Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reviewed by Lucia.

Published: 1925

It's about: The 'great American novel' is set in New York in the summer of 1922. Jay Gatsby's lively parties are know throughout the state and beyond, yet no one seems to quite know who he is or where his money came from. His sole purpose is to impress a married woman whom he hopes will sooner or later find her way to one of his notorious gatherings. As narrated by his neighbor Nick Carraway, Gatsby's passion and ridiculous naivety ultimately result in destruction.

I thought: Judging from the descriptions and general banter I've heard about this book, I thought it would be a lighthearted read, highlighting the sparkling elegance of the Jazz Age. The first half of this book appeared to be just that, when looked at from a rather superficial stance. However, the themes of The Great Gatsby can be dark and I'll admit to being startled by this. The primary ideas which I understood were the naivety of believing in ideals and the shallowness of certain aspects of society. That is, the general lack of appreciation for others and at times, oneself.

This novel is extremely well written and artfully constructed. I was relieved by Fitzgerald's use of simple language and gentle, often sarcastic humor. To begin with, the prose bubbles with life and the author's style does not reveal the more intense elements of the novel. To me, this seemed to put the reader at the level of the society surrounding Gatsby. They acknowledge him for his parties and the gossip which he stimulates, but not much more. As we are eased into the second half of the text, the story becomes less frivolous, yet Fitzgerald maintains his directness and clarity, and I thoroughly enjoyed the easy-to-read flow of the words.

When I began reading the novel, I wondered why it was told from the perspective of Gatsby's neighbor and not the enigmatic title character himself. However, I believe the reasons for this to be quite simple. I found that the story focused more on the society as a whole, as opposed to individual characters. Initially, to me Carroway was a representation of this general society, yet as the novel developed, his individual thoughts and opinions became stronger, thereby making apparent society's faults.

Verdict: For the narrative, I can not decide if I truly like this book, but because of the Fitzgerald's style and manner in which the themes were dealt with, I'll put it on the shelf.

Reading Recommendations: This is a very short novel and could easily be read in one sitting. I found it therefore quite easy to read between chunkier books.

Warnings: None.

Favorite excerpts: ...I like large parties. They're so intimate. At small parties there isn't any privacy.

'You can't repeat the past?' he cried incredulously. 'Why of course you can!'
He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.