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The Great Gatsby / The Last Tycoon by F.…

The Great Gatsby / The Last Tycoon

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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"The Great Gatsby" is really a book without "loose ends". Everything mentioned even superficially has its role to play somewhere else in the story, there are no useless details (or even details that would have been given by most other novelists - e.g. we don't even hear what Gatsby, Daisy, etc. look like ). The only element that seems - at first sight - a bit "overdeveloped" is the detailed description of the afternoon at Tom's and Myrtle's flat. The dog is haunting the end of the story (through its leash), but apart from Myrtle's sister (and she has a particularly ambiguous role by not revealing Tom's identity), nobody of the attendants to the drinking party, makes his/her comeback. But maybe Fitzgerald thought that this description served to make better understand Tom's character and the nature of his relation with Myrtle. And the oppressive atmosphere contributes to the general setting of the story.

There is IMO no moral in the usual sense of the word. (This is coherent with the statement "...I'm inclined to reserve all judgments..."!) Perhaps I could resume whatever lesson there is as follows: "don't nurture illusions about human nature, love or friendship."
The basic logic of the story is concisely but profoundly rendered on the first page of chapter One. "...a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth."
Then there is this at the end of chapter Nine: "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made..." This echoes a remark by Gatsby that Daisy at a moment just after they started their initial relation had "money in her voice". And to have a real insight in Daisy's true nature, look to her behavior towards her own daughter.
Another important sentence in my understanding is this one (end of chapter Eight) "[Gatsby]...paid a high price for living too long with a single dream." But Nick Carraway has somehow a deeply felt but not outspoken sympathy for this dreamer who even became a crook to be worthy of(i.e.rich enough to be interesting to) his ideally beloved. But though references to Gatsby's "strange" ways to earn money are very present throughout the story, "judgment is reserved"...

Daisy matches Tom fairly well. This is something Gatsby didn't want to acknowledge - and when he finally sees the "true nature" of Daisy, a rather shallow and selfish woman without decency, for whom money, status etc. are essential things, his whole existence - built upon a dream - loses its sense. I think this gives us a clue about what Gatsby really looks for in Daisy. She is the incarnation of a dream, the first and maybe only 'nice girl' he meets in his life.

When they meet for the first time, he is only a poor soldier; Daisy belongs to a world he didn't know. What for Daisy was probably no more than an amusing and adventurous interlude, becomes for Gatsby a reason to live. His love for Daisy, completely idealized beyond a "simple" romantic feeling, evolves into a quest for utopia - erotic as well as the "life beautiful".
To be "worthy" of Daisy, Gatsby has to become rich (a goal he attains through means that are not detailed by Fitzgerald but which, as we are made to understand, are probably not - totally - legal...), so as to be able to offer her a gorgeous setting and lifestyle. This proves that Gatsby has seen that Daisy needs richess. But to him she is so much more... His fortune is - in his eyes - only a means to an end. Everything he undertook was done to conquer (back) Daisy, to be "Great" in her eyes.
And then, after that terrible afternoon, after the fatal accident, he understands at last that in fact she wasn't what he believed her to be. His existence has become void.

In a certain sense - and this is a proof of Fitzgerald's genial psychology - Daisy herself is, from the beginning, a symbol for Gatsby. She represents for him what life has meant him to be.(And in this sense, she is indeed also a means to an end: the realization of Gatsby's self-image.) James Gatz cannot accept a defeat, and fighting back after the first loss of Daisy makes of him "the Great Gatsby". But when he loses Daisy for the second time, and forever as he now understands, he cannot but see he has been defeated by life, by society ...

Daisy's shallowness is a necessary element in the novel. Had she been a profound character, a strong personality, she couldn't have been the "screen" Gatsby projected his desires on; the story would have been entirely different, because she wouldn't have stayed with Tom (or even have married him on the first place).

Gatsby has a lot of narcissism, but he is a very complex character. For that reason Daisy means many things to him: love, beauty, status, power, but also the conscience he has lived up to his ambitions and the realization of his self-image (here is a critical regard on the "self-made man"...). Therefore she isn't simply a gadget. And when he loses her for good, everything he worked for during all those years vanishes. He has lost himself... Death is the only issue, and Wilson its tragic instrument.

Well, so much more could (and should probably) be said about this extraordinary novel. In re-reading I noticed that in practically every paragraph there is some jewel. The man with the spectacles, Jordan's ambivalent nature, this fellow Michaelis who watched over Wilson during the whole night, Meyer Wolfsheim - the way you hear people speak, their small gestures, details like cuff buttons or the way bottles are handled... ( )
1 vote JanWillemNoldus | Jun 1, 2008 |
'Her voice was full of money - that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it'

Chance brings young bond dealer Nick Carraway to Long Island in the summer of 1922, where he meets the enigmatic Jay Gatsby. Famous for his lavish house parties, gossip surrounds the wealthy, reclusive Gatsby; no one knows how he made his money, but it is said that he once killed a man. Only to Nick does Gatsby confide the real reason he has bought his gorgeous, glittering mansion.

Seen through Carraway's cool, intelligent sensibility, The Great Gatsby, acknowledged to be Fitzgerald's finest work, chronicles Gatsby's tragic pursuit of a dream, as he attempts to win back Daisy Buchanan, the love of his youth. A masterpiece of storytelling, full of memorable characters and redolent with universal themes of beauty, truth and corrupted idealism, Fitzgerald's luminous vision of a society in thrall to wealth and status is a true modern classic.

This volume includes Fitzgerald's last book, The Last Tycoon, which remained unfinished at his death. Set in the heyday of Hollywood glitz, it is both a bittersweet love story and the author's own moving farewell to the Great American Dream.
  dgussak | Apr 19, 2007 |
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Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach...Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby - young, handsome, fabulously rich - always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.… (more)

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