Customer Reviews of The Great Gatsby
The first time I encountered "The Great Gatsby" it was as an assignment in a high school English class. My recent re-read occurred after my son had read it in his high school English class. The reread brought back memories of a form of academic study from which I have been separated for many years.
"The Great Gatsby" is an excellent book in which to study the writer's art. In this short book the reader can detect a collection of symbolic details which make the story much more than the tale which appears on the surface: the ash heap, as a symbol of the waste of American society; the green light on Daisy's dock, which means so much to Gatsby as a symbol, until he again meets Daisy, when it again becomes, for Gatsby, as for everyone else, just a light.
The characters all play their roles in the development of the story. Shallow figures fill Gatsby's parties, but show their true level of concern for him when they all absent themselves from his funeral. The class distinctions between Daisy, a true upper class maiden, who can never lower herself to accept Gatsby, the aspirant to a class rank which wealth and parties cannot buy. Gatsby's source of wealth is hinted at by his association with Meyer Wolfsheim, the gambler who fixed the World Series. Like others, he will associate with Gatsby in life, but has no time for him in death.
The unnatural core of Gatsby's world is illustrated by his act of moving east, rather than the traditional westward migration, in order to achieve freedom and advancement.
Tom and Daisy Buchanan represent old money, which will not accept Gatsby and, in the end, destroys him.
Nick Carraway is the one character in the book who develops his own moral sense. His role as narrator permits us to see Gatsby's world through his eyes. It is he who sees, and is repelled by, the rotten cores of Gatsby and the worlds in which lives and into which he aspires. He sees the corruption deep inside Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Most of all, we see the innate goodness in Tom. Observing, but not entering Gatsby's world, he is able to understand and judge it. His final evaluation of Gatsby's world is seen when he abandons it all to return to his native Midwest.
As I re-read "The Great Gatsby" I remembered what I had not liked about it the first time I read it. The causal acceptance of infidelity seems at odds with what I have always viewed as the ideal as well as the reality. As one studies the commentaries of this book, with all of its symbolisms, I often wonder if the symbols were really in F. Scott Fitzgerald's mind as he wrote the book, or whether they are constructs of later commentators. Either way, they give the book a depth which so many others lack. When my son speaks of other books he reads in English class, he always says "It's no Great Gatsby." The more I think of it, few of novels are.
Great Story, Beautiful Work of Art, & Brilliant Reflection
The wonder of F. Scott FitzGerald's magnum opus is that he has created a great mirror for any individual looking into it. Therefore, a god can see a god and a fool can see a fool. Reading the various reviews from a wide variety of supposed learned individuals, I must say that this masterpiece is not just a well written story or even art, but a great mirror that can reflect whatever an individual may have to offer to oneself. Within each of us, live all the characters that appear in this novel (if we're lucky) from Jay Gatsby to George Wilson. Obviously, some readers (amazon reviewers included) have lost key characters far too early in their life. The style and language of the story is both engaging and active. It stimulates the mind of the reader to create and not just follow, as most common writers will have us do. In a world of sheep that think themselves as wolves, this work may seem less than satisfying. Being given the opportunity to look into a mirror and truly look at ourselves verses shown an idealistic picture and told that that image is we, many will chose the latter. History has shown that most people prefer the illusions of life. As J.D Salinger simply put it "They're all a bunch of phonies..."
For the hard core Fitzgerald reader
Want to know what Gatsby was doing before he stalked Daisy in the final manuscript? Then this is for you. The best passages in the book are essentially the same, but if you want to study some of the transitions in FSF's writing, you can insight into the writer. Spoiler: The best stuff, he got right on the first try.
A Must-Read for Gatsby/Fitzgerald Fans
I first encountered "The Great Gatsby" in 11th grade and its sheer lyric beauty has transfixed me to the point of at least 4 readings per year ever since. Therefore, "Trimalchio" was a joy for me to read and I believe it will bring the same amount of happiness to fellow Fitzgerald fans. The book is a brief read at only 146 pages of actual text,( as opposed to "Gatsby's" 189 in the most recent Scribner paperback edition) but the opportunity to read the rough draft of a genuis like Fitzgerald is an invigorating experience- reading passages from "Trimalchio" and then looking at their equivalent passages in "Gatsby" allows you to enter the mind of Fitzgerald through his revisionary decisions and enchances your appreciation of the sheer amount of work which Fitzgerald devoted to crafting his masterpiece. That being said, do not expect incredible differences between the two texts: the most notable changes are minor details and the chronilogical order of events and revelations. Reading "Trimalchio" is ultimately like watching deleted scenes from a movie on a DVD- they are of comparatively minor significance, but they enhance one's appreciation of the work as a whole. If you loved "The Great Gatsby," take the time to read "Trimalchio."
Continues to be a classic for high school english teachers. This novel is relevant on so many levels and can be understood by all types of readers.