Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Reading Level: Classics
Publisher: Scribner 1925
Pages: 180


In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "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 farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.

My thoughts:

** Spoilers **

I just finished reading The Great Gatsby a second time.  I read it last year for my American Lit course and this time I read it for my AP English course.  I upped a star from the last time I read it because I felt that it was more interesting this time around.  Really, I still felt the novel was boring and hard to get through, though (hence, the two star rating).  However, I understand it and appreciate it better than the last time I read it.  I think it's because I was required to do a close reading assignment while reading the novel.  It made me think more and catch important things I other-wised missed my first time reading it.  Here is my character overview/review:

Nick Carraway

Nick is the narrator. I don't really have a favorite character but I liked that Nick stood by Gatsby when everyone else didn't. So, Nick is my closest thing to a favorite character. I liked some of the things Nick had to say. I liked how Gatsby’s mystery uncovers through Nick.

Daisy Buchanan

Let me start by saying that I really despise Daisy. I think she is a very careless and weak person basing this on her actions. She goes and haves an affair with Gatsby and just ups and dumps him when confronted about it by Tom. What’s more she accidentally hits and kills Myrtle and just runs off like a coward, not even fessing up to it and has Gatsby take the blame for her. Piling it on top of all that, Daisy doesn’t even go to Gatsby’s funeral, (well really nobody went to Gatsby’s funeral but Nick and Gatsby’s father). The girl is just a coward through and through. Daisy basically gets Gatsby killed even though she physically didn’t shoot him. Although, I don’t get why Gatsby is so infatuated with a spoiled and cowardly person like Daisy. It’s unfathomable to me why he would go to such lengths for her.

Tom Buchanan

I don’t have much to say about Tom. He’s basically just a dick. He cheats on Daisy then expects Daisy to be a loving wife and to stay with him and not cheat on him. Then, there’s the fact that he punches his mistress, Myrtle, in the nose when he doesn’t like what she is saying (Daisy’s name). He is also very racist and sexist. Another thing is that he told Wilson whose car hit Myrtle which leads to Gatsby’s death.

Jordan Baker

I am indifferent to Jordan. I neither like her nor hate her. Obviously, she’s done some immoral things just like most of the characters in The Great Gatsby. But, she doesn’t bother me.

Jay Gatsby

Now we come to the character that gave the novel its name. Gatsby. Gatsby with his quest that ultimately led to his demise. I don’t really like Gatsby. He has some good qualities but he lied and deceived too much. I mean, first of all, his quest to win over Daisy is immoral. She’s married for heaven’s sake. He’s trying to woo a woman that already has a husband. And another thing is the means he uses to achieve his quest is questionable. Gatsby’s involved in various illegal activities to acquire his money. He lies to Daisy about how he acquired his fortune. I think the most interesting thing about Gatsby is his undying devotion to his dream. He uses any means he can get to acquire his money and Daisy regardless of the consequences. I think Fitzgerald kills Gatsby in the end to show how materialism and the American Dream can lead to immorality and corruption which embodies the failure that is the character of Jay Gatsby.

I’m actually very excited that the movie is coming out May 10. It also helps that I have an extra credit assignment that involves seeing the film. I watched the trailer and it looks better than the novel, surprisingly. I put pictures of the cast for the main characters in my character overview/review. On a side note, this is my first ever review of a book on Goodreads or elsewhere. I kind of felt like I was doing a discussion for English.

Favorite Quotes: 

“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life” (35).

“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy” (49).

“At least a dozen men, some of them a little better off than he was, explained to him that wheel and car were no longer joined by any physical bond.
‘Back out,’ he suggested after a moment. ‘Put her in reverse.’
‘But the wheel’s off!’
He hesitated. ‘No harm in trying,’ he said” (55).
--Guy who crashed his car at Gatsby’s party

“Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known” (59).

“‘Can’t repeat the past?’ he cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can!’” (110).

“I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life” (176).

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was the kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (179).

“…[Gatsby’s] dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it” (180).

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (180).
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