Book Review: ‘The Great Gatsby’


‘The Great Gatsby’ has been on every list that talks of ‘Books to Read before you Die’, but what makes it such a must-read? A truly timeless classic, that passes the test of Art and Aesthetics, alike, and is as relevant now, as it was a century ago. 
When F. Scott Fitzgerald, a post-war author, published this book circa 1925, it was an utter failure. People didn’t want to hear about their flaws and futile desires, nor did they want someone else to put it forward in such a satirical manner.
Like every classically good novel, it proved as a mirror to society, the empty fancies of the Jazz Age in America, just before it was hit with the Great Depression. Now, however, it is considered as Fitzgerald’s magnum opus; no other work of his had gotten more recognition than the story of our flawed tragic hero, Jay Gatsby.
The story revolves around the narrator and main character, Nick Carraway’s move from the Midwest to the East in the search of fame and success. Famously dubbed ‘The American Dream’,this desire for status is what led to the major economic and social crisis in America. We are introduced to his mysterious, yet famous, neighbour, Jay Gatsby.
Gatsby hosts lavish parties but himself is never seen socializing with any of the guests. His extravagance has a reason behind it; the longing for his first and only love, Daisy.
Over the course of the play, Gatsby is revealed to be a restless, yearning, baffled nobody. He is suggested to have a connection with bootleggers and bond thieves, but it is never clearly disclosed. He’s shown as an odd mixture of vanity, humility, and an overgrown ego.
Across the bay from Gatsby’s West Egg mansion, in one of the white palaces of the more fashionable East Egg, lived Tom and Daisy Buchanan.
Tom personifies the classic misogynistic, racist and loutish stereotype of a man who has lived in a wealthy environment all his life. Tom and Daisy have a little baby girl, but it is confided to Nick, by Daisy, that Tom is having an affair.
Tom invites Nick to a New York party, in which a rough, low-class wife of a village garage-keeper, Myrtle, is introduced as Tom’s mistress. We are also introduced to a friend of Daisy’s, Jordan Baker, who is shown as an independent and strong-headed woman, with a career.
As Daisy meets Gatsby after many years and is reminded of the old times when she was engaged to him when he was a lieutenant, she gives in and has a minuscule affair of her own. Gatsby, who is in love with the old Daisy, has not accepted the reality that she has evolved in the many years of their separation and believes that Daisy would choose him over Tom, and that she had never loved Tom in all her years of their marriage.
Nick, from the first scene, is automatically attracted to Gatsby’s personality, which many critics believe was a theme of the forbidden homosexual love in the 20s. Gatsby, on the other hand, is still in love with Daisy, and has worked hard and earned enough money, however illegally, to be worthy of her.
Daisy is portrayed as a superficial dependent woman, who gets attracted to Gatsby because of the love he showers on her; ultimately staying on with her husband, Tom, for the financial and social security that he offers.
Fitzgerald leads the reader up to a tension where Daisy has to make a choice. The characters have been so skilfully portrayed, as we see Tom and Daisy, secure, but with contempt for each other, standing shoulder to shoulder in the crisis.
It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money, or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
The portrayal of women, however, is extremely limited. The three women, Daisy, Jordan, and Myrtle, are all from different classes in society, but they all seem to have no apparent say in their own lives. Fitzgerald’s writing severely lacked a woman’s perspective, and even a strong character like Jordan, with so much potential, was averagely written.
We also see Gatsby’s blindness to change, and how this builds up to his inability to see any change in everyone else too. Young readers might not be able to recognize this, but adults, who have undergone these changes that responsibility adds to our personality, might call Gatsby delusional.
This is another reason why Gatsby underestimates the extent of Tom’s malice, and the deceit of the social class he has fought to become a part of. The very social class that embodied the American Dream; what Gatsby desired was calculated doom.
Some readers find it ironic, and unsettling that only the idle rich survive the novel, but that’s the exact point that Fitzgerald hoped to mock at- the cruelty and injustice of the world. The rich are allowed to be careless, and that is essentially the dream; to be careless and get away with it.
‘The Great Gatsby’ might be a tragedy, but it is not depressing. The main message that is sent to us is that chasing an unworthy dream, based on societal pressure, will lead to tragedy. The story is fast-paced, just like the American lifestyle in the Jazz Age. The character development is engaging and it is a tragic love story at its best.
A character like Gatsby, surrounded by multitudes of people at his parties, to having less than ten people at his funeral, shows the dark side of everything great. A book, such as this, endures through ages of literature, because every time you read it, at whatever stage in life, it offers new discoveries, new insights, and we fall in love with it a little bit more with every page; and this is what makes ‘The Great Gatsby’ a must-read for every age group, and a great read for every literature lover.
By Yukta Baid


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