‘The Great Gatsby’ isn’t so great

The roaring twenties: glitz, glamour, flappers and freedom. This is the era that Fitzgerald had the opportunity to depict. In a word, “The Great Gatsby” is iconic.

You’ve probably been hearing about this book for as long as you can remember. It is regularly alluded to, is part of the public school curriculum and has become a major-motion picture. “The Great Gatsby” is portrayed as this elusive, larger-than-life novel – until you actually sit down and read it.

You can’t argue that from a literary standpoint, Fitzgerald produced a masterpiece. His writing style is beautiful and easy to read. The organization and foreshadowing are executed flawlessly. But the plot and characters were largely disappointing.

Maybe it’s because “The Great Gatsby” has such an immense legacy, which was only enhanced by Leonardo DiCaprio, but the book did not live up to expectation.

Firstly, the pace of plot development was turtle-like. Nothing seems to happen in the first five chapters or so and then suddenly all the action is packed into a short window, leaving the reader feeling as though they’re not really sure what happened.

Gatsby’s intense love for Daisy is puzzling because the reader is only exposed to a limited number of their interactions. Although his relentless – and rather pathetic – perusal of Daisy is intended to be a commentary on the idealistic – and rather unrealistic – chase of the American dream, it is also extremely frustrating. Fitzgerald does accomplish this message, but at times it can be hard to swallow.

None of the characters are particularly likable or relatable. At first, you want to root for Daisy’s and Gatsby’s love, but as the novel evolves it becomes jaded. Daisy’s naïve flirtation is endearing at the beginning, but she eventually reveals her shallow, one-dimensional personality. She becomes unlikable, and Gatsby’s lure is compromised by his pursuit of someone so obviously selfish.

And you can’t help but wonder what Nick’s, one of the only seemingly innocent characters, role in all of this is. At the beginning of the story he tells the reader he is going to refrain from judging the other characters. And yet throughout the novel, over and over again he passes judgment and sees himself as above the drama of the East Coast.

“The Great Gatsby” is a good book, and there is obviously a lot to unpack – a lot of story, theme and social commentary wrapped together. But after years of paramount praise of this iconic book, the story was dissatisfying and disillusioning.


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Classic perseveres as a favorite

New York is supposed to be the land of dreams, but that couldn’t be further from the truth in “The Great Gatsby.”

Quickly approaching its 100th anniversary, the novel tells the story of millionaire Jay Gatsby and his desire to win the heart of Daisy Buchanan. It’s short, only nine chapters. But there’s a reason F. Scott Fitzgerald is famous, and in 47,000 words, he was able to create complex characters that I either loved or hated-there was no neutral grounds, and really, wasn’t that just the epitome of a great story?

One example of this would be Daisy Buchanan, Nick’s cousin, Tom’s wife, and Gatsby’s past lover. She is a girl in the 1920s, trying to survive in a male dominated society. She knows Tom is cheating, but she cannot divorce him for it. Her situation inspires pity in me, but that’s it. There’s really no good excuse to pin a murder on someone, then refuse to come to his funeral when he is killed for your sins.

Otherwise, her characterization, and everyone else’s, is vague, and that was purposeful. The “Great Gatsby” was meant to apply to everyone, even people in the 21st century. Gatsby, in particular, is only described by his smile. As such, it implies that the American Dream isn’t just limited to a white man; it can be achieved by an Indian woman.

(Open interpretation isn’t always so inspiring. There are theories that Gatsby is actually Jack Dawson from “The Titanic,” which, um…)

That is, if the dream actually exists. Gatsby, as the protagonist, falls unexpectedly short of reaching the dream. And well, that was the whole point, wasn’t it? In the Roaring Twenties, economic booms led to excess wealth, but the war created cynical men. Fitzgerald, disillusioned by the terrors in Europe, criticized this empty pursuit of wealth for corrupting the American Dream. And if the novel is still supposed to apply today, then how much of the dream is left?

Well, hopefully we wouldn’t repeat the past.



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