Monday, July 9, 2012

33. The Great Gatsby

Book #33: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published: Originally published in 1922
180 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

The mysterious Jay Gatsby embodies the American notion that it is possible to redefine oneself and persuade the world to accept that definition. Gatsby's youthful neighbor, Nick Carraway, fascinated with the display of enormous wealth in which Gatsby revels, finds himself swept up in the lavish lifestyle of Long Island society during the Jazz Age. Considered Fitzgerald's best work, The Great Gatsby is a mystical, timeless story of integrity and cruelty, vision and despair.

I've been meaning to read more classic literature and this was one of my first attempts at it. I'm certainly not disappointed. F. Scott Fitzgerald is a household name, famous and immortal. I've read quotes from him and snippets of his books and I knew I'd like anything I'd read. He is a genius with words and emotions, throwing you into a world that look picture perfect from the outside and then letting you dive into the disaster lingering within. And even though this book was written in 1922, it still rings true to life now, way too true.

Our narrator, Nick Carraway, has just moved in next door to The Great Gatsby. He's never met him but he's heard stories of the fabulous parties he throws every night. One night, he is invited into the house not even knowing who Gatsby is. When they are finally introduced, the dominoes are only lining up. What pursues is a tragic summer that shows us just how fragile the american dream is.

Jay Gatsby is just a cover up. He throws the parties and hides behind them, hoping that Daisy Buchannan will one day show up and notice him again. Truths are spilled when they've been secrets for years. Love lives and dies and lives become so entangled that it's hard to know where each one ends. We witness all this through the eyes of Nick, who knows everyones secrets because he is trusted with them. But it is a burden to bear and when it all comes crashing down, he's not sure where his loyalties lay. Nick could be the american dream. He could have the perfect lie with the perfect job and wife, but instead he is thrown into Gatsby's life, the false american dream that comes crumbling down. 

This book shows us how different everything is behind closed doors. We don't know which men are beating their wives. We don't know which couples are having love affairs. We don't know who ran over that person in the street or why. We only know what they want us to know. We only see what they want us to see. And nothing is as perfect as it is laid out to be. I learned a lot from this book. I learned to look past what I see on the surface and to try to appreciate what's beneath. Gatsby was played out to be the bad guy, dealing with the wrong people and throwing money around, when all he really wanted was to get back the girl he loved. And they could have lived happily ever after if they had the chance. I learned that those who have a lot of friends on the outside may end up alone in the end. I wished for anything but for Gatsby, but the sad truth is that none of the people who went to his parties were his friends save for Nick and Daisy. It reminds us that we don't have much time to make those connections. Who will show up at your funeral? What do you deserve?

There is a reason this book is a classic. Fitzgerald captures the mood of the jazz age and catapults us into the drama, love, and betrayal of young lives. And there's no way of knowing that all of that isn't still happening behind closed doors.

“There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.” 

“So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.”

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