“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” – Chapter. 1, said Carraway Senior to Nick Carraway.
Nick is a young bachelor who graduates from Yale [New Haven] in 1915, he moves to New York City to “learn the bond business” in 1922, secrets that only Midas, Morgan and Maecenas knew. He rented a place in West Egg, with a rich neighbour who throws lavish party to hundreds every weekend, and all who are invited and not invited comes over for a good time.
Daisy is Nick’s second cousin once removed and who is married to Tom Buchanan, a football player at New Haven. Nick met Jordan Baker, a wellknown female golfer at Daisy’s and told him that Tom has a mistress in New York City. Tom offers Nick a lift and on the way they stop at a shabby garage owned by George Wilson, where Nick is introduced to the owner’s wife, Myrtle (Tom’s mistress).
Nick soon finds out that his next-door neighbour is a surprisingly young, mysterious Jay Gatsby, and was invited one day to his party and an unlikely friendship between Nick and Gatsby began. There were a lot of question of how Gatsby made a fortune and why he is throwing lavish party every weekend to hundreds of strangers.
Beneath the shimmering surface of his life, Gatsby is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel and spiral into irreversible tragedy.
“And as I sat there, brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out Daisy’s light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.” Chapter. 9
The Great Gatsby tells of the pursuit of the American dream in the “Jazz Age” and also the hollowness that comes with it. It is said, Following the shock and chaos of World War I, American society enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity during the “roaring” 1920s as the economy soared. At the same time, Prohibition, the ban on the sale and manufacture of alcohol as mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment, made millionaires out of bootleggers and led to an increase in organized crime, for example the Jewish mafia. Fitzgerald, like Nick Carraway in his novel, idolized the riches and glamour of the age, he was uncomfortable with the unrestrained materialism and the lack of morality that went with it, a kind of decadence.
“I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all–Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.”
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic 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 one fine morning– So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
For me the story is as relevant as it is today as it is in 20’s. Losing a lover because of the state of a man’s poverty is more painful than the fading of love. It propels the jilted lover to prove himself through the gain of wealth. Only to reach the pinnacle, look around and found not a single genuine friend is there on his side.
Besides Nick Carraway, Fitzgerald had created mostly shallow characters in the book, Tom, Daisy, Jordan etc. Fitzgerald captures the longing and hollowness very well. I have heard so much about the book and since my local library is running a Classic novel week, I can’t resist it when I saw the book sitting on the promotion shelf. The Classic novel week is also the reason I have been reading a lot classics this month.
Have a go at this, it’s only 183 page and it won’t take long for you to reflect on what really matters in life.
I am reading this for 2010 Global Reading Challenge – North America, that completes my 2 books for the continent and 2010 A to Z Reading Challenge.
Paperback. Publisher: Penguin Red Classics [originally published 1926, this edition 2006]; Length: 183; Setting: 1920’s New York and Long Island. Source: Library Loan. Finished reading at: 17 Jan 2010
About the Author:
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, to an Irish upper-middle class Roman Catholic family, Fitzgerald was named after his famous second cousin, twice removed, Francis Scott Key, but was referred to as “Scott”. where Fitzgerald attended St. Paul Academy in St. Paul from 1908–1911. His first literary effort, a detective story, was published in a school newspaper when he was 12. When he was 16, he was expelled from St. Paul Academy for neglecting his studies. He attended Newman School, a prep school in New Jersey, in 1911–1912, and entered Princeton University in 1913 as a member of the Class of 1917.
Although The Great Gatsby was adapted into both a Broadway play and a Hollywood film within a year of publication, it was not popular upon initial printing, selling fewer than 25,000 copies during the remaining fifteen years of Fitzgerald’s life. It was largely forgotten during the Great Depression and World War II. After its republishing in 1945 and 1953, it quickly found a wide readership and is today widely regarded as a paragon of the Great American Novel, and a literary classic. The Great Gatsby has become a standard text in high school and university courses on American literature in countries around the world, and is ranked second in the Modern Library’s list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century.