This week I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby for the first time in over a decade. I was reading this along with my husband and was curious if I would feel the same way as I did back in high school (the first time I read it).
Like Nick Carroway, the narrator, I think I understand this book better now that I am 30 and “five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor”. The impressions I got from this book were about living with the decisions from our past and the futility of living in the past. Gatsby is not a nice person. He is singularly obsessed with Daisy Buchanan and is fully prepared to ruin her marriage with Tom. He’s made some dishonest money and like Tom and Daisy, has little regard for anyone else.
What I can’t help but like about Gatsby is his attachment to beauty and the enchantment of a dock light. The dock’s green light is at first, the enchanted light that beckons him to Daisy’s world at East Egg. By the end of the book, it’s just a dock light; the disenchantment has come and the beauty is lost.
Had Gatsby’s fate differed, I doubt that he would have remained long at West Egg, I think perhaps he would have pursued Daisy. If not to woo her, then perhaps just for lack of being able to move forward. Sort of a clinging to the past, to our old dreams and the futility of it all.
“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning—— […]
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
There are so many beautiful expressions in The Great Gatsby that I wish I could collect like shiny marbles and pocket them for use on a sunny day. Between the carefully crafted, witty remarks, is one of Fitzgerald’s biggest faults. His use of exposition dumps.
Fitzgerald has a habit of shelling out big paragraphs of exposition all in one go rather than revealing that information throughout the book. These drew me out of the story more than I would have guessed. Fitzgerald dishes out details of Gatsby’s background, his first meeting of Daisy, etc. as Nick reflects on the occurrences of the book AFTER the event, not as it is being revealed to him. Perhaps this is a pet peeve of mine but I don’t like that layer of detachment from my narrators. What is your preference?
I’ll be watching the Baz Luhrmann version of The Great Gatsby for the first time in the next few days. It’ll be interesting to see how his interpretation differs from mine but I suspect that he’ll sacrifice story for visuals… Check back next Friday for my thoughts on Gatsby the film!