Re-reading: The Great Gatsby

June has been a roller coaster for me! Despite my free time I haven’t devoted that much time to reading and I just kind fell on a lazy routine of watching TV, tidying up my bedroom (much needed) and, in a very cathartic way, putting away everything college. Now I can breathe, I am free!

After getting my Sony e-reader, it was pretty clear that my first reading on it would be The Great Gatsby. I had longed to revisit it for a long, long time. What a joy to reread!

The characters

My impression on the characters is still the same, but more intense. I still do not trust Nick (and therefore his narration), hate Tom and pity Gatsby. But, what struck me the most is how much I admire Daisy, the golden girl. I have to admit I am under her spell: I’d love to be friends with her. Why? I have no idea. She is not the kind of person who I would be friends with in real life, but she’s the ultimate American golden girl who everyone adores and tries to please.

One quick note on Daisy: I do not see Carey Mulligan as Daisy. I think this character should be very flirty and attractive, with a kind of acted sweetness. For me, Carey has more naïve and truly sweet looks.

The story

The Great Gatsby is a story about everything and nothing at the same time. I find it impossible to write a summary on the plot since it sums up a huge part of the American dream. At the same time, a closer look on Nick’s words suggests that the passing of time and his moral superiority do not account for a reliable narration. This helped me to consider the whole story as something partial and, as it usually happens, beautified by the passing of time.

Themes

For me, Gatsby’s is a harsh criticism on the American dream. From rags to riches can become true, but new money can never fight old money. Names still play a key role and, Daisy’s choice is a reflection of that consciousness: no matter how much money or morals you have, as long as you are a Buchanan (or a Kennedy etc). At the same time, money does not mean power (it took Gatsby a year to get Daisy to one of his huge parties) nor happiness.

Just as I write this, I am thinking of the concept of home for all the characters. They are all from the Midwest living on the East: they are dislocated and, eventually, they either return home or they wander around the country. It also suggests a need to leave home and get to know oneself and, at the same time explore one’s morality and, eventually, become an adult.

Symbols

My favorite symbol is Daisy’s green light at the end of the dock. For me, it represents Gatsby’s dreams and hopes and, at a larger scale, our dreams, ambitions and hopes. We all have a green light that keeps us on fighting, working, writing, reading etc. Isn’t it wonderful?

Dr. Eckleberg’s eyes are a creepy reminder of the characters’ dubious morals and their behavior. But, eyes in general appear all throughout the novel, meaning that they characters are being watched (and judged?) but also highlighting their blindness.

The real life Gatsby

One of the things that struck me the most while studying this book in college was that the Daisy-Gatsby love story reflects Fitzgerald’s own relationship with his wife Zelda, another golden girl who only started a relationship with the author once he was well-known and rich (partly suggesting he achieved that to get Zelda). If you are interested in their relationship, there is plenty of information online and a great and funny portrayal in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.

The ultimate American novel?

Many consider The Great Gatsby THE American novel. I don’t know if I would agree. It certainly portrays a point of view in a very interesting period, but there are many gaps: there are no African-American characters neither international immigrants. On the other hand, women do appear but have limited roles: the wife, the lover and, in the middle, Jordan who does not come as a very likable character, at least for me. But there were black people, women and immigrants in New York at that time, so this only contributes to Nick as a partial and unreliable narrator.

Anyhow, I seem to find constant references to the book in every TV show or other books that I read.

2012 Baz Luhrmann adaptation

I love the trailer for this movie for the simple reason of the glitter and the party trying to hide the decadence, the desires, the need for something less materialistic. I also love that they make Daisy and Gatsby’s affair physically explicit since in the novel they only kiss, but you can hint a deeper connection.

Leonardo DiCaprio is the perfect choice for Gatsby (hasn’t he been perfect for any dramatic role lately?) and I can’t wait to see Isla Fisher as Myrtle, although she is described as a curvy woman and Isla is super slender. Not so sure about Carey Muligan as Daisy, she’s too sweet-looking, but we’ll see.

Finally, I do recommend The Great Gatsby to every reader out there, especially since the movie is coming out next December and I am sure it will be a hit. It has something that adapts to the reader so you can see and interpret it in a unique way.

Rikki suggested this wonderful first-lines analysis. Thanks, Rikki!

Update: I was listening to music and heard the following lyrics which I thought fit the characters perfectly. Isn’t it great when you can find connections between different forms of artistic expression?

We were two kids, just trying to get out
Live on the dark side of the American dream

We would stay out late, play our music loud
When we grew up nothing was what it seemed

Lana del Rey: Without you

About these ads

12 thoughts on “Re-reading: The Great Gatsby

  1. Glad you liked that post! I thought it would be something for you…I read The Great Gatsby years and years ago but don’t feel a desire to re-read it. I rather revisit Fitzgerald’s short stories.

  2. I think I should reread this one at some point, I read it for the first time earlier this year but don’t think I got everything I could out of it. I agree that Carey Mulligan is a bit ‘sweet’ for Daisy.

    • When I read it for the first time I thought: “what a bore!” but when my professor explained all the symbols I realized how much the book meant to me.

      And finally, someone who agrees on Mulligan! I can’t help but picture a girl from How I met your Mother as Daisy, I don’t know why!

      She looks very sweet but, at the same time, mischievous. What do you think?

  3. I’ve been thinking I should reread this one for years. Gatsby was assigned reading in high school and I could never make up my mind whether I liked it or not. Now my only recollection of it is that I didn’t like any of the characters–even when I watched the movie trailer, nothing came back to me. I may have to make rereading it a greater priority!

    • I think if you plan on watching the movie, it would great to revisit the book (although you later on may regreat it when comparing your ideas and the casting/interpretation).

  4. Gatsby just creeps me out. He is like an onion in that there are so many layers of him to peel away. I do not feel like the end of the book even begins to touch all the layers. There is so much more we really needed to know.

  5. Great review Elena! Knowing that the movie is coming out at the end of the year was what prompted me to re-read the book recently (here’s my review if you want to compare notes ;)). That’s interesting that you mentioned that you trust Nick; although I have made mention of him in my review, I never quite developed any particular feeling towards the character. He was just…there, lol, which is weird since he’s the one narrating.

    That’s also interesting that you mentioned the absence of African-Americans and immigrants in New York and the book being THE American novel. Could also the time period that Fitzgerald (1925?) wrote and published the book in be a factor? (i.e. that coloured people were generally not represented/focused on in literature in this period? I could be very wrong, interwar American culture isn’t my strong suite) Or that “high society” at this time bars those minorities from being represented/included in their world view in any way, shape or form coupled with Nick’s narration = their absense from the novel?

    Sorry, now I’m starting to sound academic, I’m going to stop now before I start theorising further =P

    • I love academic!!

      I think you are partly right. The characters in The Great Gatsby are “high society” but they attend parties and, during this period, most bands were mostly composed of African-American musicians. Also, some immigrants were making lots of money (especially those from the UK) thanks to mass production. Of course, they could be physically identified as WASP and look exactly like the characters, but their accents would still be there.

      I always think of the characters in this novel as the Kennedys, the history of white, powerful families with old money and a name: “The American Royalty”

      • Ahh, yes, I didn’t think about African-American musicians in this period. Guess Nick doesn’t care much for music xP But in all seriousness, that’s very interesting that you mentioned that (about immigrants at this time).

        Yay for academia! =D

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s