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Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Great Gatsby: The World’s Most Misunderstood Novel

Despite being a commentary on a different age and people, Gatsby's story is as relevant today as it was when it was written.

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INDIA: The novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ that is set in about a hundred years ago is authored by F. Scott Fitzgerald and is admired plenty. Published in the year 1925 as a doomed novel, it now is considered the greatest American novel written. Moreover, the now-classic staples also in the high school reading lists.

Profound or not?

Anyone who went through American high school has heard this about The Great Gatsby – “The green light represents the American Dream.” In college, though, in a course of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, they come to believe that it wasn’t the real focus of the novel.

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Basically, implying that the novel was far more literal than people thought. But such a literal interpretation robs the book of its deeper meaning. It’d be like saying Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” is just about a bunch of people drinking and having fun. Sure, that stuff happens, just like Gatsby and Daisy’s romance, but what it signifies is important.

From my perspective, Gatsby himself most embodies the delusion of the American dream: he built himself up on the back of someone else’s riches and later through unscrupulous means (bootlegging) and by the end, even his wealth means nothing to him, it’s not enough. In the end, it doesn’t save him from destroying himself. In a way, that’s the perverted view of the “American dream” that I see ever more prevalent especially in today’s society and, having researched Fitzgerald and the 1920s, in the post-WWI America as well.

Love story or not?

Still from ballet ‘The Great Gatsby’. Photo Credit: Instagram
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About the plot, the lion’s share of readers surmises that it is more of an actual tragic love story than an allegory for the inevitable failure of the American Dream. Gatsby has lines describing Daisy’s voice as “full of money” and the universal “green – envy and money” symbolism that gives doubts about Jay’s love’s sincerity.

Fitzgerald is meaning to show the ultimate failure of the American Dream with Daisy’s and Gatsby’s relationship, as it’s bound to fall apart from the beginning. Money can not always buy you happiness, it can’t make you friends, it can’t turn back time. I think it can also be saying that money can delude one into thinking they’ve reached the American Dream, as then the green light would simply be a lie. Tom and Daisy have gotten high off a Pseudo-American Dream and Gatsby wants a piece of that too, as has other higher class people in the book who live from each dazzling party and to the next.

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Fitzgerald probably did include aspects of the story such as aspects of a tragic love story, but to say the story is to be taken most if not entirely literal is silly given the feelings towards the time period Fitzgerald had, which would align fairly well with the abstract interpretation of the book.

Gatsby idealized Daisy and created his own version of her. In certainty, it was out of Jay’s desire to hold on to the past. He figured if he couldn’t have Daisy he would never be happy because in his mind she was this perfect woman who held the key to his happiness.


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