I just finished The Great Gatsby, and it hardly struck me as worthy of being called The Great American Novel, which some have attributed to the work. Of course, I needed to place my finger on why this was so. After some consideration, I determined that distaste for the lifestyle of the wealthy made me find many parts of the work boring and inhibited me from liking anyone besides Gatsby, Nick Carraway, and Meyer Wolfsheim. In my opinion, having wealth obliges one to become a scientist, scholar, serviceman, hunter, or some kind of adventurer. Wealth without adventure or enriching pursuits–a life of play–renders life more of a burden than a joy, which The Great Gatsby reveals with perfect accuracy.
Gatsby surrounds himself with wealth and offers lavish parties in the hopes of once again meeting the woman of his dreams, Daisy. With Gatsby, one sees that wealth is not his goal in life, unlike the people with whom he surrounds himself. He appears restless until he meets Nick Carraway and achieves a greater sense of peace after gaining Daisy’s affections, such as they are. But, in the end, his association with Daisy and acquisition of wealth bring him no peace at all.
I confess to owing much of my understanding of the novel to this article. I wish I could identify its author. He claims that there are competing visions for the American Dream. The Eastern one centered on wealth, and the Midwestern one based on family and friends. The book portrays very perfectly the vacuity of pursuing wealth, and by the end of the book, Nick Carraway’s friendship becomes Gatsby’s most important possession. Indeed, after their meeting, it seems as though Gatsby cannot do without him.
On another note, Fitzgerald’s prose is perhaps the best of all 20th century American novelists. He employs a very adept turn of phrase. Also, his characters are very subtly sketched. For example, I took a liking to Meyer Wolfsheim despite him having only a few short appearances in the work. These two virtues in Fitzgerald’s writing motivate me to read more of his works, but I can’t say that I’ll read The Great Gatsby again.