“There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams- not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion.”
Within The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald expertly crafts a story critiquing the American Dream through the use of beautiful prose and interesting characterization. This is a sad and meaningful novel that explores a multitude of issues such as illusion and deception, the hopeless pursuit of glory, and the dangers of capitalism, materialism and obsessive love. These are issues just as prominent to the modern reader as they were to the contemporary, making for a novel that is still extremely important in today’s society.
The prose of this novel is absolutely beautiful. Fitzgerald effortlessly weaves imagery and beautiful description into his narrative, making for a novel that is hard to put down! This prose interesting reflects a message that it at the very core of this novel, this being the dangerousness of the facade that the American Dream presents. The beautiful prose itself acts as a facade, luring the reader into a story that in reality is rather tragic in its tale of the hopeless pursuit of something unattainable and subsequent downfall of its main character. In this way we see the style of the novel really compliment and even enhance the subject explored which is rather rare, and makes this read all the more important.
The characters are absolutely key to this novel. For the most part they are predominantly used as vessels through which Fitzgerald can effectively present and explore the issues key to the narrative. This is a linguistic decision that makes the characters really quite unlikable, but incredibly interesting all the same. Gatsby, of course, is the epitome of illusion and misplaced love and devotion. While at first he is presented as a man of high social standing and wealth, Fitzgerald makes it his imperative to slowly chip away at this character to reveal a man that is nowhere near as grandiose or great as the title suggests. This revelation is one that evokes some level of sympathy from a reader despite Gatsby clearly being incredibly flawed and his personality leaving much to be desired. His relentless pursuit of a dream he had no real hope of achieving and the true reality of his loneliness make for a saddening novel that should serve as a lesson in the importance of not falling prey to hopeless illusions.
Daisy, with her ‘voice full of money’, is also used as an important means of Fitzgerald critiquing materialism and the hopeless pursuit of things unattainable. Much like her namesake this is a character that is rather fragile; she is seen to consistently need male validation and as a result is indecisive, constantly changing her mind about what she wants. This indecisiveness largely stems from her shallowness; she bases her decisions merely upon how many material things and how much status they will award her. This leads to a fatal false hope that is installed in Gatsby through her promises that she has loved no other, and the obsessive love that follows ultimately destroys him. This yet again reinforces the critique made upon materialism and the illusion and deception it often results in.
The narrator himself, though arguably the most likable of all the characters, also plays into this critique. Though he pretends not to, he is a character that represents the hopeless idealization of a largely unattainable elite lifestyle. This is something that can be seen in every single relationship he has in this book. He is drawn time and time again to people of this higher class, first it’s Daisy and Tom, then it’s Gatsby and Jordan, and ultimately he is unable to break away from them. We see him idolize Gatsby so completely that he effectively excuses his actions toward the end of the novel, and defends him until the very last sentence. This effectively shows the inescapability of illusions surrounding wealth and glory, as even a character that initially seems as if he will not succumb to illusion eventually does.
Overall I absolutely loved this novel, and I am sure to re- read this some time in the near future to pick up on aspects of it that I am sure I missed the first time round! I would certainly recommend this to anybody, especially if, like me, you’re a sucker for novels that tackle the American Dream and the illusion surrounding it!
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”