Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Publication Date: April 1925
Publisher: Scribner
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 180
Synopsis: In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.
Review: I admittedly saw the film before reading the book. (I really hope this does not become a habit.) I enjoyed the film, but I enjoyed the book more. There's something absolutely lovely about Fitzgerald's writing. It's simple, but it has a certain resonance and beauty to it. I really like the writing in The Great Gatsby, above all else. The way Fitzgerald captures the setting, the characters, and the events makes for an interesting read and, in the end, an acclaimed classic.

   The narrator is Nick Carraway, neighbor of wealthy party-thrower Jay Gatsby, and cousin of the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. Nick is a fantastic choice of narrator because he has just the perfect connection in the whole web of characters. He isn't particularly likable in any sense, but his voice stands out in the prose. However, he is overshadowed by the other vibrant characters like Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.

   Jay Gatsby is probably one of the most fascinating characters in literature I've read about. At the tender age of seventeen, he set up a future for himself to be a powerful, wealthy man. He spends his whole life, chasing that dream and one girl: Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby is a kind-hearted man, really, when it gets down to it. He's dedicated, passionate, stupidly in love with an awful girl but disillusioned. He's helplessly stuck in the past, and doesn't know what to do when time goes on without him. Gatsby is a flawed character, but an excellent one, in my opinion. The way his story ends made me so heartbroken. It's so wasteful that such a great man spent his time chasing an unworthy goal.

   Daisy Buchanan... oh, Daisy! Daisy is the love of Jay's life, but she married a wealthy man named Tom Buchanan. (Tom is just an awful man. Awful. Both of the Buchanans are, really.) There's something about Daisy that leaps off the pages. The way she's described, the things she says--she's an extremely memorable character. In the era of frivolousness and indulgence, women are seen as docile. Daisy conforms to that image. She's intelligent and has such a sarcastic sense of humor, it makes me want to like her. But her priorities are so shallow! Of course, that's how it's "meant" to be during this era and in correspondence with her social status, not to mention who she's married to. She makes incredibly terrible decisions, but that's how she's supposed to be. You're not supposed to like her. I think she represents the destruction and poison of high social status in the 20s.

   I think the weak link of this novel is definitely the plot. It's a short book, so the slowness of the plot didn't bother me all too much, but compared to the characters, the plot definitely seems to take a backseat. It's slow, and not quite as important as the characters themselves, but I will admit, there were times when I got bored. It wasn't as engaging as it could have been, and the beginning definitely could have picked up quicker. Also, I felt the pacing was inconsistent.

   I believe I'm supposed to read this in junior year, so I can't wait to analyze it in English class. There are so many themes and developments to discuss. I definitely appreciate the literary value in this book, and I'm glad I read it (especially after watching the film). The Great Gatsby involves depth, colorful characters, and lovely prose, but lacks plot and consistent pacing.

   3.5 keys.



13 comments:

  1. Loved your review, Sophia! You put to words exactly what I felt about some of the characters and plot- Daisy, for instance and the slowness of the plot. Great that you have it for English class the year the movie is out as well ~

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  2. It's been SO long since I've read this book Sophia! I remember it being one of the few required reading books I really enjoyed in high school, but I've forgotten all the details about it. I do remember it being a touch slow though, just like you mentioned, but the characters were awesome:) Fantastic review!

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  3. Wow! Amazing review(:

    Jackie

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  4. Oh my goodness, I disliked this book, hah. The slowness was too much, and that light at the end of the pier just killed me! I may have been too young to appreciate it, though, especially after reading your thoughtful review. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  5. Jealous of you analysing it in English! I read it for fun AAAGES ago and do not remember much. I am pretty sure most of it was completely lost on me. I do remember that the prose is suppose to be exceptional though. Glad you liked it!

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  6. Oh how neat that you have already read it and seen the movie and you will do that in school also. Look at you getting a one-up on everyone! Great job. I haven't read this nor have I seen the movie but I really want to see it because it's done by Baz and he is ammmmazing. Happy that you enjoyed it overall!

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  7. I really disliked this one! I read it years ago, and can't really remember much about it, but I do know that it didn't work for me at all. I'm thrilled it worked better for you though. You almost make me want to give it another try, just to see if I'd react differently now. I haven't watched the movie yet, but I have been meaning to. Perhaps I'll pick this up again when I do. Lovely review, Sophia!

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  8. I have not watched the movie or read the book! I love books set in the 20's though and I'm thinking I may really enjoy this. I tend to hesitate to read older books, they just seem boring, but you said it's on the shorter side so even if it's a bit slow at times I may be able to manage.

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  9. Great review~ I actually liked this book a lot more than you did. It's a bit slow, yes, but it's such a great read! I'm also glad I picked this up outside of school or else I'm sure I wouldn't enjoy reading this in a school setting.

    Great review!

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  10. I never read this in high school, either, but I'd really like to. It's great that you enjoyed it more than the film, too!

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  11. I read this in high school and think it's a good book for analysis. But, oh my god, I did not like it! Lol, I hated the characters - I know that's meant to be on purpose - and just found it incredibly boring.

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  12. I watched this (Robert Redford version) years ago and hated the tragic nature of the story so I've never wanted to read this. I've heard it is wonderful writing. Glad you mostly enjoyed it, Sophia. Great review. Also, I almost think it's better to watch a movie first and then read the book because you won't have expectations for the movie, by reading the book first. That really ruins movies for me. :)

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