After having it on my Kindle for two years and never quite managing to read it, I have finally read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. Despite its title I’d regard the book as good rather than great (excuse the pun). There’s no doubt that the novel is beautifully written, however it didn’t quite move me as much as some other American classics. That being said, I can’t deny liking the novel! My first impression of the novel was that, at 180 pages, it’s rather short! I remember thinking that ‘Gatsby’ must be one of those novels that makes a big impression on the reader within a short period of time. This transpired to be correct. Fitzgerald managed to condense the novel by keeping his writing relatively succinct and not spending a great deal of time setting up his characters’ back stories. This was, in my opinion, one of the book’s great assets as it ensured there were no times in the book where nothing important is happening with regards to the rather detailed plot.
In regards to characters, I felt an immediate and strong sense of dislike towards Tom Buchanan, paired with sympathy for his seemingly long-suffering wife Daisy. I liked Nick Carraway, the novel’s narrator, but thought he was rather ‘wet’ at the beginning of the novel when he allowed Tom to be unfaithful to his cousin Daisy in front of him. My first impression of the titular character Jay Gatsby himself was that he was brash and cheeky whilst also being likeable and charismatic. He definitely shows a kinder and more thoughtful side of his personality later in the book. Eventhough I was aware of the book’s tragic ending, I still hoped Gatsby would end up married to Daisy whilst Tom was cast aside. With regards to the Buchanan’s marriage, the modern reader will observe that the concept of Daisy accepting Tom’s infidelity without protest and the knowledge she can do nothing to prevent it now seems rather sexist but will hopefully bear in mind that this was normal back in the 1920’s. Tom was certainly good as the book’s intimidating bully, and one can see why his antics appear to unnerve the other characters. The showdown between Tom and Gatsby was written in a manner that made it both suspenseful and addictive. I later felt very sorry for Gatsby during the book’s unfortunate end. By the end of the novel, the storyline had escalated so that I now disliked Daisy and felt rather sorry for Nick due to the way he spent the entire novel in the shadows of various people.
Fitzgerald manages to write beautifully for the duration of the novel, describing both places and people wonderfully. I adore anything vintage and therefore loved reading about the roaring 20’s. There were few things that offended me about Fitzgerald’s writing, other than the fact he barely uses commas. Speaking as someone who uses far too many commas, I found this rather irritating. Still, one can’t really complain about writing so vivid it makes you wish you were present at the events it describes. Another asset was the use of quaint expressions such as Gatsby’s “old sport”, as they really set up the 20’s time period well. Speaking of Gatsby himself, Fitzgerald managed to create a great but brief back story for the character. To use a term I never thought I’d use outside of English, the author uses pathetic fallacy (weather that reflects a characters mood) extremely well. Furthermore, the dialogue is written realistically and also reflects the character’s moods well. Prolonged passages of dialogue without a great deal of description can potentially become irritating, but I did not feel that way at any point whilst reading this book. The way characters react to various events, thus depicting grief/happiness/excitement etc, is another aspect of their lives that is described well. My last point about the way this book is written would be the frequent us of ‘of’ rather than ‘have’ (e.g. ‘I’d of’). Whilst this is grammatically incorrect and slightly irritating in an otherwise well-written book, it should be considered that this may have been done to illustrate the way the characters speak to eachother in an informal manner.
As a whole this book may not have influenced me emotionally, but one cannot deny that it’s a timeless classic that still manages to feel current nowadays and even manages to touch upon issues like sexism and the objectification of women. On a similar modern theme, it provides an insightful view on New York’s celebrity culture and the measures it can encourage an individual to go to. Similarly, it shows the lengths people are willing to go to for those they love. I firmly believe the best thing about this book is its wonderfully dramatic conclusion that kept me enthralled eventhough I already knew how the novel ends.
‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past’.