“The Great Gatsby” is one of those books that teachers start mentioning at the beginning of high school, one of those that you know you should probably read at some point in your life. So when I discovered that this novel was only a mere 135 pages, I decided it was time to read a classic that wasn’t a monstrous, intimidating epic.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece is set in New York during the Roaring Twenties, when Long Island was beginning to divide into “East Egg,” the home of the aristocratic millionaires, and “West Egg,” the home of the newly-rich desperate to show off their success.
The narrator, Nick Carraway, is a Midwestern who settles into a cheap home on West Egg, although he has connections to the true upper class after attending Yale. From the beginning, Nick attempts to convince readers that he is honest and nonjudgmental, so we hope that is the truth as he begins to paint a picture of this lavish world from his own perspective. We are first introduced to Daisy, Nick’s cousin who lives on East Egg. Daisy is unhappily married to Tom, who cheats on her publicly. It’s obvious that Daisy was once a kind-hearted person, but after years of trying to fit into a shallow, manipulative world, she has become hardened.
In the third chapter, we are finally introduced to the elusive protagonist, Jay Gatsby, a mysterious man who hosts the city’s best parties but knows none of his guests. He immediately attaches himself to Nick, eventually informing him that he is in love with Daisy, whom he met years ago before the war. Their long lost love is supposed to be the backbone of the story, but for me, it took a backseat to the disgust unveiled in the materialistic lifestyles all these characters live. The majority of the book takes place at various social gatherings where everyone tries to outdo one another in an attempt to make more connections and earn more fame. Sure, there’s love involved here and there, but drama, lies and facades overshadow it. The book is about personas and power, and we can only guess about the heart of these characters.
This may seem like I’m implying the book has no soul, but that’s not it. The book is really about a society beginning to lose its soul. Moral corruption and greed are the downfall of everyone here, but our once honest, ethical narrator cannot help but get caught up in the alluring illusions of the rich and famous. In a world where most of us currently spend our days watching reality shows, reading gossip magazines, shopping for the most fashionable clothes and focusing on how we can make more cash, it’s an important novel to read.
“The Great Gatsby” is basically the “Gossip Girl” of the 20th century. Its purpose is to remind us that, while the American dream is to become a success story, it’s a dangerous road to the top. Ultimately, an extravagant lifestyle cannot be a substitute for true happiness. Happiness comes from real human connections, not money nor notoriety.
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