September 24th is the birthday of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s a fact I came to know because of Twitter and I wanted to write about him. Of course, I do not know much about him personally. I have also just read one book written by him. In fact, I saw the movie first and loved it. I was not sure if I should read the book. But, it is really a short read. And so I read ‘The Great Gatsby’. For once, the movie matched up to the book. It was so well done. The movie very well captures the small nuances and the layers of narration in the book.
The Great Gatsby is also a criticism about the American Dream. It paints the era of the 20s as a garish era, and divides people into those having old money and new money. It shows the lives of people like Tom and Daisy Buchanan who live a life of luxury and do not care about others. On the other hand, it shows the aspirations of the new moneyed people like The Great Gatsby and everyone in between like Nick and Daisy’s friend Jordan. It shows the new moneyed people flaunting their riches, leading extravagant lives, and indulging in lavish parties. It is more famously known as the ‘Jazz age’.
Strangely, when this book was released, it was not a success. But over time it has acquired a cult following and has been successful. It has been made into an Oscar award winning movie.
Mr. Gatsby lives alone in a mansion and throws spectacular parties every weekend. Everyone is invited. Practically the whole city comes over to have free booze and food. It is like a circus. They all claim to be Mr. Gatsby’s friends but surprisingly no one seems to know him, or oddly even see him. Gatsby sends out a personal invitation to his neighbour Nick Carraway. Nick lives in a small, cozy cottage and is not really impressed by Gatsby’s riches. He listens to speculations about him as to where he could have made his millions from. When Nick attends one of the parties and actually meets Gatsby, he comes across as a bit odd. Because, Mr. Gatsby is trying too hard to impress Nick. Much of what he says seem to be lies to Nick, but he surely has the money. Soon Nick realises that Gatsby is trying to impress him so that Nick gets him to meet his cousin Daisy. Gatsby and Daisy had an affair in their younger days but practicality made her marry Tom Buchanan instead of Gatsby, the soldier who had no background. So, Gatsby has risen to be rich now and all he wants is Daisy to be back with him to make his world perfect.
Describing Gatsby’s love for Daisy, her friend Jordan says that ‘The officer looked at Daisy while she was speaking, in a way that every young girl wants to be looked at sometime, and because it seemed romantic to me I have remembered the incident ever since. His name was Jay Gatsy.’ This is how simply the author describes how Daisy fell in love with Gatsby or vice-versa. Gatsby looked at Daisy as if she is a princess in another world, a world which is so much different from his.
So Daisy is fine with having an affair with Gatsby since she knows she doesn’t love her husband Tom and also as Tom is having his own set of ‘other women’. But, it is a marriage which is safe, dependable, rich and beautiful. She has no reason to complain. She is almost on the verge of leaving her husband considering that Gatsby can now offer her everything. Gatsby gleefully tells her husband Tom, ‘Your wife doesn’t love you. She’s never loved you. She loves me.’ This angers Tom but just gets Gatsby more excited. He loves it and rubs it in by saying, ‘She never loved you, do you hear? She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved any one except me!’
But his happiness is short-lived as everything goes wrong since this moment. The ending is unhappy. Because by then you are rooting for Gatsby and want to knock some sense into Daisy’s head so that she decides fast whom she loves but all the while you are hoping that Daisy loves Gatsby as much as Gatsby loves her.
If you are an aspiring writer, The Great Gatsby is an education in writing. It is beautifully written. Gatsby’s neighbour and Daisy’s cousin Nick is the narrator here. This gives insights into the personality and lives of Daisy and Gatsby, both. The story goes a bit to and fro with pasts woven in with the present. It shows us why Gatsby behaves in certain ways. It is really a quick read and can be done in less than two hours. But the story packs in so much emotion. At the end of it, I have fallen hopelessly in love with The Great Gatsby and hate everyone in the book who doesn’t.
If you do not want to read the book, watch the movie with Leonardo Di Caprio as the lead. It brings the whole story to life, in exactly the same way imagined by the author. Even the dialogues are the same.