“’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.’”
A classic is always a welcome sight to lay eyes on, but this particular story, one claimed as the second greatest work of the English Language in the 20th Century, started off particularly boring. I trudged on, hoping for something exciting to drag me out of the hole. 200 pages in, the extent of the novel, and still nothing happened.
But man was it a good book.
I do not always excuse lack of plot in a book; that is one of the things I require in any novel worth standing up on the shelf. Fitzgerald managed to break past my requisite.
No, The Great Gatsby’s plot is like a normal human being’s life recounted in an optimistic, somewhat indifferent kind of way. Things happen, the narrator shuffles from place to place, not truly doing anything of real note. He is a vehicle for the story because the main character is actually Jay Gatsby, the novel’s namesake. Nick, the narrator, tells us what happens to him, his adventures, and such. Do not be amazed; this is not Watson in any way. Less so.
Furthermore, the characters are compelling, as one of my friends put it, but very unlikeable to the point that I was overjoyed at the end. Not so much that the story was over, but that the majority of them got what was coming to them.
Tom, the husband who’s having an affair with a unknowing fool’s wife, Myrtle, was probably my most disliked character in the whole novel. He was a bulky, brutish, hulking man who played for Yale as a quarterback. (Insert cliché football stereotypes here) Now you have a rusty shape of the man. Top it off that he still *likes* his wife and beats Myrtle, and you have a semblance of the amount of hatred I can feel for the man.
Daisy, his wife, is no buttercup either. She’s annoying, to which Fitzgerald pushed with “her singing voice,” to which I’m paraphrasing and only uttering once. Once.
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
Gatsby is a tragic man, a crook though, who held too long on the past.
“If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw he sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.”
And Jordan, Nick’s love interest but not love interest, has bad commitment issues, to the point of outright lying to stay away from “bad drivers.”
Discouraging even more is that this is a romance story, a tale of the Jazz Age, but it is darker than it appears. I really liked that touch.
Characters and plot aside, the prose is beautiful. I have never experienced writing this amazing, profound. There were moments where he would repeat words in a short span of time. To the regular writer, this would be nothing, but to him it seemed an outright sin. This is no way demeaning his broad vocabulary, simply constructive criticism to a dead guy who writes amazing prose.
“Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas, as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.”
Symbolism, to which the cover shows, is a strong contender in this book. The eyes you see represent a billboard, or Daisy. It means to say that somebody’s always watching you, a strong statement in this book full of affairs, murder, and crime.
This is no light book, even though I sped through it in two days. But it is marvelous, no matter how bad I made it out to be. This review can in no way express the great impact it had on me and many others. The ending is superb, and the writing is the best I’ve ever seen. I can see why it’s a classic.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Amazon Us: The Great Gatsby