You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.
Out of impulse I decided to reread The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I had not read it since my junior year in high school and recently acquired a second hand copy of it, as I had never owned it beforehand for myself. The annotations and highlights drew attention to the academic processes that are put into many first time readers. Sometimes early-age analysis can be detrimental to drawing a personal value from the novel.
I had very low opinions of every character in the novel after I read it the first time. I saw tom as the book described him, a hulking brute. I saw Daisy as flighty and irresponsible. I saw Jordan as one dimensional and unnecessary. Gatsby was underutilized and Nick was overdone.
Then I read it again.
Tom is by far more boorish and selfish than I had initially realized. Racism and sexism exude from the pores of his character. His contradictory attitude and claiming of people like items lead to despair and, eventually, death. The novel describes him as hulking at the beginning and it is almost as if Mr. Fitzgerald promised that would be the way we see him at the end too.
Daisy was far more complex. My initial cynicism of her character was due to a joint reading of Candide by Voltaire and that gave me a mix of worldly doubt that I focused on indecision. She is put in an unfair position through the entire book. Outwardly bold, but so willing to avoid true emotional conflict. Whoever is with her can talk her into what they need. She has been broken down by men and used as a tool. Her ending is by far the most unsatisfying. Not in a literary way, but because you really do hope for something to happen to make things easier on her. In a way, I guess Tom arranges that.
Jordan was a foil and I didn’t see much more to her this time. Definitely not one-dimensional, she gives Nick a taste of the lustful flightiness of high society. Uncompromised by not being a part of the triad of unclear love. She goes out as she came in, of her own accord.
Jay Gatsby is a very thrilling character. I will not divulge if I see any sort of relation between he and I, but I will say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. He believes that he only wants what’s best for Daisy, but doesn’t understand that he only wants what’s best for Daisy as long as she’s happily with him. He does what anyone in love would do out of desperation. Sacrifices morals. Pushes boundaries. Surrounds himself with people to fill in the void of loneliness. He lets a greedy green light drive him and he blinds himself with what he thinks is devotion.
Nick Carraway happens to be exactly what this story needs. An outsider. A ground for the lavish absurdity and harsh reality of the other characters’ lives. His needs are simple and his wants are clear. Association, tenuous at that, drags him into a summer of terribly divisive passion and love corrupted by selfishness. He feels himself being made into a necessary involvement only to be pushed aside. Shoved into tense situation after tense situation by the insistence of every character. Privy to knowledge he never wanted.
By no means should this be taken as a professional analysis. Although I am conflicted while writing this, I do hope that my motivation is clear. This novel is meant to be reread as you get older. In a sick way, the reader must force these characters through that terrible summer over and over to truly derive their own value from it.
A fear of excess and reluctance of devotion. The virtues of patience and the worth of uncompromised morals. All these things, in either direction, is what I pull from those few houses, those parties, that uncomfortably hot birthday and the soggy solitary funeral gave me.
I suppose all of that is an old sport, but it is a good one.