The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Classic Literature | Fiction
Published by Scribner
Released April 10, 1925
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The first time I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby I was in the tenth grade. It was assigned reading for my AP English class. I absolutely hated it. Looking back on that time, I feel that fifteen is too young an age to read this novel. You really need more life experience in order to appreciate it.
In my early-to-mid twenties (I can’t remember exactly), I decided to give this classic American novel a second chance, and I’m so glad that I did. The second time around, I adored it, and I’ve read it multiple times since then. It has become one of my all-time favorite novels.
If you aren’t familiar with the plot of The Great Gatsby, it takes place in the mid-1920s, so it was a contemporary novel when it was released. It deals with a number of important themes, such as the excess of the “roaring twenties,” idealism, and obsession.
The story takes place in a fictional part of Long Island, NY. There are two neighborhoods, called West Egg and East Egg, and both are filled with rich, successful people. Our narrator, Nick Carraway, moves to a small cottage on West Egg, next door to a huge, extravagant mansion owned by the mysterious Jay Gatsby.
Jay Gatsby’s past is a topic of much gossip, as his true identity is murky at best. However, this does little to hurt his reputation. He’s a favorite among the higher classes as he throws huge parties frequently at his mansion, and all sorts of rich and famous people flock there every week.
Nick and Gatsby get to know one another throughout the novel, and we discover that Gatsby is in love with Nick’s cousin, Daisy Buchanan. Saying that Gatsby is in love with Daisy is a pretty significant understatement – he’s not in love as much as he’s obsessed with the thought of her. They knew one another years before, and Gatsby has built his life around the idea of her, going so far as to build his enormous mansion directly across the bay from her and her husband’s home on East Egg. The rest of the novel involves Gatsby and Daisy finally encountering one another after many years.
Let’s talk about the themes that I mentioned earlier – excess, idealism, and obsession. These all go hand-in-hand with one another. The 1920s in America was a time of extravagance for the wealthy who could afford it, and we see that in The Great Gatsby. Huge mansions, fancy cars, luxurious clothes – the characters in the novel (excepting Nick) are all obsessed with these things, and use them as status symbols amongst their peers. Gatsby, especially, uses his wealth to try to impress Daisy, as that’s really the only thing that matters to him.
The last bit, about Daisy being the only important thing in his life, leads us to the second and third themes of idealism and obsession. Jay Gatsby has literally spent the last five years of his life trying to build himself up to be something that Daisy would fall in love with. It’s his drive in life and nothing else seems to matter to him. He has put Daisy on such a high pedestal that she cannot possibly live up to his idealized version of her. This leads to feelings of Gatsby’s disillusionment and disappointment in the latter half of the novel.
I’m not going to discuss how the story ends despite its being a classic, because I feel that everyone should read this short, important novel. Now that I’ve read this novel as an adult, and have a few unhealthy relationships in my past, I can appreciate this book more than I could have when I was fifteen.
I recommend this novel to literally everyone. I’m convinced that everyone can read this book and take something away from it. If you haven’t read it, please do so.