My Review of The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald based in New York in the early 1920s. The main character of this story is a man named Nick Caraway. Although the story’s true meaning may at first seem as though it is illustrated very little through him, he serves a large role and teaches a great lesson. The main idea the author is trying to get across is that life can very quickly dissolve into complete emptiness when you attempt to settle into a life of contentedness instead of a life of happiness. Fitzgerald does this by examining different relationships his characters become entangled in.
The first relationship is that of Mr. Tom Buchanan and Mrs. Daisy Buchanan. Daisy and Tom are a married couple that are extremely dissatisfied with each other. There are infidelities on both sides that stem from them settling for one another. Neither married the one they truly loved. Daisy was in love with a soldier named Jimmy Gatz (later to be renamed Jay Gatsby). Daisy never followed her true love and ended up always regretting it. She grew to become cynical and was even devoid of emotion for her own daughter she bore with Tom. Daisy said, “I hope she’ll be a fool-that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool… you see I think everything’s terrible anyhow” (Fitzgerald 21). Daisy feels so overcome with negativity because she let Gatsby out of her life and married a man she knew she would never fully accept into her heart. Throughout the story you can see Daisy clearly trying to overcompensate by bragging about her life to the point where most of the things that come out of her mouth are completely worthless, “I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything…Sophisticated-God, I’m sophisticated!” (Fitzgerald 22). The only constant one can count on in life is change. Change is the only thing that will always be. This in a way makes change a stable element. However, people fear change because of its lack of stability. Daisy may actually feel that she would further in a fulfilled life by choosing Gatsby but she would not allow herself to do so. She would not allow the change to occur because she feared it more than a life of desperate boredom and plagued with inadequacies.
Tom on the other hand, never knew true love. While Daisy let love slip away from her and was allowing herself to become deadened inside, he just settled right off the bat. Tom was never happy and it seemed as though he never would be. Tom began an affair with a woman named Myrtle Wilson. Daisy had knowledge of this affair and just accepted it for what it was. She allowed herself to sink even deeper into the pool of extreme depression and fall even further from the life of love and stability she so desperately yearned for. Stability is not real though. Nothing in anyone’s life can ever be stable because there are so many elements in ones life. It is impossible to control everything in life to your satisfaction, so how could one ever have stability? Daisy can only trick herself into a sense of stability.
This brings us to the relationship of Myrtle Wilson and Tom Buchanan. Tom obviously is not happy because if he was then he would not need two women to make himself feel whole. He also clearly does not love Daisy because if he did then she would be enough for him. He would not need the addition of Myrtle Wilson. Tom is a selfish man who cares for no one other than himself. He cares not of what he is doing to Myrtle’s husband, Myrtle, his “beloved” wife Daisy, or his daughter that will grow up someday and have all of these demons to look back on. Even though they are not her own demons she will grow up and feel the sting of them all along the way.
Myrtle is a self-saboteur. She wants nothing to do with the likes of self-actualization or a feeling of peace in her life. She is unhappy with her husband but she stays with him anyway because she is content with that situation. Instead of leaving him entirely she stays with him and seeks another just to rip him apart inside. If you feel the need to ruin another, how at peace can you be? She also has no regard for Daisy. Myrtle entrenches her life in constant unnecessary drama by staying connected to her husband and connecting to another man who is already married. Anybody with half a brain would see that putting yourself in a situation such as that could never bring happiness. All it brings is pain. However, since most of that pain belongs to Daisy and Mr. Wilson, it does not directly infect her. She sinks into a depressed comfortable place.
Myrtle could never be happy with Tom because putting two unhappy people together will never make either of them any better. They are both stuck in their way. Their way is being able to sustain a constant state of unhealthiness. Nick puts this perfectly, “…it occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or in race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well” (Fitzgerald 131).
Myrtle also has such a jealousy of Daisy. You see her real jealousy when she sees Tom in the car with Jordan Baker and she mistakes Jordan for Daisy. There is a rage in Myrtle that disrupts that sick feeling of content. Usually when you settle for so long there is a definite plateau but at some point it changes; almost always for the worst too. Myrtle’s jealousy of Daisy leads to her being abused by Tom, “Making a short deft movement Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand. Then there were bloody towels upon the bathroom floor…a long broken wail of pain.” (Fitzgerald 41). Tom also eventually feels the brunt of this because both his mistress and his wife begin to slip away from him.
George Wilson and Myrtle Wilson are another example of settling. George married Myrtle because he loved her. Even though he loved her it was never returned and he lived a life of unhappiness from never having that passionate loved returned. His passion eventually faded and George eventually ended up committing suicide as an indirect result of that. George tried to force her to love him for so long but it was out of his control. At one point he even locked her up in their apartment (above his shop) to keep her from leaving. When you have to work so hard to keep something going, it’s not working.
Myrtle considers why she ever married her husband and comes up with the conclusion, “I married him because I thought he was a gentleman…I thought he knew something about breeding but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe…The only crazy I was when I married him. I knew right away I made a mistake.” (Fitzgerald 39). Myrtle settled for her husband and didn’t put in the effort to find somebody she cared for. She eventually grew to hate him not only for his inefficiencies but her own as well. This is another example of the slow spiral downward into a life of disgust and regret.
F Scott Fitzgerald
Going over to the other side of all of this relationship chaos, there’s Daisy and Gatsby. Daisy is selfish and Gatsby is toiling in a passion for regret. Gatsby cannot let go of the past and has glorified his relationship with Daisy so much that there’s no way it could ever meet what he has built up in his head. At one point in the story Nick is attempting to explain all of this and Gatsby’s reaction was clearly unrealistic, “‘Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!’” (Fitzgerald 116).
Gatsby tries to settle for the reality of what Daisy really is and is unable to. So, he sets up an unattainable expectation for Daisy to follow through with. He wants Daisy to tell Tom not only that she does not love him, but that she never loved him. Daisy, in her awful selfishness will not leave Tom or go through what Gatsby wants her to. She plays them both and never sets foot into a decision.
At the end of the book she ends up staying with Tom even before Gatsby’s death. She chooses to stay in her small bubble of fake happiness and never would allow herself to branch out of that.
The last relationship that can be examined in this is the very sad relationship between Jay Gatsby and Jimmy Gatz. Jimmy Gatz was who Jay Gatsby was before he was forced to reinvent himself. Gatsby says, “You see I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad thing that happened to me.” (Fitzgerald 71-72). The word “thing” in that statement really refers to the entirety of his life. Gatsby is the perfect example of what can happen when you allow yourself to slip into a tunnel of dissatisfaction. Besides Nick, there was only one other man at his funeral. Gatsby was one of the upper-class elite and knew hundreds of people. He tried to fill the void within himself with a partying social life and what did they give him in return? Solace. Solitude. A funeral of three, which included himself.
The only character in this story who evolved from all of these sad obtuse conundrums is the main character Nick. He was able to retain a balanced objectivity. With this, he was able to learn from the other’s experiences. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter-tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further…And one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back carelessly into the past.” (Fitzgerald 189). Nick had two things that no other character had. He had selflessness that helped him keep a realistic view and mindset, instead of just being completely engulfed in his own situation so far that he couldn’t even see out of it anymore. He also had resilience. His resilience was what kept him alive and allowed him to bounce back and move forward.
The Great Gatsby is a novel about the middle class of the raging, exciting, partying 1920’s. Even more though, it’s a story about sadness and depression. It shows this through different relationships that are all somehow intertwined and connected. All of these relationships are formed of people who have settled and opted out of finding happiness. This book also has an aim of showing that there is an extreme importance in having resilience in yourself and living for your inner self; not for others. Life is nothing without the people around you that really love you. They keep us all from feeling lonely in a full room.