Friday, May 31, 2013

Book of the Month Review: The Great Gatsby

It's the end of our first month, and I've fallen just a bit behind in my posting about The Great Gatsby. So to get us back on track, this post will pull together my thoughts about the book, and specifically about some of the questions I posed for you think about earlier this month.

Do you sympathize with any of the characters?
I love the story, but oddly enough don't like many of the characters. If there's anyone that I sympathize with it's George Wilson. He's the only person who isn't trying to manipulate or use anyone else. At least not so much that we can see it. He loses everything at the end, all because of the boredom and carelessness of the other characters.

Is there anyone you just don't like?
For me this is an easy one. I don't like Tom, but I do find him to be one of the more honest characters. He's not trying to be anything that he isn't, but there's nothing really redeeming in who he is.

I also don't like Nick. I find him to be an oddly detached hanger on to the world that exists around and between Daisy and Gatsby. He's close, but not really a part of it, just somewhere on the fringes. I think his apathy towards most of what happens around him makes him an interesting narrator, but not someone I'd want to have at one of my parties. Nothing seems to hold much lasting impact for him.

Since we're only seeing things from Nick's point of view, it's really his opinion of Gatsby that we see. On a few occasions, Nick chooses to ignore inconsistencies in Gatsby's story about his past and how he accumulated his money. It seems like Nick wants Gatsby to be "great" as the title implies. How do you see him?
I tend to read this story and see the dreamer in Gatsby. The relentless hope for something bigger and better than what he has, that ultimately drives him to his end. I don't know if that makes hime great as the title implies, but it does at times make him seem larger than life. I think it's more about the aura that he has created and some of the rumors that exist about his past and how he obtained his wealth. Maybe he even created some of those rumors. It's like Nick says at one point "some time before he introduced himself I'd got a strong impression that he was picking his words with care."

Are Gatsby and Tom more similar than they realize?
I tend to think so. I think they're almost two sides of the same coin. Part of me thinks that's what seems to scare Daisy when they're all in the hotel room at the Plaza. I want Gatsby to be the more geuine of the two, but I'm not sure that he really is. In their own ways they each love Dasiy more for what she represents than for who she actually is. It's all a competition for status and power, and of course as many people more educated on the topic than I am have pointed out, Fitzgerald's commentary on the flaws in the American Dream.

What does Daisy really want? Will she ever be able to get what she wants?
I don't think Daisy knows what she wants, at least not completely. I think she wants to be the center of someone's world and Gatsby offers her that feeling. I also think that most of reality is too harsh for Daisy. Not to imply that she's a delicate flower who needs to be protected from the cruel reality of life that surrounds her, but that she has created an existence so far removed from that reality that she's made herself incapable of dealing with it. Her life has become a series of movements from one escape to another.

What about Gatsby's obsession with recreating the past. Is it possible? Is there a spot in your own past that you'd go back to?
I don't think you can recreate the past. If you could, I don't know that I'd want to. There are places I'd like to visit again, and things I've done once that I'd like to do another time, but nothing that makes me wish I could go back in time. Moreso I want to see those places and have those experiences now to see if they've changed either on their own or as a result of the changes that have taken place and altered my perspective. This isn't intended to take away the value from the happy memories we all have, I think those are really important for a variety of reasons. But I think at a certain point, and certianly it got to this point for Gatsby, memories can turn into fantasy and obsession.

Is anyone in this story ever happy?
Maybe. I think the potential for happiness is all around, but I never get a good sense that anyone grabs it and holds on to it. I think most of characters are satisfied in some way or another, but that satisfaction isn't truly happiness so much as it's acceptance and tolerance of current circumstances.

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