves manipulating for their own advantage. Gatsby is anyone who plows ahead without stopping to think.
More specifically, Gatsby is what Americans train themselves to be. He is the exact inverse of the mythical American, raising him or herself up above meager roots to triumph supreme. He's the guy who did all that, who won't be told no, who thinks himself invincible and is never happy with his lot. And the amazing part of Fitzgerald's writing is that he manages to make Gatsby sympathetic - in fact, more than that, he makes him someone you can *empathize* with. Gatsby, in the end, is everyone - or at least, anyone likely to read his story.
I still don't understand how anyone could be bored by "The Great Gatsby." It's a beautiful and tragic novel, so simple yet so rich. It doesn't take long to read, and it's not exactly dense, old-fashioned prose. Compared to most classic literature it's an absolute breeze. But never mind. I love it, just as I loved all those afternoons ago - huddled in my bathroom, turning the dog-eared pages of an old paperback, waiting for the winter to end.
This is a valley of ashes - a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight .
Illuminated in this brilliantly written novel is the high society of the US during the 1920’s. In America, the time of Prohibition is represented as “The Roaring Twenties”, extensive drug use and extravagant parties with innovative jazz. All of this is brought to light in deep facets through the brilliant use of Fitzgerald’s descriptive writing. In addition, Fitzgerald depicts in a wonderful way the superficial blasé attitude, the over-saturation of the fashionable upper class, their fast paced life and continues boredom.
Nick is the narrator of this story. He thinks of himself as tolerant, non - judgmental, a good listener, and feels that as a result, others prefer to tell him their secrets. However, it becomes pretty quickly clear that Nick is not as detached as he believes and that he has to bear some of the blame of the tragic events which follow.
“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
"Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had”
The style and Fitzgerald's melancholic aspect of his characters lure you into such a lightness of being that you can’t hate the utterly annoying decadence of the main characters. You know they are nasty, and actually you shouldn’t like them, but you are fascinated anyway. What Fitzgerald manages to portray in this little story, is that despite all the wealth, every single character, is a rather lost soul, with no real focus on life, without the ability to fill the empty spaces. This has been particularly evident in Jay Gatsby’s unquenchable desire for Daisy which is the setting for this novel.
"He wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was.”
Jay Gatsby is one of the “New Money” and is fascinated by the dazzling and mundane society of the twenties. For a while, he is allowed to share their and especially Daisy’s life. However, how illusory this life might seem notwithstanding the element of fraud, jealousy and neuroses of that society rule. In the end even 'The Great Gatsby' has to deal with the consequences and the reality of this life.
"Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes."
Perhaps if I had read this classic in high school, as I should have, I would have been more impressed, but reading it now, spurred on by the new movie I haven't seen, left me underwhelmed. It is an unlovely story about unlovely
The writing, perhaps stellar in its day, seems stilted and sometimes unnecessarily convoluted now. The “old sport” stuff got old fast, and annoying. The book is short, around 160 pages in my copy, and still I was glad when it was done. At least now I can check it off my “I should read that someday” list.
Finally getting around to re-reading it with more literature behind me, I have a much different take. While still not a favorite read of mine, I found it more
Reading it this time, I was more distinctly aware of the prohibition era in which these characters were revolving and the extent to which that directed some of their actions. The drinking/partying took on a new aspect. It also gave me a greater perception into Gatsby's character and his relation to society as a whole and the society he was trying to 'break into' (Daisy's).
There was still plenty of superficiality to the characters…but that doesn't mean these characters are flat. On the contrary, I saw a lot more depth this time around than in my early teens. I was very impressed by the way Fitzgerald added so much depth to these characters while at the same time providing them with so little substance.
I enjoyed looking more closely at the interactions between Gatsby and Daisy and the way the various relationships worked. Now that I've actually dated and married, I viewed the relationships in a different light and could better understand the tension, jealousy and hypocritical behavior going on.
I would like to have seen more development of the pseudo-relationship between Nick and Jordan, but I think leaving it vague throughout and then ending it abruptly allows for more in-depth thinking than if Nick and Jordan had happily escaped the tragedy surrounding them.
I seem to remember there being significant discussion about the East/West geography in my Junior High English class…but reading it this time, I just didn't see that as a main motif. Sure, we had "West Egg" and "East Egg" and various New York parties and excursions. But when you get down to it, the East/West thing didn't work…partly because all of the main characters are just transplanted anyway (they all came from the west/midwest) and partly because the culture around them felt contrived anyway rather than some high culture that would be representative of the "true culture" of established Eastern money or whatever.
I had forgotten some of the details of the climax and the ending and so was a little taken off guard when everything unraveled. Parts of the climax scenes felt a little rushed or underdeveloped, but still provided a satisfying turn of events to the story arc, even if the end of the book left me a little unsettled (which is part of the intent, I believe).
My initial rating from my Junior High memories was 2 out of 5 stars. With a more mature perspective on reading and having read a whole lot more and learned a whole lot more, I can give a better rating and say that I can see now why this book is held up as a classic. It's not the action packed thriller or adventure novel that I may have wanted as a young teenager, but it is a thought provoking and engaging narrative exploring class and relationships in a turbulent world.
It seemed odd to me
This is another classic which I found myself disappointed in. I expect that for books to become classics, there must be something remarkable about them, but I didn't find much to remark on with this book. It was not as difficult to adjust to the cadence and style of writing of this author and this era than other classics I've read.
It has a reputation as a romantic book, or as a romance I don't think is justified. Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby come across to me as too shallow for me to believe in the sincerity or deepness of their affections. But then I think that's part of what the book is about: surface versus reality and flash versus substance. Daisy is more an ideal of romance Gatsby flirts with and Gatsby himself all shining facade.
Americans like to think of themselves as "self-made" and if The Great Gatsby is thought of as a great American novel I think it's partly because in the figure of Gatsby you get the fake side of that--not someone who sheds past or tradition to become a truer self but to hide their real self--and because he can't it comes crashing down.
But the book itself isn't shallow or just surface shine but the kind you find more that strikes you on rereads. I think that might be part of why it's Nick Carraway that carries the narrative, not Gatsby. You need an observer deeper and sharper than Gatsby and the observer perspective allows Gatsby to be introduced (a good 54 pages into the book in my edition) as a mysterious figure you get to know from the outside surface in.
A masterpiece of diction, not a sentence, word, nor syllable wasted -- everything counts.1
Don't get me
What does lift it, though, and what makes it such a pleasure to read, is Fitzgerald's prose style, which allows for some very sensitive characterisation, and which also has a tendency to break out into beautifully-crafted flashes of melancholy. Stuff like this, when Nick's gazing out of the window during a party:
Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets….
You get a sense of this from the first page, when Nick tells you he's been ‘privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men’ – the kind of phrase that makes me rub my hands with the knowledge that I'm going to enjoy what's coming up. This atmosphere of brooding, half-drunken melancholy – a sense of the ‘enchanted metropolitan twilight’ – is everywhere in the novel, and indeed as I write this paragraph out I have an increasing feeling of just how American this atmosphere is, intimately tied to the jazz music which is such an essential background detail here. (In all of this lost moody Americanness, it reminds me very much of On The Road; and isn't Nick Carraway just exactly who Sal Paradise would be, ten years older? With all due recognition of the different time periods involved.)
Despite this bluesy melancholy, the writing is never loose, and sometimes Fitzgerald surprises you with phrases of controlled efficiency:
Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York – every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves.
This is almost Chandleresque. All these neat, moody descriptions become a way to build up the characterisation – Gatsby himself, for instance, is wonderfully described as someone who ‘dispensed starlight to casual moths’ – and the result is that everyone in the book seems layered and believable. Daisy in particular I found realistically baffling – she reminds me of so many girls I chased at so many parties, you feel like you don't really know them, they are sort of sexy and irritating all at once – FitzG captures it brilliantly.
‘These things excite me so,’ she whispered. ‘If you want to kiss me any time during the evening, Nick, just let me know and I'll be glad to arrange it for you. Just mention my name. Or present a green card.’
Funnily enough poor old Jimmy Gatz ended up being the person I was least interested in – I was too busy staring with appalled fascination at the rest of the cast. Especially the narrator, Nick, who tells us more than once, perhaps rather too eagerly, what an honest person he is. Just before the very beautiful closing paragraphs, he has his little showdown with Jordan:
‘I'm thirty,’ I said. ‘I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honour.’
But that is itself another lie – the sort you tell yourself when you're thirty.
One can identify the American attitude towards the past as a major theme in this novel. When the reader gets to know Jay Gatsby through the first-person narration of Nick Carraway, Gatsby's neighbor in Long Island, all that is revealed is the status quo. Gatsby lives in West Egg, Long Island, has a huge mansion, is very rich, wears a suit and throws parties for basically everyone who wants to come. When Carraway finally gets invited to Gatsby's house and Gatsby shows some interest in Carraway, the reader gets the chance of learning more about Gatsby. As soon as Nick starts inquiring into Gatsby's past, Gatsby tells him that he was an Oxford man, had been in the military and was from the Midwest, San Francisco to be exact. That is the first time that the reader gets a hint that Gatsby does not always tell the truth and seems to be very secretive about his past. Putting San Francisco in the Midwest while at the same time claiming to have lived there casts some serious doubts about everything else that Gatsby shares about his past. In the end we learn that not even his name is real. He is actually James Gatz from North Dakota and has been in the bootlegging business. During the time of his military service he fell in love with Daisy Buchanan, now the wife of Tom Buchanan, who lives just across the shore from his Long Island house. Having everything else in life, Gatsby wants to win Daisy back. This, however, leads to chaos and finally Gatsby's death. All in all, Gatsby is a man who seems to live for a future that he imagines can only be a bright and successful one. He tries to conceal his past as much as possible. The Great Gatsby was written in the early 1920s and it can certainly be read as a novel depicting the American Dream with its idealism and future-orientation on the one hand, and its downsides and elusiveness on the other.
There are several reasons why I liked The Great Gatsby a lot. There is, for instance, its theme. And then there is Fitzgerald's way of working with language. He really manages to say just enough and seems to find the right words in every single sentence. What is more, there are the perfectly crafted characters and a first-person narrator with his willing suspension of disbelief that contributes to an overall great story.
To my mind, The Great Gatsby is a powerful novel and might be considered one of the Great American Novels. 5 stars.
So, yes, they float about in their own little rich worlds. People have been critical of the novel for this reason alone, but that's life isnt it? Some people do have that luxury, and it doesnt make their feelings or experiences any less valid. It just limits who can relate to them. I liked reading about their petty worries and relationship dramas, it took me away from my life and into someone's completely different.
And written in a very appealing way.
The first time I read this book was half my life ago, so this was like the first time for me. And I think there'll be more readings in it yet.
Fun? I wouldn't call it exactly fun. I would say that it was an easy read - one wondered what was going to happen to the characters and would keep reading to find out - but I
This book made me question what the guidelines are for declaring a book a "classic of literature". Is it because it was well-written, and that's all? I can't see anybody coming away from this book feeling happy. The best I can imagine is that this book fairly accurately encapsulates the dissipated air of the monied lifestyle in the 1920's... But other than that, I'm not sure that the story was exactly great. It was interesting - but disatisfying and sad. Was that the whole point? Is there a class of people that enjoys reading books that make them disatisfied and sad, and I'm just missing the point because I don't?
In the end, what I can say is this: The Great Gatsby is a well-written book about egotistic, monied people with morally bankrupt lives, grasping after dreams of happiness that their selfishness ultimately will not let them obtain. If that sort of thing floats your boat, then go with it.
When I picked up The Great Gatsby for the first time four days ago I didn't really know what to excpet. Recentlly many people had told me I would enjoy it, but never gave me a reason why. When I got the book as an early Christmas gift a few days ago I was more interested in what was the big deal with this 'classic' then with the story or the characters but that quickly changed. There is something very simple and beautiful in the way Fitzgerald made these characters. They're all so tragically flawed, but you feel for most of them at one time or another. Gatsby is intriguing, it's hard to tell when he is being honest, but that doesn't really matter, it's just who he is. it's a short book, but it moves quick. It's refershing to see the 1920's in a way that doesn't focus on the family, World War One (well, more than it does) and music. A great read.
For any work of fiction to really effect me, I must be able to relate to the characters, or at least to be able to develop some kind of
Then of course, there is the immaturity of Gatsby and his juvenile conquest of Daisy. What man would spend so much time building up an entire life to win back a girl he had only known for a couple months, at most. I understand the idea of everlasting love, and passion beyond reason, but Gatsby seemed slightly off his rocker with it.
So, while I was not moved by the characters in this book, it did not leave a lasting impression on me, and I do not care to reread it, I can accept and appreciate the messages which Fitzgerald puts forth:
1. Do not live in the past. It is already gone and though you may run and reach for it, it will forever slip out of your grasp.
2. Do not live for others. Poor Mr. Wilson was a simple man with a simple life. He worked hard everyday to make his wife happy, and his wife was never happy. And, this story ended badly for both of them.
3. Money can not buy happiness. Gatsby is portrayed in many ways as living the "Great American Dream". He has wealth beyond belief, supposed friends, and can do anything he pleases. What he can't do with his mountains of money is relive, or retrieve, the love of his past.
..."So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past"...
Fitzgerald pulls of a masterstroke within the first
"Whenever you feel like criticising anyone......just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had"
Nick can therefore get the reader right close into the action without having to make his own views known, we are aware of his position in the story and we can make our own judgements about the characters.
It has been said before many times that this novel captures the feel of the jazz age, the advent of the motor car, the labour saving machinery and the new leisured class. All of this should be good, it should be progress, but Fitzgeralds characters turn it all to ash. Gatsby is an example of someone who is always going to be striving for things and when he gets them he is never satisfied, but the striving continues until he reaches beyond what he can achieve.
There are many wonderful themes running through this book, which speaks to us today just as it has always done to readers in the past. If we in the West do not come away from this book with a feeling that something has been lost along the way, then indeed we have lost our sense of wonder. This superb novel is a five star read
Taking place in the fictional wealthy neighbourhood of West Egg, Long Island, The Great Gatsby takes place over the summer of 1922, in which the narrator, Nick Carraway, moves into a modest home next door to the much larger mansion of the enigmatic Jay Gatsby. Nick’s wealthy cousin Daisy and her insufferable husband Tom also live nearby, and Nick learns that Gatsby has a mysterious obsession with Daisy.
There are a couple of lavish parties held at Gatsby’s mansion, which I suppose was the reason Baz Luhrmann was drawn to adapting it to film. (Recently I discovered that Lurhmann is apparently straight. Sure, mate.) Most of The Great Gatsby does take place in and around great wealth – mansion parties, fine restaurants, antique dining rooms – and the novel has been called a critique of the jazz age and cautionary tale about the American dream. But I didn’t find the characters’ wealth (apart from Gatsby’s new money) to be particularly relevant to the novel’s overall theme, which is about infatuation, disillusionment and attempting to recapture the promise of the past. (It reminded me quite a bit of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians in that sense, in a very different sort of way.)
A lot of American readers apparently remember this book from high school, and dislike it, and I can understand why. It’s a short book rich in symbolism and metaphor, so I can see why it would appeal to English teachers, but teenagers have yet to suffer the disappointments and lost dreams which make a book like The Great Gatsby relatable. The novel has one of the most famous closing lines in fiction…
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly back into the past.”
…but to sixteen-year-olds who have their entire lives stretching ahead of them – who perhaps, like the teenagers in Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending, are waiting until graduation so their “real” lives can begin – these words are meaningless.
So I’m glad I read The Great Gatsby at this stage in my life. It has a power and a tone to it I would have been unable to appreciate when I was younger. Having said that, the plot does unfold rather oddly; Gatsby’s final fate has little to do with his own confidence that he can “repeat the past,” and more to do with a series of crazy coincidences. So the structure of the book is a little shaky, perhaps, but it’s held up by the brilliance of Fitzgerald’s writing. I could immediately see why he is considered one of the finest writers of the 20th century; his prose has a clear, lyrical quality to it which never actually reads like writing. In particular, I noticed that he was one of those lucky writers who can clearly and egregiously break some of the most fundamental rules of writing without suffering the consequences.
The Great Gatsby is an excellent novel, and for its historical context it certainly deserves to be mentioned among the greatest American novels of the 20th century. It’s a shame that it’s force-fed to so many understandably unwilling American high school students.
It's the great American classic of the decadent Jazz
The narrator Nick Carroway are equally appalled and intriqued by the rich and famous living out their vane existence on Long Island and in New York. As a neighbour to the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby Nick is invited to Gatsbys extravagant parties - and at the same time he befriends the couple Tom and Daisy. The tension comes when Gatsby tries to revive a past love relationship with Daisy.
I liked this second reading more than the first one - but still it's not a "top" classic for me. Here are several unsympathetic characters and an inevitable sad and bleak ending - and real affection and love is nowhere to be found in this story. And the narrator? Still can't figure him out. An outsider (like us?) looking in - but without making a moral stand or getting involved.
If you'd like to go on continuing to believe that it was otherworldly powers that made Gatsby great, do not read on. Also, if you don't know yet: Mr. Kauffman will no longer be reading The Great Gatsby to crowds of people, as he is dead.
Gatsby's powers came not from magic or deals with thistle-haired men, but from simple sheets of paper with dead folk on them. No, not the tarot... Rather, money. If you're looking for Fitzgerald fantasy, you're better off with Button than Gatsby.
The novel, set in the Jazz Age, through the perspective of Nick Carraway, aspiring bond salesman, tells the tale of Nick and his encounters with the strange man known as Jay Gatsby. It is then that Nick gets pulled into the bizarre love polyhedron, involving Daisy, Gatsby, Daisy's husband Tom, Tom's mistress Myrtle, and Myrtle's husband, George.
In several well-orchestrated twists of fate, all the tangles of deceit, slowly woven by the many characters of the book quickly come undone, and the world comes crashing down around them, reducing their numbers.
If you are a fan of Jazz Age stories, or stories set in cities about wealthy people living gilded lives, then you'll definitely enjoy The Great Gatsby. If that doesn't appeal to you, just don't read it, and continue to believe that his abilities of levitation or divination were what made Gatsby great.
Your teacher probably tried to explain that Daisy Buchanan is more than a former fling. She's a symbol for all that Gatsby has dreamt of becoming since he was a boy. She represents the life of wealth and leisure that self-made men like Gatsby aspire to. She is the American dream. The green light on the end of her dock that Gatsby stares at each night from his own home across the water stands for the dream every American is supposed to have.
You probably scribbled something in your notebook and wondered if any of this would be on the test.
Green light, you wrote. Yellow car. Women sitting on white sofas, curtains that billow like clouds represent the ocean's waves. Ash heaps. The eyes of Dr. Eckleberg's billboard. A library of unread books, pages waiting to be cut. An unused swimming pool.
"Sophisticated--God, I'm sophisticated!" someone at a party says.
Maybe you're one of the lucky ones The Great Gatsby spoke to, even at age 16. Dreamers watching their own metaphorical green light shining at the end of some metaphorical dock night after night. Waiting for their chance to make their grasp eqaul their reach. Longing for something commesurate to their capacity for wonder.
I've always loved The Great Gatsby. The first book we read in the first class I took in graduate school, I remember a student telling me before class that now she sees she hasn't missed much by not reading the white man's cannon. Hasn't missed much! I thought. You've missed The Great Gatsby! (I also thought if you don't like reading books by white men, you probaby shouldn't be an English major.)
You can see by now that I'm not capable of writing a objective review of The Great Gatsby. I'm still a bit in love with it. People in love cannot rationally view the object of their love. You know what they're like. I'm glad that I don't teach high school. Seeing just one student reject The Great Gatsby would break my heart. And there's always one.
One on whom a paragraph like this one is wasted:
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes--a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the tress that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; 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.
They don't write 'em like that anymore.