Happy Halloween! Did anyone read The Great Gatsby with me this month? Does anyone remember reading it in high school and want to join in?
I have a few confessions before we get started. First, I did read The Great Gatsby my junior year of high school, but I didn't remember a thing. Okay, that's not true. I vaguely remembered Gatsby's sprawling lawn being talked about a lot. But when I selected this book I was excited because I felt like I would be approaching it with completely fresh (albeit 12 years older) eyes.
And third… I really slogged through the first half of this book. In some ways I felt like I was back in high school with a reading deadline, and it was hard to make progress. But then the second half— chapters 6-9—FLEW for me. I couldn't put it down/stop listening. For me, the characters and the plot really came alive.
I thought it was so interesting how the story opens :
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.”
It's almost like Fitzgerald is saying, "Hey, these characters are all pretty screwed up, but let's not judge them too much and let that get in the way of this story, okay?"
What an excellent comment! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. And thanks so much for mentioning poor Wilson!
Isn’t it funny how much difference a teacher can make? I know there are books that I love that I would not have at all liked if it hadn’t been for the teachers that guided me through them.
The first time I read this book (also my junior year), I did not like it. Then I read it with another professor and I appreciated it so much more. I would actually re-read it on my own now, which I never would have done if it hadn’t been for that second professor.
The only Fitzgerald work I’ve read is The Great Gatsby. What else do you recommend from him?
Absolutely love this book ( and the movie also ).
I liked the way it was written In Nicks point of view, i found it made it more interesting and i believe a lot of Fitzgerald’s own views were expressed through Nick as a character. For anyone that hasnt read this book yet and finds it hard to get sucked into a book straight away, I recommend watching the movie first, makes it a lot easier to understand and follow 🙂
I dislike the characters (as in I proooobablly wouldn’t choose them to be my closest friends), but the work is certainly moving. The first time I read this book I was very young and pretty shocked by the characters. The second time I read it, I was significantly older and more experienced with the deep kind of reading The Great Gatsby allows you to engage in. I don’t feel like I’m judging the work by saying its characters are difficult to like. I simultaneously find those characters to be masterfully crafted. It can be difficult for authors to create unlikable characters. It is impressive to find characters with repulsive behavior enmeshed in such an utterly compelling work.
Maybe some people project their gut level reaction towards a character onto the work as a whole, but for others like me a single work can illicit multiple layers of feeling.
1. So I first read this book in high school and was not a fan. I didn’t actively hate it, but I didn’t like it. I still don’t love it, but after re-reading it in college I appreciate it so much more. It is so rich with meaning.
2. Hmm. That’s an interesting question, but it would totally change the story to have it told in the third person.
3. It shows the futility of Gatsby’s pursuits—his pursuit of wealth, his pursuit of the past, his pursuit of Daisy . . .
You see this futility over and over again in the book.
In the very first lines, the story is set up with this epigram:
Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,
Till she cry “Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,
I must have you!”
This is supposed to be a quotation from Thomas Parke D’Invilliers–but guess what–there is no Thomas Parke D’Invilliers. Fitzgerald made him up.
And then of course, it ends with these famous words of futility: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
4. Of course I didn’t like the characters. 😀 Well, some are less likable than others. Your reality TV analogy is hilarious. I think Fitzgerald described it best: “They were careless people.” Ouch. He really hit a nerve there.
“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.”
I, too, read this book in high school and it became one of my favorites. So much so that I went out and bought my own copy when it came time to hand back in the school’s copy. It now sits on my bookshelf as a book I’ll keep, and read, forever. F Scott Fitzgerald writes wonderfully and with such detail about that era; the glamor, the fun, the parties, the glitz. All of it told so well. It’s a book that just draws you right in and won’t let you go. I love it, and always will.
Late to the game, but Nick really isn’t unbiased. His words in the opening of the book are ironic; all he does is judge people. He wants to be in their world, but he knows he never will be. He also knows that he shouldn’t want it. He’s resentful, but he’s also a little jealous of those around him. Nick is in awe of Gatsby, but he’s also a little disgusted by the excess in Gatsby’s life. And obviously, he judges Tom and Daisy. Some of his judgments may be right on the mark, but still, he does judge a lot.
Also, this book has the greatest last line of all time. I can’t even think of it without choking up!
In high school, my English teacher had us read The Great Gatsby in class, we followed along in the book with the audiobook and the result was that everyone in the class really enjoyed the book. I still enjoy the book, and while it can be wordy at times, it had a coolness to it, I think that helps that Nick is a bystander because it feels engaging, like you’re there, moreso than if it were in 3rd person. It’s the lavish parties by a mystery host, the sad romance of living in the past and for someone, it’s the hope and the action and the tragedy. The ending really speaks to superficiality, Gatsby lived a superficial life to gain the attention and praise of Daisy, who ultimately chose to keep her own superficial life and Gatsby had no true friends to mourn for him because he was, like you said, basically a reality TV show and it was over and everyone just forgot about it. I really liked the most recent movie, I felt like it showed the story very well.
complete aside: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was also written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, after seeing the movie and noticing that in the credits, I read a collections of his short stories which I also enjoyed.
Right. I think that the point of having Nick as the narrator (rather than Fitzgerald simply stating what’s happening) is that we, the audience, are then exposed to Gatsby in the same manner as if we actually met him in person. We experience the mystery, the awe, the questioning, and then, the disappointment. If we had an omnipotent 3rd-person narrator (what we would have had with Fitzgerald rather than Nick), there would be no mystery. To fully know a person is to know their flaws, so it makes sense that the reader is introduced to Gatsby little, by little so that we can experience his splendor and then eventually witness his cracking facade.
I understand the allure of getting swept away into another era, but I feel that idolizing the time kind of misses the whole point of the book. The 20s were an era of excess, what was supposed to be the ultimate representation of fruition of the American Dream. The characters and the time, however, are flawed and empty. Gatsby is obscenely wealthy but missing what he most desires, the desire to re-live the past (I would argue that he doesn’t want Daisy as the person that she is, but for what she represents). What he wants can never be achieved. The perception that perfection can exist is erroneous. Everything was supposed to be perfect and shiny, yet nothing was right. We’re not supposed to like the characters — we’re supposed to see their flaws and the flaws behind what they represent.
I did wonder if Daisy was in love with Gatsby. We never really hear her say the words. I can’t really seem to explain some of Daisy’s actions. The description of the past was solely from Jordan and Gatsby. Did she just “get back together” with Gatsby as a distraction from Tom and his mistress?
I like how you say you wouldn’t want to be friends with anyone in the book because that is always what bothers me about Nick. He claims to be just an observing and non judgemental and never seems like a bad guy, but he is so easily dragged into a life with horrible people and never speaks up.
Oh man oh man this is the blog post for me, Miss English Degree and lover of this book. The first time I read it, junior year – I hated it. But then I read it again for a class the next year and the teacher made all the difference. I’ve read it a few times sense and just love it.
The effect of having Nick, a character without much pull on the story, is an interesting one. Usually the narrator drives the plot but as you said in this case, that isn’t the case at all! I think if we were to read it from Gatsby or Daisy or any other point of view, we wouldn’t get reliable information. All the other characters are too self absorbed to really offer great insight – though of course, Nick isn’t always the most fair either – since they are too focused at the events happening now or in the past.
Gatsby especially, which would make the most sense be narrator, wouldn’t be good at all. He’d spend most of his time chatting away about Daisy and the past that the book would probably be twice the size. So in the end, Nick ends up being the best person to tell the story. Although I have had a teacher that says he becomes a little…how we say, unreliable in that he may or may harbor some feelings toward Gatsby. But that in itself opens the whole story up in a different light!
And I have a question you didn’t ask: does anyone think that Gatsby was too good for Daisy, in the end? I would go as far to say their love wasn’t even real. Not really. I have no doubt that Gatsby loved Daisy with all his heart. That’s the tragic thing about it all. But Daisy – I’m not sure. She doesn’t love Tom, that’s for sure, but I think she loves the idea of going against Tom and her family’s wishes most of all. In the end, though, that doesn’t really stick because she loves the life she has too much to completely commit to Gatsby. She can’t marry poor, can’t love through richer or poorer – poorer being the operative. Their love, in the end, is a bit like Romeo & Juliet – tragic and beautiful to read about, but in the end, completely misguided as well.
To each their own, but this book was such a fantastic commentary on the times and culture of the 1920s. The extravagance, the lavishly horrible affairs and lives of the main characters…maybe the 1920s were a reality show for the rich. It may be why it’s entertaining to read while you’re reading it, but after finishing it, you feel a little disgusted. Because personally, the characters are excessive, ostentatious. And that’s exactly why I love the book, and all the characters, especially Gatsby. Because he was horrible, because he was the epitome of the american dream, where people were willing to do whatever to achieve that lifestyle, even if it meant giving up a lot of the generally accepted ethics.
I read this a couple of months back for my Literature class in university! Like you though I felt a bit disinterested on the first few chapters but the last ones were enthralling!
I liked how even though Gatsby’s the main protagonist of the novel, we view his story from the perspective of Nick. We see his life the way others see it, first as the aloof man that everyone makes weird rumours about and the next is the man who’s irrevocably in love with Daisy.
It’s definitely not something I would pick up on my own while wandering around a bookstore, but I’m happy that this novel was assigned to us in class!
Gasp! Initially, I thought Gatsby was one of the most romantical characters ever written…EVER. I fell in love with him AND F. Scott. He “dispensed starlight to casual moths” for goodness sake. And then, I wanted to throw this book out the window because of how spoiled – “Her voice is full of money” – and wretched everyone is by the end. I had more fun in my head imagining Fitzgerald writing this frustratingly classic classic and then hanging out with Zelda and Hemingway in Paris. My goodness, how fun.
I found this book really interesting- I did study it at school which initially put me off but I love Baz Luhrmann and so after watching the movie version I felt inspired to give it another go. I actually quite like the fact that it was told from Nick’s point of view. At first it threw me off a little because he seemed a little passionless and it sort of underlined a creeping feeling of depression and inertia that I felt in the story. But then I started to think about who Nick was and why the author kept him a bit of a mystery and I liked how it was all left so open to interpretation. I feel that he is almost a mirror in the story that you can impose parts of yourself onto and draw connections to the story from your own life experiences. I also liked the fact that this book is not ‘happy’ in the typical sterotypical sense-it definitely makes me think a bit more carefully which I like!:)
I read it in 10th grade and we had to analyze it. I liked it very much but did not understand it properly. Years later I sat enthralled through the movie with R. Redford, M. Farrow. It was a long movie and not That good, but it captured the era and the lines were straight from the book. THAT is rare. Daisy was sooo bad (I never liked Mia Farrow much), but Redford was soooo good and believable. I love almost all Fitzgerald’s novels and this one is no exception.
I dislike it when people ask if you liked the characters. I think that’s an odd criteria for judging art. The more appropriate question is did they make you feel anything? Roxanne Gay has an amazing essay on this dilemma as it applies to female authors who write difficult female characters. It’s in her newest book, Bad Feminist.
The Great Gatsby is an amazing snapshot of a distinctly American period. Fitzgerald captures the tone perfectly with well developed characters in relatively few pages. He really was a master. This book was published in 1926. He wrote it while living it. No retrospection. That’s simply amazing. It’s one of the most lyrical novels.