In my continuing pursuit to recapture the english education I intentionally ignored growing up, I decided it was time to read this paragon of American literature.
As I see it, The Great Gatsby is a novel about the vacuous life of the social, political, and financially elite citizens of New York during the ‘roaring twenties’. It was a time of peace (after world war I) and prosperity. With the right connections in the underground world of bootlegging (this was the time of prohibition) Penniless nobodies like Jay Gatsby could reinvent themselves to become socialite millionaires. Yet, in spite his lavish parties, grand mansion, and overly smooth demeanor (he calls everyone ‘old sport’), there is evident angst, loneliness, and unrequited love stirring in his soul.
No doubt Fitzgerald’s ability to paint vivid word pictures, coupled with his keen insights into the human condition are, like other great works, the leading factors which have led to the appropriate description of ‘classic literature’. It’s paragraphs and sentences like this one which made this book thoroughly enjoyable:
“This is a valley of ashes–a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight.”
“With every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up, and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room.”
In sum, as I read this book and now have read several other classics I should have read back in the day, I am realizing that there really is some life-enriching value to these classics. They help me see the world, and the world’s problems through different eyes. As a pastor, I think these new insights can only help me in my understanding others and my attempts to point them to Christ.
But perhaps, like me, you spent your time playing video games instead of doing your english homework… well, I found something for you as well. You can now play The Great Gatsby video game for NES here: http://greatgatsbygame.com/
Who needs a book when you can throw boomerangs at the waiters and party guests at Gatsby’s mansion?