The Great Gatsby is a tremendously heartrending and profound tale about a man’s struggle to once again grasp the love of his life at whatever expense. The novel’s eponymous lead character—Jay Gatsby is filthy rich and every weekend throws lavish grand parties. Set in the 20s in the fictional West Egg city on Long Island, elite guests (mostly uninvited) in outfits as fancy as their vintage cars arrive at Gatsby’s famed mansion. Here, leisure varies from cocktails, menus and terrific “no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums” orchestras.
There seems to be no real occasion as to why Gatsby is holding these parties. After all, he’s hardly spotted during the festivities, making guests continue to ponder over the yet to be unraveled mystery behind the man’s profligacy. One reveler speculates among other skeptical conversations going round like arias and drinks, “Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once.”
The story is told by Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate and former soldier trying to make it big in the world of selling bonds. He moves to Long Island, next door to Gatsby’s and close to his second cousin’s, Daisy—Gatsby’s former lover, now married to the two-timing corky Tom Buchanan. He receives an invite to Daisy’s and Gatsby’s, disjointedly—two events that make him witness firsthand the secret lifestyles of the rich and famous.
At Daisy’s, he is the guest in a beautiful yet lonely mansion under which a troubled marriage resides. From his yard, Nick spends nights staring out at Gatsby’s wondering about his intent and the wandering souls pulling in and out his driveway … “In his blue gardens men and women came and went like moths amongst the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” Soon, he unexpectedly receives an exclusive invite from Gatsby to attend one of his bashes. Impressed Nick gleefully dresses up to the party where he ends up meeting Jordan (Daisy’s friend) for a second time.
My best moment in the novel is when Nick, lost in the mix of familiar faces and weary of searching for Gatsby, turns towards the gentleman sitting next to him at a random table and grumbles amidst cheap talk, “This is an unusual party for me. I haven’t even seen the host,” only to discover that in fact he was sitting next to Gatsby, a forgotten former acquaintance in the army. The two men become instant buddies. One thing leads to another and together with Jordan; Nick agrees to help Gatsby reunite with Daisy by inviting her to his place [Nick’s] for tea. The duo is well aware that she is almost sacred and is to be treated like a queen. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby mentions to Nick (who agrees) once. I also absolutely enjoyed the intricate preparations for the planned visit. Gatsby even has Nick’s lawn trimmed while Nick buys cups, flowers and a dozen cup cakes just to stir Daisy. After reigniting the lovers lost spark however, the lady ironically ends up being impressed more by the grandiose mansion next door.
I find Fitzgerald’s style in writing fiction brilliantly picturesque, stellar and beyond compare. His choice in description and symbolism run deeper than words or pictures could ever expound. Because the novel is narrated from Nick’s point of view, it empowers the reader to make of its complete major events like what Gatsby and Daisy spoke about during their anticipated meet-up; we are only told that Gatsby’s face lit up and his attitude changed excitedly for the better as Daisy sat weeping.
Much later—Nick, Jordan, Gatsby, Tom and Daisy end up in a town hotel on a hot afternoon. Gatsby and Tom get into an ugly confrontation forcing Gatsby to drive Daisy back [to her] home. After a following awful event, Nick spies at the married couple having an expressionless conversation while at their residence. We never know what they discussed but—it would later be the turning point of the novel.
Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda had their own share of the life of Gatsby and “became as famous for their lifestyle as for the novels he wrote.” Through his life and Gatsby’s parties; Fitz brought to life the liveliness of the Jazz Age. His novel’s hedonic theme displaying a pleasure-seeking and extravagant society acted as a premonition to the following years (the 30s) that defined the world’s first massive economic downturn. While living in Long Island, “Fitzgerald looked around him at these rich people in their vast carelessness on the brink of the Depression. He realized a perfect storm had arrived on the coast of his abilities; and a book began to emerge that couldn’t have been written by any other person in any other time,” Esquire (June 2013) in the Essay: How F. Scott Fitzgerald can change your life.
Gatsby worked his way to the very top and moneyed and threw all those parties hoping that one day Daisy would show up and be overly awed. In the end, we never get to know how long his plan had been coming or if befriending Nick was just a means to getting through to his cousin. However, it’s clear that aside from affluence, Gatsby only had one true friend. Flaunting a man’s show of how far he could stretch his limits to hope and live the American dream while clutching at the ever-so-transient essence of love, through America’s greatest novel of the 20th century; Fitzgerald warns us against the martyrdom-esque eventuality of making certain life sacrifices.
BONUS: Fuck what you heard about the first three Gatsby movies; the latest by Baz Luhrmann has definitely had F. Scott Fitzgerald rolling in his grave sighing, “Finally! Jay Gatsby lived through a motion picture.” Also watch this hilarious book summary & analysis by Thug Notes: