There is, indeed, a certain artifice to the Gatsby story which smacks of the writer's intentions, an intrusive "plottiness" reflecting coincidences which are not at all the way things really work in life. And yet for all that, the story is strongly told, moving and lyrical, and the characterizations, as I found on re-reading the novel at my wife's urging, far more subtle than I recalled from my high school days. GATSBY is the story of a mystery man who dreams of a wealthy debutante he met years before, when he was an impoverished young soldier, and whose entire life since has been dedicated to winning her. To do this he has earned millions of dollars in the heyday of racketeering and prohibition (how is never quite made clear) and, at the time the novel is set, is engaged in creating an upper class persona for himself, in order to be worthy of the woman he loves.
Of course, as Fitzgerald, through his narrator, the Midwestern transplant and aspiring bond salesman, Nick Carraway, shows, it is not Gatsby who needs to be made worthy at all. There is a certain melodrama to the tale which kind of blunted the edge for me but, on balance, the overwrought tragic overtones in the careless hit and run accident that brings all to a head are more than balanced out by the insight vouchsafed to us by Nick when he tells Gatsby, near the end, that the whole lot of them are not worth Gatsby alone. Gatsby wanders off distractedly to meet his undeserved destiny, thereafter, and Nick remains to pick up the pieces, packing up and returning home to the Midwest in disgust, and something akin to despair, at the human condition when, at last, the full import of what has occurred comes home to him.
Fitzgerald had set out to craft a gem with this novel and he succeeded. Though it has flaws, the powerful insight and the polished, lyrical prose more than make up for them, setting this book firmly in the constellation of great American novels.
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In 1925, The Great Gatsby was published and hailed as an artistic and material success for its young author, F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is considered a vastly more mature and artistically masterful treatment of Fitzgerald's themes than his earlier fiction. These works examine the results of the Jazz Age generation's adherence to false material values.
In The Great Gatsby's nine chapters, Fitzgerald presents the rise and fall of Jay Gatsby, as related in a first-person narrative by Nick Carraway. Carraway reveals the story of a farmer's son-turned racketeer, named Jay Gatz. His ill-gotten wealth is acquired solely to gain acceptance into the sophisticated, moneyed world of the woman he loves, Daisy Fay Buchanan. His romantic illusions about the power of money to buy respectability and the love of Daisy—the “golden girl” of his dreams—are skillfully and ironically interwoven with episodes that depict what Fitzgerald viewed as the callousness and moral irresponsibility of the affluent American society of the 1920s.
America at this time experienced a cultural and lifestyle revolution. In the economic arena, the stock market boomed, the rich spent money on fabulous parties and expensive acquisitions, the automobile became a symbol of glamour and wealth, and profits were made, both legally and illegally. The whirlwind pace of this post-World War I era is captured in Fitzgerald's Gatsby, whose tragic quest and violent death foretell the ...