I read The Great Gatsby in high school. I had little memory of it other than Robert Redford and the color white and something about a large car, which leads me to assume we must have watched the movie after reading and dissecting the novel.
Thus I had no real preconceived notions other than those vague associations and was a little curious about reading this icon of American literature.
And, now on the flip side, I’m somewhat perplexed as to its iconic status. I know, I know, who am I to critique an American classic like The Great Gatsby–but I have to tell you, though it is a short and therefore not an altogether unpleasant read, I just didn’t like it much. Like I told you before, it’s not my favorite.
I think part of my lack of enthusiasm is due to the fact that there’s no real sympathetic character in the novel, no one likeable. In fact, in my humble opinion, Daisy, Gatsby and nearly everyone else are downright pathetic. The narrator, Nick, is, I suppose, likeable enough, but to me he seemed aloof, set apart from the story, his role as observer intentional I imagine.
Perhaps Gatsby’s longevity is due to its portrayal of emptiness in the midst of decadence. And Fitzgerald’s depiction of life in the 20’s is every bit as decadent and reckless as one might imagine. Daisy and Gatsby both had every material object they could desire yet their misery is both acute and pitiful. I expected a story of thwarted love; instead The Great Gatsby underscores the empty (and tragic) pursuit of pleasure despite the highest degree of wealth and excess–a truth worth remembering.