Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

Yearning for the American Dream, a man remakes himself

During the Roaring Twenties, Nick Carraway, affluent child of the Midwest, attempting to become a bond broker in New York, rents a modest beach house next to shady millionaire Jay Gatsby’s mansion whose nightly summer parties draw thousands of the glitterati. Gatsby takes an keen interest in Nick, an interest Nick soon realizes is because of his beautiful cousin Daisy, trophy wife to the rich knuckle dragger but Establishment stalwart Tom Buchanan. Meanwhile, Nick falls a little in love with Daisy’s golf pro friend Jordan Baker. When upstart Gatsby tries to claim long lost love Daisy as his own, the situation cannot remain stable.

Everything and I mean everything is set up in the first chapter. The story is economically and beautifully written, with tiny sharp memorable physical descriptions of people. Character creation in a few swipes. Every location, every person, every prop does triple duty in service of the plot, character development and underlying imagery. The book is constructed of a series of spectacular set pieces perfectly written.  The party at the apartment, Gatsby's decadent party, Nick's awkward tea party, the hot room at the Plaza. Driving metaphors abound. For the first time I realized that the car accident is ambiguous-- Daisy has to choose between hitting the other car (killing herself?) or hitting the woman who ran into the street.

There’s sort of a Madame Bovary condemnation of society going on and, as in Madame Bovary, society doesn’t come off well. Tom is a rich racist jackass much like the rich racist jackasses of today. Daisy is thinking about Daisy. In her scenes, Jordan Baker is entertaining as well as a key plot device. She introduces Nick and Gatsby, she's the initial connection between Daisy and Gatsby and she causes Myrtle to believe she's Tom’s wife. Plotting has a lot to do with characters with connections to other characters.

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