Top positive review
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Wonderful, accessible read
on 12 July 2015
Fitzgerald’s narrator is Nick Carraway who starts the book with a quote from his father to always remember that people have not had the same advantages as him and as a consequence he always reserves judgement when he meets people. Nick is from a wealthy family and went to school with Tom Buchanan, but he still feels like an outsider as he has to work for a living. He looks to go into the bond market and rents an inexpensive house in the grounds of Gatsby’s mansion.
Tom and Daisy Buchanan are from a privileged class of bright young things. When we first meet Daisy she is lounging in a room with all the curtains open doing nothing. This fanciful idea of the curtain billowing, the ladies reclined with their skirts caught in the wind, as if being carried away in a balloon, fits perfectly with Daisy’s personality. “I’m paralyzed with happiness.” are the first words we hear her speak and reinforces the idea of doing nothing. Physically he gives the reader the description of, “Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it..” The excitement in her voice was “a singing compulsion, a whispered ‘Listen,’ a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since..” This flamboyant, effervescent character is both carefree and careless. The way she changes subject mid conversation to ‘you must see the baby’ suggests a lack of attention and a distressed mental state. She also suggests it is better for women to be a pretty fool, a social comment on the way women of her class are seen in Fitzgerald’s world.
Tom equally indulges in the pleasures of life, not just his horse riding and cars, but keeping a mistress in the poor district between his mansion and the city. He suffers a crisis when Daisy admits to loving Gatsby and he finds out his mistress is being taken away by her husband. Suddenly everything he has is slipping through his fingers, he is losing control.
Gatsby himself is a mystery. In the beginning we are told that no one is ever invited to Gatsby’s place they just turn up. This makes the invitation to the narrator equally strange. Then when Nick meets Gatsby he has to mysteriously disappear to answer a phone call. This is the first clue that Gatsby’s business is not strictly legitimate. He has made and maintains his fortune on prohibition. Yet everything he has and does is to impress Daisy, to be and belong in her world. He has a man in the city send him shirts, so he knows what to wear, the nouveau rich fitting in. The idea of him taking the blame for the car accident, when she was driving, is perfectly in keeping with his character.
Why is he called great? I think Fitzgerald was creating the ultimate American icon. The self made man who never gives up no matter what. As one reviewer suggests, Fitzgerald is creating the American Dream before the term was even used. Gatsby also has this insatiable positive attitude which never gives up hope that there is something on the horizon, just out of reach, all you have to do is keep striving. Encapsulated in the famous closing lines, “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 further...” Again this pre-figures the American Dream that if you work hard enough you will succeed and those who fail, didn’t strive enough. It’s a recipe for tragedy, mental illness and loss.