I still like “Gatsby”…

‘They’re a rotten crowd,’ I shouted across the lawn.  ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.’

Beautiful words describing shallow people.  This seems to be the consensus of many readers of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short novel The Great Gatsby.   They’re not wrong.  His characters of the Jazz Age have major flaws and many are not likeable.  After several decades since reading it the first time; however, Nick Carraway’s above words jumped out at me.  Something about Jay Gatsby makes him great.  Maybe it’s the way he stares across the water at the green dock light.  Maybe it’s his new-fangled yellow automobile.  Maybe it’s his naïve idea that money can buy him love.  Or perhaps it’s just the way he calls everyone “old sport”.  Regardless of the reason, I’m glad Carraway got to say those words to him.

And speaking of Nick Carraway, he’s one of my favorite side kicks.  He’s the quintessential observer – ever so slightly detached that one thinks maybe he’ll get away from Gatsby’s tragic circumstances only partially scathed.  At least one hopes.  His moral compass isn’t completely broken.

The greed that undergirds the bright lights and the big parties can make this a tough book to admire.  By the end of my second reading, I’m convinced Fitzgerald is not attempting to glorify corruption.  He’s taking a snapshot of the world in which he lived.  A world where greed outshines the empty eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg.

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12 responses to “I still like “Gatsby”…

  1. Carraway (and Sal Paradise) could likely end up in “the finals” of any literary sidekick/observer bracket I would create.

    You picked a great quotation too. Even when reading this as a “youngster” I remember being caught up in the tragic sympathetic-ness of the Gatsby character. “Gatsby believed in the green light…” (i may be paraphrasing) is a line that sticks with me across the years.

    • Jay,
      Yes! Sal Paradise is another great one! I think a re-read of On The Road might be warranted. Maybe not immediately but in the near future. I don’t think I’ve posted about Jack Kerouac yet. I need to remedy that.
      -Dale

      • The Vonnegut library group talked about reading one of Kerouac’s novels for next year. The curator of the library is a big Kerouac fan. He mentioned Dharma Bums as a possibility. I’ve read it, but would mind doing so again.

      • I’ve read On The Road, Dharma Bums, Visions of Gerard and I did read The Town and the City for IRC but I got bogged down with other things and I don’t think I appreciated it as much I should have. Maybe that could be a re-read, too.

  2. The first time I read Gatsby, a year or so out of college, I didn’t care for it at all. But I read it again last year, and loved it! It seems I needed to learn that with Fitzgerald, it’s not what happens next that’s important, it’s what he observes while things are happening. When I got to the end the first time, I felt like, “That’s it? That’s all that happens?” This time, I felt like, “That’s it? I can’t have more?”

    • I know what you mean. While I liked the book in high school, I think it was because of all the bright lights and parties. It took longer to get what was underneath all of that.

      • I think the first time I read it, I was expecting there to be some big finale to it — after all, its “the great American novel” and all. And because it wasn’t what I expected, I disliked it. What a difference a decade makes.

      • Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities is a novel I just could not get when I was younger, but then reading it decades later it really “wow”-ed me!

    • It’s always good to know a fellow blogger who appreciates Gatsby. From what I’ve read over the last few years, it doesn’t seem there are that many of us.

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