The Great Gatsby was this month’s chosen read; with many of us having read the novel previously and most admitting that they couldn’t recall the plot. So did it live up to its reputation of the great American novel?
We all agreed that this book was full of depths and layers consisting of money, society, relationships and class amongst others, which is probably how it has maintained its legacy. It also seems to be a common theme throughout great American literature that the ‘roaring twenties’ is depicted in many books, perhaps because this time is seen as a pinnacle in American history.
The character we first discussed was Nick and questioned whether he was the right narrator for the novel or whether it should have been Gatsby himself. It was decided that Nick was definitely the right narrator – he was sufficiently distanced from the social crowd to show all aspects of the life he witnessed but yet being related to Daisy to show some form of connection.
We then discussed Gatsby, a man who you couldn’t help but feel sympathy for. He was a magnanimous and generous man but led such a shallow life. Here was a man who fell in love with a girl five years ago and worshipped and adored her to such an extent that he turned his whole life around in order to win her heart. Gatsby held huge social gatherings all to impress Daisy Buchanan and build up this fearless reputation to such an extent that people knew of his name but had no idea what he even looked like.
Gatsby was also quite manipulative, using Nick as a stepping stone to gain access to Daisy, but he is a man that is in control, refusing to drink at his own parties in order to stay focussed on his goal. But was it his love of Daisy that drove him to earn his wealth, by whatever means or was he chasing the great American dream? We felt primarily it was his love that drove him, but like any American at that time he probably chased the dream as well. Was it worth it? At the end of the day he lived by himself in a huge mansion with wardrobes of clothes that he would never wear and the love for a woman that was unrequited. When Gatsby is killed the only person that comes to his funeral is his Father, from a humble background that is amazed at what his son has amassed.
Did we think the tile of ‘The Great Gatsby’ was a good indication of the book/character? This was not the original title but we felt it depicted the reputation that was built around Gatsby and perhaps had a different connotation being American.
Daisy was our next character to discuss. Generally described as a weak character, which again was deemed to have an aura around her that she fought to maintain. We questioned whether this was due to the fact that it was hinted briefly that she may have been ‘intimate’ with Gatsby when they first met, which if publicly known would have caused a scandal within the circles in which they moved. The fact that once Daisy has enjoyed her fling with Gatsby, five years ago, she had carried on with the rest of her life and seemingly forgot about him and was certainly not willing to give up her new life once he made himself known to her once more, proved that she held no feelings for him and her lack of appearance at the funeral showed he was one part of her life that she wished to forget. Their cultural backgrounds may have posed a problem also. Gatsby came from a relatively humble background and had made his own money, by whichever means, whereas Daisy was definitely born into a lavish life style and it would probably have been frowned upon if they were to begin a relationship publicly.
We all enjoyed this book and it was definitely one that raised a multitude of themes for such a short novel.