Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Who hasn't read The Great Gatsby?  This was not my first read of the now-classic Great American Novel.  I first encountered Daisy, Tom, Gatsby, and Nick Carraway during my sophomore year of high school.  The copy I read this time around was one I'd Mooched a few years ago.  While I don't remember actively disliking the book when I was in high school, it was one of those books that you read because you HAD to, not because you WANTED to, so it always had that sense of the mandatory attached to it.

This time, though, I simply wanted to see if my reactions to the book were the same as those I had when I was a teenager.  And, of course, they were not.  I remember being rather disgusted by the behavior of most of the characters of the novel when I first read it.  Daisy and Jordan and Tom and, to a certain extent even Gatsby, reflected the callousness of the rich that came to kind of characterize the way I eventually saw most wealthy people.  I was honestly physically sick to my stomach when I first read the book.  This time around, though, I didn't have the same visceral reaction to the characters or their flippant superficiality.  Some of that could be due to the naivete in my 16-year-old self that no longer exists in my 24-year-old self.  During this reading, I found myself liking, even feeling sorry for, Gatsby, that tragic figure born of the Jazz Age.  I'm not sure, however, whether to view him as a victim of the vicissitudes of the First World War or as a cunning puppeteer, making his fortune by manipulating the desires of Americans during the Roaring 20's.

I think I liked The Great Gatsby better this time around.  I'm not quite sure why.  Experience with the way of the world is certainly part of it.  But I'd give this book four out of five Whatevers.  I'm glad I re-read it.  I'm going to keep it around and read it again in another 15 years or so to see if anything changes between now and then!


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