We all know the name, we have all seen the cover in a bookshop, and we all have at least a little bit of knowledge on what the book is about. But is Gatsby really great?
In short, no. Gatsby is not great. He isn't supposed to live up to his name, but I mean it in a deeper way than that. Fitzgerald should have called it The Rich Stalker, because that's who Gatsby really was.
Gatsby is written in the perspective of Nick Carraway, who lives up to his characternym and doesn't give a damn about what Gatsby does. It is the fact that he is Gatsby, the oh so mysterious man who seems to be the only person interested in Nick in the whole of West Egg that lures him into his house for the famous party scene. As they get more acquainted, Nick learns everything about Jay Gatsby, and still doesn't give a damn, because by that point he sees them as 'best friends'.
This review is going to contain some spoilers, so don't read it if you are actually considering reading this book.
First of all, I am so over the whole "It's a classic and it's old so it must be good!" thing, because I don't care if Gatsby was written by the last Pharaoh of Egypt with the blood of their very veins - it was a bad book in my opinion.
Don't get me wrong, I completely understood the book and I get why everyone goes mad over it. It was supposed to send out the message that it doesn't matter how much money you have, you can't buy love or happiness or a good turnout to your own funeral. But that is such a mainstream theme and it was no more controversial in the 1920's - it's just that the people who wrote these type of books were quite often from a privileged background themselves so they thought it was an interesting topic.
I have a theory here and correct me if I'm way off, but throughout reading it I thought Fitzgerald had imagined himself as Gatsby and imagined his wife Zelda as Daisy. This would explain why when reading it, the descriptions of both were just how I would describe him and Zelda. Basing your characters on yourself and the people you know... isn't that the number one rule of what not to do when writing a book? It also occurred to me that one of the points of this book was to make you think Gatsby, be Gatsby, until something in your own life snaps you out of it. You are in danger of living the book, which Fitzgerald may well have done whilst writing it, until you wake up to the harsh reality of it. I wasn't in any danger of that, because I didn't like Gatsby, but just like Nick many people fall for him.
On the subject of Nick, I can't really say anything apart from how appallingly boring his was. Oh my Gatsby. Moving swiftly on.
Another think I noticed was that there were huge homosexual undertones throughout the whole book and you can't ignore it. I think it is fair to say that Nick had a man-crush on Jay. The only people he was interested in for the whole book was Gatsby and Daisy, and even then he seemed to have a creepy incest-type crush on his own cousin. To me he is comparable to an obsessive fangirl in terms of Gatsby. I don't even want to think about him and Daisy.
The descriptions were stiff, literally. Every time he described Jordan and Daisy together, he made them sound like marionette dolls instead of people. I didn't get the chilly vibes coming from that description: "... two young women were bouyed up as though upon an anchored balloon." Daisy even says "I'm p-paralysed with happiness." It doesn't make sense, any of it. And I have been deeply analysing this book for a few months now. The whole description was unnatural and didn't stick with Daisy's other descriptions, where she is compared to a butterfly, so elegant and fluttering about everywhere as though she can't keep still.
Here's for what I liked. There were some Tumblr-worthy quotes in there, and some of the other descriptions were so crisp and fresh. I would describe them almost as absolute gemstones of literary content, but alongside the glorified picture of the 20's era I just couldn't justify giving it an amazing review.
I loved the idea of the book instead of what was actually inside. A mysterious man lets a man of lower social class into his life and has a love-interest he has patiently waited five years for. But the actual book was not to my expectations. He stalked Daisy for years, kept newspaper clippings of her and moved to an area so he can lust over her with only a lake to divide them, and has a seriously OTT plan to get her back. You should be taken aback how creepy it is, and you should want to file a restraining order against anyone who acts like that towards you.
Daisy is perfectly happy with Tom until Gatsby shows up again and then she is forced to bring up her emotions from the past that she buried away. This is the thing that ultimately changes her life, not the sort-of-affair that takes place shortly after. Of course, I'm not sympathising with her because she was as manipulative as Gatsby sometimes, but if getting her back wasn't enough he wanted her to declare that she never loved Tom. Obviously she couldn't do that, so being the perfectionist he is, Gatsby ends up as unhappy as he started out even though he's got his girl. This annoyed me. We find out that Gatsby was an unusually smart man with the lengths he has taken to become Gatsby, but he should have figured out that perfection isn't possible. A smart person would know that. His character therefore wasn't consistent.
And Owl Eyes man? We never get to the bottom of what his real name was. Now my mind is left clinging on to this impossible image of a human sized owl talking to Nick at a party.
The ending was meh. Not what I would have hoped for in an amazing oh-you-must-read-before-you-die classic.
The reason I gave it 2/5 cups of tea in the end was because it wasn't unreadable and there weren't any plot holes, so thank you so much for that Fitzgerald. I understood what the book was trying to get across and I did like the metaphors for both characters and objects throughout, but by the end it just seemed like tedious reading. I really wanted to like it, and I am not against classics or anything. Just bad ones.