The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Posted April 19, 2017 in Book Review / 1 Comment

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published by Scribner on 2004 (first in 1925)
Genres: Adult fiction, Classics
Pages: 180
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed
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The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.
The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.

Main Points

I actually really love this book. It has to be one of my favourites, which is funny because I used to hate it. When I read it in junior year of high school I hated it, but then I saw the movie (2013), and I fell in love, and I thought I’d give the book another try. Conveniently, it was in my syllabus for an English class I was taking in college, so I re-read it and loved it now that I had the movie perspective. The movie really brings out the magic of the book. It was a little curious in its mixture of old-fashioned and modern (i.e. the music) but it ended up working pretty well. Obviously the effects were great. It was really dramatic at all the right times. The acting was all right, but I think the casting was perfect. I only think Leo could have done a better Gatsby, but I think he was definitely right for the role. The costumes were great. The settings were great. The soundtrack was wonderful. The narration was an excellent touch that brought it all together. Also, they did change a few things, such as the fact that Jay’s parents were dead in the movie so his dad didn’t come to the funeral, but the fact that Jay was very alone after his death was exaggerated sufficiently in both media.

I think a lot of my enjoyment came from the fact that I identify very closely with Gatsby. I basically do/have done all the things he did, although naturally on a much less grandiose scale. I just understand everything about him. A lot of it was about his capacity for hope, which is basically what Gatsby is. He’s hope.

I actually tracked hope throughout the book. I omitted two occurrences, one said by Daisy and one about Wilson, because they weren’t relevant for my purposes.

“Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.” (2)

And he does. Nick reserves his judgments until the end, when he sides with Gatsby, and loses complete faith in New York and everyone in it. He wasn’t quite as blind as Gatsby, but he reserved judgment for a long time.

“…It was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.” (2)

Nick’s talking about Gatsby.

“He wouldn’t consider it. He couldn’t possibly leave Daisy until he knew what she was going to do. He was clutching at some last hope and I couldn’t bear to shake him free.” (148)

There it is. His last hope, the one that cost him his life.

It’s all very sad, but the story of the star-crossed lovers is a common one. To use an old example, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. To use a new example, Hazel and Augustus. There are many more that I am not as familiar with. In any case, it was clear that these two were just not going to work. He wanted too much from her, and she was…well, Nick put it best. Tom and Daisy were careless people. They smashed things and people and then retreated into their wealth and vast carelessness. (That’s probably close to a direct quote but I do not have the book anymore to check.) Anyway, I was so godd*mn angry at Daisy at the end. The way I saw it, Daisy and Jay were soulmates (in my view, soulmates don’t always have to work out, and often don’t), and she just left him at the end. Not a call. Not a thought. She wouldn’t even come to his funeral. It’s despicable. She just up and left. I’m infinitely more angry at her than Tom, and it could be argued that Tom had a huge role in the events at the end. I think Tom behaved pretty reasonably, considering. Yes, a lot of it was his fault, but what could he have done? Where could he have sent Wilson if not Gatsby’s? Wilson was ready to kill that night. Tom didn’t want to stand in his way. Who could blame him? Of course, he could have called the police after talking to Wilson, but…

Anyway, I wrote a nice long essay (for the class) on why Daisy and Jay wouldn’t have worked out so that explains a lot of my thinking.

It’s still a romantic story and the emotions are all there. Once you reach the end, Nick’s disgust sort of permeates the whole story, so I can definitely see why I hated it at first read. Once you see what it really boils down to, it’s all a despicable mess. Pretty much everyone was terrible. But there was a certain poetry in it. I liked what the movie did with the eyes of T. J. Eckleberg. The eyes of God. God sees everything.

Here is the old review, for comparison.

Writing Style
I cannot help but compare Fitzgerald to Hemingway because they are both in the same time period and were both in Paris at the same time. And were friends. And so, while I did not enjoy Hemingway very much, I must admit I have no quarrel with Fitzgerald’s writing. He may be a bit over-descriptive at times, but the story/dialogue changes pace so frequently that it’s fun to see where it’s going, rather than confusing. Not very much is straightforward (unlike Hemingway), not even Gatsby’s death at the end. I must confess I got nearly the end before I realized he had died. But his descriptions are very good and while I usually don’t enjoy too many, I liked his.
Let me first just say this: I hated The Great Gatsby. It was horrible. I like Fitzgerald, don’t get me wrong. His short stories are pleasant (and he frequently writes about golf, which I find interesting). But this classic I consider a failure. The characters (except Nick) were awful in every way, and the whole story just seemed wrong. It had an ok premise, but then as it progressed it got worse and worse. With all the drama, all the death…it was just too much, too fast.
As I mentioned earlier, all but Nick are very, very wrong.
Nick: I liked him. He seemed like the only sane one in the whole story.
Daisy: very vacuous. Insipid. VAGUE. She had no substance, and it was a little bit scary.
Tom: violent and combustible. Frankly, dangerous. Did not like him.
Jordan: A little off, but not too unusual. Did not like how she treated Nick.
Myrtle: A bit whiny and annoying.
Wilson: Justified, if crazy by the end. He could have been all right but for Tom.
Gatsby: Too obsessed. That is really all there is to say on the matter.
The movie was the most glorious thing to ever bless the big screen. I loved it. It makes me want to reread the book ’cause obviously I missed something.

Bottom Line

I was not entirely pleased with this. If you are a fan of books from the Jazz Age of Paris, or from the Lost Generation, then this would be a nice read. However, if you don’t like tons of drama, death, and annoying characters (not to mention unhappy endings), then I would advise you to stay away from this. Will I be reading more of Fitzgerald? I think not. Would I recommend this book to others? Not likely.
Originally reviewed October 8th, 2013. Review updated on April 19th, 2017.

About F. Scott Fitzgerald

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was an American writer of novels and short stories, whose works have been seen as evocative of the Jazz Age, a term he himself allegedly coined. He is regarded as one of the greatest twentieth century writers. Fitzgerald was of the self-styled “Lost Generation,” Americans born in the 1890s who came of age during World War I. He finished four novels, left a fifth unfinished, and wrote dozens of short stories that treat themes of youth, despair, and age. He was married to Zelda Fitzgerald.

Overall: five-stars


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1 Comment on "The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald"

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Pamela D

The Great Gatsby definitely has a lot of annoying characters.