Everyone’s heard of “The Great Gatsby” but it’s most likely credited to a required reading list from high school. Growing up in France, my list included the likes of Emile Zola, Moliere and Jules Verne, which is why I’ve wanted to explore more classic American literature as I got older.
Side note: I thought taking an American literature class in college would fix that but unfortunately, the only full-length novel that we read was “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain – an important book but one that I had already read on my own. #collegefail
One of my favorite things when picking up these time-honored works is learning why they became classics in the first place. “Catcher in the Rye,” which I read last year, was considered scandalous when it first came out and one of the first coming-of-age stories of its time. “The Great Gatsby”‘s acclaim stems from Fitzgerald’s success at encapsulating the feel and mentality of the Roaring Twenties.
For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, it’s basically an exposé of Jay Gatsby as experienced by his neighbor Nick Carraway. Much like Nick, your first impression of Gatsby is a charismatic, wealthy young man who revels in partying and being around people. Quickly though, through Gatsby’s obsession with an old flame, the married Daisy Buchanan, you slowly realize that under the shiny exterior is a very troubled individual.
I think what struck me the most is that Gatsby slowly comes off as strange and even a little crazy. After a while, he is so delusional in the assessment of his feelings and his situation in life, that all the lies he told to rise up in society slowly came crashing down, resulting in his demise.
As you’re reading, you also get the feeling that everything about Gatsby is off. You get small glimpses of what he does for a living but even its reveal isn’t quite enough since you never fully understand who his partner, Meyer Wolfsheim, truly is.
Overall, each character, except for Nick, appear as shallow, fake and insincere. This could be a painting of the state of society during the 1920s, or a testament to the true person that Nick was – a simple midwesterner trying to make it in the fast-paced, ruthless environment of New York City.
- Grade: A
- What’s it about: Jay Gatsby: the partier, the lover, the gang member (at least that’s my theory).
- Who should read this book: Anyone who finds value in being familiar with the classics.
- When should they read it: The book is short, which means it’s a very easy way to add a cultural notch on your belt. I also recommend reading it before May 10, 2013, as that’s when the much anticipated adaptation with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan will be released.
- Where can you find it: Amazon.com for $9, or any regular used bookstore. You might even try raiding your parents’ bookshelves.
Does anyone else have any thoughts on Gatsby? I feel as though this is a book that we could discuss at length.