Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book of the Month: The Great Gatsby

Hello all! I've decided that on the first of each month, I will review a book and call it 'The Book of the Month'. Yes, I know that this is hardly the first of the month, but better late than never. June's Book of the Month is, as you have probably guessed, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.


Set in the midst of the roaring twenties, when the morals were looser and the liquor was cheaper, The Great Gatsby tells the story of an eccentric; mysterious millionaire named Jay Gatsby. His neighbor, a humble bonds clerk, Nick Carraway, recounts the story.

Nick has just recently moved East and takes up lodgings in Long Island on the island of West Egg. His cousin, Daisy Buchanan lives directly across from him on the much more 'fashionable' island of East Egg with her husband, millionaire, and former football star and polo enthusiast, Tom Buchanan--a cruel looking, husky man who hides a deep secret. Nick is invited over for dinner at the Buchanan estate one day and while there  he meets a young, female golf champion named Jordan Baker, who tells Nick that Tom is having an affair with some woman in New York--a fact that they all believe the frail looking Daisy is unaware of.

A few days later, Nick is approached by Tom who wants to take him to New York to 'meet his girl'. Nick refuses, but Tom's forceful personality wins and Nick accompanies him to the seedier side of New York where they meet Myrtle Wilson, the wife of a simple mechanic, George Wilson, who Tom views as very dumb and uncultured. 

Tom helps Myrtle sneak to New York to meet him in the city at their apartment. Afterwards, a small party is arranged where Myrtle, angry and drunk confronts Tom about Daisy, whereas Tom breaks her nose and Nick returns silently to his lodgings on West Egg. 

During the next few days, Nick learns more and more about his neighbor, Jay Gatsby, from his new found friends.

Gatsby is the mystery man of Long Island who is not only rumored to have killed a man, but who also throws lavish, beyond the imagination parties at his large estate on the island of West Egg. However, despite the fact that there is a party every night, no one claims to have ever seen or met Gatsby, that is, until Nick is formally invited to one of the parties, even though all the others who attend are not--in the words of Jordan Baker 

"People aren't invited to Gatsby's, they just show up"

Instantly Nick is introduced into the fine world of the rich of New York, and begins to become fascinated by the legend surrounding his host. Some claim that he comes from Oxford, while others insist he was a spy for the Germans during World War One. Nick puts very little stock in the rumors, and wants to seek out Gatsby  personally, but his goal is accomplished more easily than he thought when Gatsby himself appears at Nick's table and introduces himself. 

The two begin to become friends, more on Gatsby's part than the reluctant and curious Nick's. Gatsby tells Nick of his stay at Oxford college, of his fine service during the war and how he inherited his fortune from his now dead relatives. His stories weave together beautifully, but Nick still feels that Gatsby is lying. 

As they spend more and more time together, Gatsby introducing Nick to the wonders of the upper class world, he begins to inquire more and more about Nick's cousin Daisy Buchanan. Eventually Gatsby wishes for Nick to invite Daisy to tea at his cottage, where Gatsby will just happen to stop by for a visit. Nervous about this plan, Nick tells it to Jordan Baker who says to arrange it just as Gatsby planned, believing that Gatsby is secretly in love with Daisy, and that all of his lavish parties were designed to attract her attention. 

Nick is reluctant to go ahead with the plan, but in the end agrees. The plan goes without problem, until both Daisy and Gatsby become nervous and embarrassed about meeting one another again. Nick then learns that Gatsby had once been desperately in love with Daisy before the war, and that when he did not return from combat in time, she married Tom whom, Gatsby believes, she does not love. 

Despite her marriage, the two begin an affair that ultimately pulls all of them to the very brink of destruction. With the clock ticking, Nick learns that all secrets eventually come to light, and that one can never full shake the ways of a past life. 


Jay Gatsby: 

"No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart." 
-Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

Charming, larger than life and an idealistic romantic who can buy anything he wants, Jay Gatsby embodies the ideal man of the 1920's with his lavish parties and fancy clothes, but his inability to release the past holds him in a tight grip. Gatsby has a dream, and always has since he was a child, a dream of a better life and ultimate acceptance into a world that he was not born into. His life's purpose is to prove to Daisy that he is worthy of her affections and that his tragic loss of her nearly ten years before can be undone. 

Gatsby represents idealism at its highest, but underneath it all lies a deep grief of losing the woman he loved. 

Daisy Buchanan: 

"I hope she'll be a fool. That's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool." 
-Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby

Life for Daisy is a jolly game filled with pretty things and lovely parties. However, this life of selfishness and protection has left her completely incapable of handling reality, as shown when Jay Gatsby--her former lover--re-enters her life with plans of winning back her heart. 

Daisy models one of the two typical types of woman in the 1920's. Selfish, flighty, fragile and almost completely thoughtless, Daisy moves through life without pause or reflection. She's a woman who doesn't fully know what she wants out of life, and therefore allows herself to be pulled in all directions. Abusing the love of Jay Gatsby on more than one occasion and tolerating the undeceive love of her husband, Tom, Daisy has two roads before her, and walks with a foot in each one--not caring what havoc and destruction she brings in her wake. 

"Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."

-Nick Carraway (quoting his father), The Great Gatsby

Nick is an idealist, but still hast more realism in his veins than Jay Gatsby. Having fought and survived World War One and now moving into the bonds business, Nick is a comfortable old shoe who has never been involved in the life of the rich. His view of the night life of New York is one of complete wonder, like a child gazing into a candy store window. He sees his new world as jolly and carefree, but upon diving deeper begins to understand the terrible price that it carries. 

Nick is sensible, intelligent, slightly awkward and very loyal and plays the best friend of the story while narrating the marvelous tale of his new found friend Gatsby. 

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made."

-Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

Tom is an angry, mistrusting and sometimes brutal man who hides a terrible secret. Using his vast wealth to woo and charm the seductive Myrtle Wilson, while simultaneously declaring a deep love of his wife Daisy, Tom is a man who--like his wife--walks to roads and brings destruction and heartbreak with him. He lives a life of getting what he wants and when, and has always fixed whatever problems arose with a few subtly dropped bundles of cash. 

Tom is the typical, new found millionaire who enjoys his money yet still does not fully appreciate, or understand, the cultured world. 

Clumsy, arrogant, brutal, and selfish, Tom features as both an antagonist and a tragically lost soul.

Myrtle Wilson

"She was in the middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can."

-Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

Myrtle Wilson, like Tom is selfish and very cruel. She uses her beauty to not only inspire lovers, but also pity at the fact that she is tied to a very common mechanic. However, despite her desperate attempt to look and sound more like an upper class woman, Myrtle is, at her core, a very common and unattractive woman who betrays the trust of her husband for brief glimpses into the life of the rich.

Jordan Baker:

"You said a bad driver was only safe until sheet another bad driver? Well, I met another bad driver, didn't I? I mean, it was careless of me to make such a wrong guess. I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride." 

-Jordan Baker, The Great Gatsby

Jordan represents the second stereotypical woman of the 1920's. Beautiful, determined, career orientated, yet still very self centered and demanding. Jordan has a lot more in common with the modern woman of today than any of the other women in the story, yet tragically she too falls victim to the loose moral code of her world and allows herself to aid in the destruction of another.


I really enjoyed the book and spent most of my weekend reading it. I have yet to see the movie (I know, it's biggest movie of the summer and I have yet to see it.) but just based off of what I have seen, I know it's going to be really good! In fact, let's just stop right here to talk about the above pictures! 

What caught me as I was putting the character pictures up, was their eyes and how beautifully they express the character within! Gatsby's eyes are determined; on a mission to bring his ultimate dream to life. Daisy's are wide, soft, and confused, perfectly expressing her state of mind during the story. Nick's are filled with endless, hopeful wonder while Tom's are stern, cruel looking and defensive. Myrtle's conveys the seductive nature of her personality while Jordan's are careless and faintly happy. It's really quite interesting to see those details in the characters! 

I have, however, heard a lot of guff from people about the story, and a particularly lot of hate towards the characters. It irritates me now to hear these things because I can't help but feel that sometimes people don't fully understand the meaning and message behind the madness. 

You were not supposed to like the characters. There, I said it. The characters in The Great Gatsby were supposed to convey the careless and utterly selfish lifestyle and mood of the 1920's. To understand the people and the story you must first understand the time in which it was set; I cannot state this enough. 

Now granted... I didn't like any of them either but that was the way it was supposed to be. Daisy was supposed to be horrible, Jay was supposed to be a bit crazy and Tom was supposed to be cruel. Everyone in this story was made the way they were for a reason, and that reason was to tell the tragic fall of Jay Gatsby by the loosened morals and wild lifestyle of those around him. 

Also, F. Scott Fitzgerald left the reader with the message that Daisy, Jay, Tom, Nick and all the others were Westerners who failed to adapt to the standards and lifestyle of the East. Basically they were fish out of water, so when something went wrong they handled it in the way that felt natural to them, the way of the West. It think this was also further demonstrated by Fitzgerald's use of the islands East Egg and West Egg. The East Egg was more fashionable, like the East while the West Egg was not. Daisy and Tom had almost adapted to the Eastern way of life, and lived on the more fashionable end. Jay however, was stuck on West Egg, not only illustrating the fact that he could never fully make it to what he wanted, but also tying his desire for the 'better world' with his desire for Daisy. He came from the West, and felt trapped by it. He had Daisy, but lost her in the past and felt trapped by that as well. Jay was a man who could never fully reach what he wanted, but never the less spent his whole life trying to get back what he had lost.

Yet, despite their flaws, Daisy and Gatsby will go down as a pair of the most tragically torn lovers in all of history.  

As a whole, however, I really enjoyed the book! It was very well written and a pleasure to read; I would definitely recommend this one. The style was stunning and gripping; holding readers tightly as the world of Fitzgerald's creation unfolded before them. This is a magically crafted piece of literature that I will read again and again.

Next month's Book of the Month review will appear on July 1st. Until then, what are your thoughts on The Great Gatsby? Please comment and share your favorite moments, quotes are whatever thoughts you may have. 

Thanks for reading! 



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