The Great Gatsby

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 poem appeared as the epigraph for The Great Gatsby, a 1925 work by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The Great Gatsby

This American classic explores the trivialities and superficialities of the 1920s, the Jazz Age, and how they are a false illusion for the American Dream, which Gatsby (“the man who gives his name to this book” [2]) has seemingly accomplished, but in fact have only distorted. Both Gatsby and Tom (Nick’s friend from Yale) are both super wealthy; Nick, the narrator, lives in a more modest manner. Daisy is Nick’s second cousin and Tom’s wife, but the conflict of the book revolves around Gatsby’s love for Daisy, as he sees her as his sole goal.

Here’s an example of the superficiality:

Daisy (to Nick): I forgot to ask you something, and it’s important. We heard you were engaged to a girl out West.
Tom: That’s right. We heard that you were engaged.
Nick: It’s a libel. I’m too poor.
Daisy: But we heard it. We heard it from three people, so it must be true. [19]

That last statement, which is the epitome of gossip in literature, still retains its initial shock factor, and is even funny. Also ridiculous are Tom’s statements on science:

Tom: I read somewhere that the sun’s getting hotter every year. It seems that pretty soon the earth’s going to fall into the sun—or wait a minute—it’s just the opposite—the sun’s getting colder every year. [118]

This was written of course well before the theories of global warming and global cooling were popularized. But the most shocking events of the book are Gatsby’s parties, which are beyond extravagant.

I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited—they went there. They got into automobiles which bore them out to Long Island, and somehow they ended up at Gatsby’s door. Once there they were introduced by somebody who knew Gatsby, and after that they conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with an amusement park. Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission. [41]

The book was well written. I just didn’t like it so much—perhaps it was because I had read a few other great classics just before reading this, and in comparison, it didn’t seem very special. (I’m referring to Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and Siddhartha.)

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