The Great Gatsby

If you are consulting this post because you need to write an essay or hand in an assignment at school, not only are you a cheater and a fraud, you are also an idiot. Essays and book reports based on my readings get people very low grades. And you are too young and too stupid to understand why that is.

Reader el asked me to write about one of my favorite books, The Great Gatsby. I read it a long time ago, so bear with me if I get some minor details wrong.

F.S. Fitzgerald’s greatest novel is a powerful response to people who believe that money can buy social mobility. Gatsby, whose parents were “”shiftless and unsuccessful farm people” attempts to buy access to a higher social class with his new-found money and fails miserably. He can purchase a huge house, organize lavish parties, and get the people whose social status he covets to attend but he cannot become one of them. His sensibilities will always be those of a poor farm boy from North Dakota who dreams of accessing a way of life that he has only seen from afar and cannot even hope to comprehend fully.

Like a poor person who makes some money and immediately buys a huge plasma screen TV to signal his social mobility (without realizing that the people whose social class he wants to join don’t even watch television), Gatsby tries to massage Daisy’s incomprehensible reality into a familiar narrative of a life-long monogamous bond. It is crucial for him that Daisy state publicly that she never loved her husband. Gatsby needs her to participate in the creation of his fairy-tale of “for better or for worse, they lived happily ever after, and died on the same day.”

Daisy, of course, is incapable of understanding why this is so important to him because this petit bourgeois dream of Gatsby’s is not something she can share. A search for a monogamous partner for life is crucial for the representatives of the lower classes who cherish hopes of upward mobility. Life is tough for such people, and joining forces with a partner you can rely on is very important.

Please don’t think that I’m trying to denigrate this petit bourgeois dream of monogamy and social mobility. It is my reality and my dream, too. I identify with Gatsby here and not with the spoiled, rich, satiated Yalies and Southern belles who have had everything handed to them on a diamond-studded platter and who are too bored even to have sex, like Nick and Jordan.

16 thoughts on “The Great Gatsby”

  1. The Great Gatsby was the first novel I read in English. It had such a deep impact on me. I had to read everything FSF wrote after that.

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  2. // Essays and book reports based on my readings get people very low grades. And you are too young and too stupid to understand why that is.

    I don’t understand why either, except that it’s because those people can’t add their own worthwhile thoughts and analysis (while putting your post in “Works Cited” page as required and is 100% OK).

    Now about the novel: Agree with your analysis RE “sensibilities of a poor farm boy”.

    I admired Gatsby’s dedication and efforts to rise in society (earn money part), but lost some respect for him upon discovering he did it all for Daisy, hardly a worthy object . For a while I wondered why the obsession for such an unworthy woman from not foolish and much morally better person (imo), but now I think I got it.

    His love for Daisy is 99.99% love for social status (Gatsby even describes her voice as “full of money”), but he doesn’t fully understand that and tells himself it’s True Love. That far I understood before, but only now had the illumination: Gatsby subconsciously sees hers “I do” as the only way to prove that he has “made it”, has become the kind of man he imagined at the age of 17, and since self transformation is his life’s goal no wonder he remains obsessed and blind to Daisy’s true nature to the end. I do still fault him for not having a bit more self-knowledge and analyzing his motives before going to such lengths though.

    //Daisy, of course, is incapable of understanding why this is so important to him because this petit bourgeois dream of Gatsby’s is not something she can share.

    Of course, it’s a work of lit. and Daisy is the main representative of high & corrupted high class. Having said this, in “RL” I see her as a pretty shallow person without connection to her class. Haven’t met any born rich people, unlike you, but hope that being born in a rich family doesn’t automatically make a person shallow, incapable of deep emotions,etc. After all, doesn’t bourgeois worldview include judging both lower and higher classes?

    Btw, could Gatsby be a Jew? James Gatz, doesn’t Gatz sound Jewish? And his “mentor” is a Jew too.

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    1. “I don’t understand why either, except that it’s because those people can’t add their own worthwhile thoughts and analysis ”

      – A reading is only believable when it’s fully your own.

      “His love for Daisy is 99.99% love for social status (Gatsby even describes her voice as “full of money”), but he doesn’t fully understand that and tells himself it’s True Love. That far I understood before, but only now had the illumination: Gatsby subconsciously sees hers “I do” as the only way to prove that he has “made it”, has become the kind of man he imagined at the age of 17, and since self transformation is his life’s goal no wonder he remains obsessed and blind to Daisy’s true nature to the end”

      – Exactly!! Good reading. Student el gets an “A+.” 🙂 🙂

      ” Haven’t met any born rich people, unlike you, but hope that being born in a rich family doesn’t automatically make a person shallow, incapable of deep emotions”

      – My sister says she knows 2 women born in rich families and, according to her, they are very hard-working, profound, and intelligent.

      “Btw, could Gatsby be a Jew? James Gatz, doesn’t Gatz sound Jewish?”

      – I don’t know, I have crowds of students whose names sound this way but who have never heard the word “Jew.” We have a huge German community here.

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  3. Want to admit that I didn’t like the novel (though after thinking I see how it still is relevant today and started liking it more) since:

    1) Fitzgerald’s writing style (I read some of his short stories too)
    2) So much time (pages) passes until the plot starts moving
    3) Jordan, Daisy & her husband, Gatsby’s guests are all boring and unpleasant, and, even understanding now the relevance to my world, I still find the long descriptions of parties & Jordan balancing smth on her chin, esp. in Fitzgerald’s writing style, not less boring and unpleasant.

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    1. “1) Fitzgerald’s writing style (I read some of his short stories too)
      2) So much time (pages) passes until the plot starts moving”

      – This is modernism. It’s all about the beauty of the language. The plot is a lot less important.

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      1. But you can simply not feel the beauty of the language, if you dislike the writing style (or plot not moving at all for pages), right? And feel it in another, not worse from lit. pov books.

        I read Austen’s novels not out of any real interest in a plot, but because of beauty of the language alone, so imo at least partly understand what you’re talking about. May be in the future, if I re read them, I will enjoy & understand more. Being bored by Austen, except for language, is embarrassing to admit in English blogosphere and makes one think he misses something. My ideal book, though, wouldn’t be written in Austen’s style and would include both interesting plot & great language. (More natural to me style would let me feel involved more)

        I miss something here. Why is plot less important? Isn’t primary role of good books to convey ideas in the best language? Even if we talk about poetry? I loved f.e. Bernard Shaw’s plays, Ostrovsky’s plays, the poems of Robert Frost (see “Mending Wall” and “Hyla brook” as diff. examples, they’re short and great) and Wislawa S. (this poem about love that you liked). Is their language less beautiful? In which way? What is meant by “the beauty of the language” and why/how should you enjoy it in abstract, except feel carried by descriptions so much that don’t care about lack of plot (like stereotype of poetry being about roses & nightingales singing without great ideas, but lot of pretty language)? When I say “lack of plot” I don’t mean “nobody kills/marries anybody” but lack of truly new info to learn about characters’ (inner) world too f.e. Didn’t feel after certain point that descriptions of parties and non-characters at them gave me smth new, but may be it’s my fault for not noticing this new.

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        1. “Being bored by Austen, except for language, is embarrassing to admit in English blogosphere and makes one think he misses something. ”

          – It’s perfectly fine to feel that a certain writer is simply not your kind of writer, even if s/he is a total genius. For instance, I took an entire course on Virginia Woolf with a professor who was absolutely brilliant. I love her essays but the novels just slaughtered them. I patiently plodded through every single one but, with the exception of Orlando, I hated them. I recognize on a logical level that Woolf is a genius. But I’m incapable of enjoying her writing. She just isn’t “my writer.”

          “I miss something here. Why is plot less important? Isn’t primary role of good books to convey ideas in the best language? ”

          – For centuries, the primary goal of painting was to create a likeness that resembled the original as much as possible. Then, the photographic and the cinematographic cameras were invented, and painting couldn’t even hope to compete. As a result, painters abandoned the goal of rendering things and people faithfully. What came out of that was the amazing modern art that is in no way worse than what came before. It is simply different. It doesn’t reflect people or objects but it reflects the spirit of modernity.

          “Is their language less beautiful? In which way?”

          – Different eras call for different forms of art. It makes no sense to compare Dickens to Faulkner, for example. They do completely different things artistically because they lived in different times. And they are both perfectly suited for their times. In the meanwhile, writers like John Galsworthy were born a little too late. Galsworthy’s writing would have been perfectly suited for the Victorian era. But in the early XXth century, the way he wrote was hopelessly outdated. This is why he is not greatly known nowadays. At least, not as a serious writer. The guy missed the boat, so to speak. 🙂 Which is a shame because he wrote quite well.

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          1. “What is meant by “the beauty of the language” and why/how should you enjoy it in abstract, except feel carried by descriptions so much that don’t care about lack of plot (like stereotype of poetry being about roses & nightingales singing without great ideas, but lot of pretty language)? When I say “lack of plot” I don’t mean “nobody kills/marries anybody” but lack of truly new info to learn about characters’ (inner) world too”

            – Unlike a realist writer, a modernist isn’t trying to explain the world to you. S/he is a lot less manipulative and imposing than a Realist. A Modernist gives you a work of art and expects you to work at least as hard as the artist on creating this work of art, on making it work. While a Realist talks at you, a Modernist says something and awaits your answer. Enjoying a Modernist work of art requires a lot of hard work on the part of reader / spectator. But the creative freedom readers get is much greater. You will not be provided with “new info” on every page because it’s your job to fill in the blanks and decide what the story means to you.

            It totally rocks that we are having these literary discussions on the blog. 🙂

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  4. You know, I’ve been thinking I should probably reread The Great Gatsby for a while. I was a teenager when I read it first, and probably missed some stuff. Modernist literature can be like that — the first time I read To the Lighthouse, I found it boring and repetitive (though the characterization of the father and son, and the intensity of the son’s feelings toward his father, caught my imagination and stayed with me for years), but the second time I read it the slowness didn’t bother me at all, and seemed true to the kind of lives the characters were living, and the kind of people they were. I also had read another of Fitzgerald’s books, Tender Is the Night, and really liked it, much more than I remembered liking Gatsby, so I’d want to see if it really was that I liked one story more than the other (which might be the case — Nicole Diver was a very interesting character to me, and one to whom I related quite a bit) or just that I was older and better able to dig the writing.

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  5. I remember reading this book in High School and feeling kind of “blah” about it. The teacher seemed to be savoring every word, character and plot twist, but he just couldn’t seem to get the class to do the same. I kept getting distracted from the themes that I was apparently supposed to be focusing on by smaller details like the outdated words used to describe Jews and black people. I also kept wondering what happened to the dog.

    It was actually watching this series of youtube videos recently that really made the story come alive for me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehjTS6AhMJ8

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  6. Robert Frost – Hyla Brook

    By June our brook’s run out of song and speed.
    Sought for much after that, it will be found
    Either to have gone groping underground
    (And taken with it all the Hyla breed
    That shouted in the mist a month ago,
    Like ghost of sleigh-bells in a ghost of snow)–
    Or flourished and come up in jewel-weed,
    Weak foliage that is blown upon and bent
    Even against the way its waters went.
    Its bed is left a faded paper sheet
    Of dead leaves stuck together by the heat–
    A brook to none but who remember long.
    This as it will be seen is other far
    Than with brooks taken otherwhere in song.
    We love the things we love for what they are.

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    1. “Mending Wall” is very phylosophical, while “Hyla Brook” can be viewed phyl. too, but is more mysical and that’s imo not only because of rhyming.

      Also love very much his poem of an old woman telling about her life:
      http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/robertfrost/701
      Quote:
      I hope if he is where he sees me now
      He’s so far off be can’t see what I’ve come to.
      You can come down from everything to nothing.
      All is, if I’d a-known when I was young
      And full of it, that this would be the end,
      It doesn’t seem as if I’d had the courage
      To make so free and kick up in folks’ faces.
      I might have, but it doesn’t seem as if.

      If you read, would love to hear your pov, whether you liked them.

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