On the banks of the river in Long Island is a magnificent, opulent house. Every weekend it is thrown open to the most lavish parties, with never ending streams of liquor, the most talked about guests and fantastic music that takes everyone to the small hours of the morning. Few people are officially invited to these nights of decadence and even fewer people have met their enigmatic host, Mr Gatsby. Some say he is related to the German royal family, others say he is a spy; the sad truth is very few of his guests can actually be bothered to find out, something which is clearly evident at the end of the novel. One of the few who does make an effort is next door neighbour, Nick Carraway, our narrator and it is through him that we discover Gatsby’s background, rise to fortune and the love that has been the driving force behind his life.
This is probably the third time I have read The Great Gatsby and I find that each reread I have discovered something new and something else that I enjoy about it. From the recent Baz Luhrman adaptation I think people have a certain image of this book and it is so much more than just these spectacular parties you see in the film trailer.
The term ‘The American Dream’ has come up quite a lot recently in my teaching life and I am planning to teach The Great Gatsby so I had this particular theme in mind throughout. The idea of ‘The American Dream’ is that everyone in America has the opportunity and ability to achieve their dreams, whether this is owning a plot of land (I’m thinking Of Mice and Men) or making a pile of money, America is the land of opportunity. But as with many works of literature the reader is left wondering if ‘The American Dream’ is actually achievable or is it just some myth sold to those planning a new life in this country? This is certainly the case for Gatsby, who has all the money he could possibly ever need and yet he is still searching for and desperate for the love of a woman (Daisy) who rejected him when he was poor. In turn, Daisy is trapped in an unhappy marriage with a man who can’t seem to stay faithful, so it seems her American Dream has also fallen short of the mark.
I remember the first time I reread The Great Gatsby I felt a little underwhelmed, however this time I thoroughly enjoyed it. I find the character of Gatsby so fascinating, especially in his attempts to reinvent himself and his quest for money. I also found myself feeling sorry for him at the end of the novel as he truly epitomises the idea that money cannot buy you happiness and can certainly not bring you true and loyal friends. I’m not going to ruin the twist in the novel, but it is a fantastic one and I think Fitzgerald has been very clever when weaving hints at what is to come throughout the novel.
I feel quite scathingly towards some of the characters in this novel and Fitzgerald sums it up perfectly when he writes ‘They were careless people…they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness…and let other people clean up the mess they had made.’ . Saying that I would LOVE to have attended one of Gatsby’s parties and the ‘romantic possibilities’ they held.
Yay another book ticked off of my Classics Club list, this is the challenge I am most worried about -if I could honestly say I was worried about any of them – as I haven’t been as good with my classics reading.
The Great Gatsby counts towards my Reading the Twentieth Century challenge, filling a space in the 1920s.