When many people visualise The Great Gatsby they’re often swooning over the faces of Leonardo DiCaprio or Carey Mulligan from Luhrmann’s recent adaptation. However, many fail to offer the well-deserved literary praise to Fitzgerald himself for one of the most celebrated documents of the jazz age. Fitzgerald took his wife Zelda’s love of the roaring twenties and turned the craze on its head. Fitzgerald utilises the novel to explore the lives of the fascinatingly rich and also their scandals.
The Great Gatsby is an eclectic and exciting story following the mysterious character of Jay Gatsby; mainly in his pursuit for Daisy Buchanan. Fitzgerald excellently captures the extravagance surrounding the idle rich of New York City and on Long Island, in two areas known as “West Egg” and “East Egg”—in real life, Great Neck and Port Washington peninsulas on Long Island.
A first person narration is offered to us from the perspective of Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan’s cousin. Observing the characters from the outside and acting as a peripheral narrator often stalls the reader in the most suspenseful moments. We’re allured (much like Nick himself) to the tangibly extravagant setting and yet thrown off by the novel’s constant let downs; the hollowness of wealth, the Gatsby’s drilled perfection of Daisy that she hardly deserves and the overall corruption of the American Dream.
The relationship of Tom Buchanan and his wife Daisy is something that unravels (in more senses than one) through Nick’s narration. Tom’s character most suitably fits the elitist male stereotype; having an inability to understand the allure of the ‘lit up circus’ of Gatsby’s mansion. He has trouble to live up to the moral standards he demands from those around him, perhaps his self-centred pursuits reflect a key feature of the Jazz age – a rebellion seen by some as a collapse of morals.
With subtle emphasis Daisy is also a character who is an emblem for her callous stereotype, Fitzgerald leaving her scot-free and able to continue her life. Daisy early on in the book says she wants “[her daughter] to be a beautiful little fool” encapsulating the ignorant nature of the rich but commenting also on the social era in a woman’s perspective.
I must finish here to avoid spoiling the plot’s development, so I’ll finish with a request for you; find a copy of this culture rich novel and dive in. And to the many who have already read Gatsby; I hope I’ve reawakened your love to the extent where you’re searching your old A-level text books to have another read.
Be ready to ride alongside new boy Nick Carraway in his drunken summer with Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, and receive an eye-opening adventure into the lives of the appallingly rich in 1920’s America.