Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Great Gatsby

Okay, I have to admit that before I read The Great Gatsby this weekend, I had always wondered what a Gatsby was. It sounded to me like a period of time, like the Great Depression, or the Great Awakening, or a major event of history (perhaps in a fictitious world, like the Coming of the Great Pumkin, as anticipated by Charlie Brown and the little red haired girl). So now, I've been duly enlightened. Gatsby is the name of a man.

Once I discovered that Gatsby is not a momentous event, I now had to grapple with this very complicated word, 'great'. In my experience, great means of epic proportions. So Beauwolf is one kind of great. So is Superman for that matter. Joan of Arc and Napoleon Bonaparte are another kind of great. Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are another. And The Beatles and Bob Marley are another; Susan Bolye might have fallen into that category, but alas, Fate didn't have it that way.

'Great' in the context of The Great Gatsby is not so clearcut. In fact, at first I thought F. Scott Fitzgerald is using the word satirically. For how can someone whose tools of trade are subterfuge and bribery be considered great? How can someone who takes out all his fine shirts to show his ex-girlfriend be considered anything but vain and hollow? But gradually I found that he is not laughing at Gatsby's crazed motivation to be rich, he is not mocking Gatsby's fantastic wealth which has failed to buy him a good life. Fitgerald is genuinely writing in praise of Gatsby's optimism, determination and, yes, goodness at heart. In the end, for all his flaws, Gatsby is really 'better than the whole bunch of them'.

Fitzgerald is a proper comic, I smiled in my mind often and laughed out loud one time. I never cried, I was never revolted by any gory details, and there were no inordinately boring pages for me to skip. I hope you read this classic, if you haven't already. If you never do, at least you are perfectly clear on what a Gatsby is, and what it is not.

7 comments:

Jacqueline Smith said...

Thanks to everyone who peeped in on me or dropped me a line by mail during my dry spell.

Will said...

well now i have no choice but to read this... i often have weird notions about classics based on their titles - i've always thought that this one was about some sort of con or ingenious scheme... that "gatsby" was actually an old euphemism...

now that i know it's actually a funny read i'll give it a shot... :-)

thanks...

Stunner said...

It was along dry spell indeed, lol!

Seems like an interesting book.

Anonymous said...

Found a copy of said at the school I was at while I was in England Jay. Must admit that I did not finish reading it and i cannot understand why it is considered a classics.

Daisy Soap Girl said...

Good to see you back. We all need a hiatus at some point in our lives. I read The Great Gatsby a while back & saw the movie but I must give it another try.

zooms said...

So Glad your back, and as much as i missed you, i rely on Caribbean Blogs to see what everyone else is up to at one place, so thank you for that. Have not read the book since school, which, like Hardy's 'Far from the Madding Crowd', was, for me, a real treat, because we got to go to the movies, mainly, i admit, because of Robert Redford, but also because of F.S.F's ability to hold my attention for so long and to create characters that i cared about.Good to hear from you and thanks for this post. Missed you.

Darien said...

I would lean in favor of an ironic reading of the title. It’s obvious that Gatsby’s life is a sham. He has reached where he is through illegal means and he is not upper class enough for the people with ‘old money.’ To them he is just a fake. When the truth about his ‘greatness’ is revealed, his so-called friends all disappear. No one even comes for his funeral. I would have to say that Fitzgerald was being typically tongue-in-cheek when it came to the title of The Great Gatsby