And so my goal of rereading my AP English course load begins…
Ok, so basically anyone who went to high school in America knows The Great Gatsby and it’s incredibly re-readable although I haven’t read it since before this treasure came out:
100 year old spoilers ahead…
In the summer of 1922 Nick Carraway is living near his cousin, Daisy, in fictional West Egg trying to make a living after graduating college and serving in WW1. While Nick has to work to earn a living most of his acquaintances are wealthy, upper class socialites so he takes a sort of “fly on the wall” approach to his socializing. Nick went to college with Daisy’s husband, Tom, and it comes out that he has been having an affair with his mechanic’s wife, Myrtle. Tom is not a very pleasant man to either of the women in his life but his true character really comes out when he punches Myrtle for saying “Daisy” too much at party being thrown in the apartment Tom rents for their affair.
Nick’s neighbor, Jay Gatsby, a mysterious man who also throws over the top parties invites Nick to a party over the summer and introduces himself when he discovers Nick and Daisy are cousins.
Gatsby has been in love with Daisy for years; they knew each other before he went to away for the war and before he earned his fortune. In a completely not creepy stalker way bought a mansion directly across from her house where he throws lavish parties hoping she’ll notice and come to one.
Their long ago relationship explains her interest in her friend Jordan’s throw away comment at the beginning of the summer about a man named Gatsby who throws wild parties.
She never comes so Jay enlists Nick to host a tea where the two of them can see each other again. It’s awkward at first but soon after Daisy and Gatsby rekindle their romance.
“We haven’t met for many years, said Daisy, her voice as matter-of-fact as it could ever be.
“Five years next November.”
The automatic quality set us all back at least another minute.”
Tom (who, again, is also having an affair) gets suspicious Daisy may be having an affair and becomes jealous. Tom investigates Gatsby and discovers that his fortune comes from illegal activities. During a luncheon in the city Daisy is doing a crap job at hiding her affair which angers Tom who humiliates Gatsby with his newfound information. Gatsby tries to get Daisy to admit she never loved Tom but she won’t. Daisy and Gatsby drive away upset and in their distress they accidentally kill Myrtle with their speeding car. Daisy was driving but to prove his love and loyalty Gatsby plans to take the blame. Myrtle’s husband believes the driver of the car was also the man having an affair with her and goes to Gatsby’s house to kill him. None of the numerous party goers who flooded Gatsby’s house throughout the summer attend his funeral. It is a poignant reminder that having party guests and having friends are vastly different situations.
Besides mocking the opulence of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald’s examination of the American dream highlights the importance of women adhering to their traditional gender roles or else everything will go to shit. Daisy’s affair has more serious consequences than Tom’s; she stepped away from the traditional role of being a wife & mother and was punished. Tom’s discovery of Daisy’s infidelity ultimately leads to the death of Myrtle and Gatsby. Daisy knows her role in society and even hopes that her daughter grows up to be “a beautiful little fool” because things will be easier for her. Daisy has no skills other than being beautiful arm candy and she exploits her looks in order to secure a comfortable life. While she may have butterflies and fireworks with Gatsby she has financial security and social stability with Tom. Damn, is Daisy the only character who knows what’s up?
I think romanticising the past and one’s youth is also a major theme. Daisy and Jay’s relationship brings them back to their early adulthood; their love for each other may just be a symptom of reliving one’s youth. Jay even shuts down Nick’s comment about not being able to repeat the past.
“You can’t repeat the past.”
“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.
Fitzgerald’s masterpiece is still relevant today; his depiction of flawed, shallow people leading destructive and shallow lives in hopes of achieving the American dream is entertaining and scathing. Unfortunately, the Kardashians and Real Housewives probably wouldn’t “get” it. Its brevity lends to its charm- there are no wasted words although the writing is lush.
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy– they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made . . . . ”