Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

With the new adaptation of this masterpiece released, I should refresh my memories a bit, before watching the movie, which had very mixed reaction from the followers of literature. I am not too keen to know what is the version of the movie fans. I haven't seen it yet. However, reading the book was important, as I have highly prejudiced view about film adaptation of literary works. 

In the year1925, after his stint the world war I, he wrote his third and most recognised novel , which encompasses all that he has seen and observed in the social strata of the US. The "roaring twenties' as it was called later which saw unprecedented growth of US economy, largely as a result of the post war boom, as well as the rise of the Jazz generation. His hero, Jay Gatsby, is the representation of all that a US youth stood for during the 20's. Highly ambitious, constantly on the look out for the ways to get rich and famous by whatever means, the need to be visible and recognised, urge for flamboyance and glamour and new ways of leading highly 'exaggerated' living with lavish parties. Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire living in the West Egg area of rich Long Island neighborhood , known for his extravagant parties. Nick Carraway, a World War I veteran now working in a New York financial firm, stays at the adjacent house of the vast mansion of Gatsby. The acquaintance of neighbors grew over a period, with Nick's fascination for Gatsby. On return , Gatsby request the help of young Carraway, to get his cousin Daisy Buchanan, already married to Tom Buchanan. Nick on his own carry a romantic relationship with an upcoming golfer Jordan Baker, being introduced to him by Daisy and Tom Buchanan. It is through Jordan, Nick ( and we the readers) gets to know glimpses of the early life of Gatsby and a 5 year old love affair he had with Daisy.  A love affair started at Louisville where  Gatsby an officer, did not go well as the once poor Gatsby ( then James Gatz) had to confront the realities of the rich and poor divide. While Gatsby was serving the war in Europe, Daisy marries Tom Buchanan, a n extremely rich , but brutal man and moves to New York. The rest of his life was focused on the pursuit of wealth . The 'grey' five years of his life, riddled with the death of his mentor, his shot to fame and richness, his dubious friends in the business. Once rich, he returns to New York, cleverly choose the location of his mansion, across the bay from the house of Daisy, living in East Egg , throwing lavish parties, hoping to meet Daisy. As his reputation grows, the speculation of his previous life is strife in the air and his which is attributed to his involvement in 'boot-legging' and other similar activities, but none of which prevented the crowd ( invited and many uninvited) from attending his parties. Daisy did appear, with some help from Nick, and the newly re-triggered love was again on flourish. In a dramatic incident this was made public to Tom himself.  The parties and various love affairs,  Nick with Jordan, Tom with Myrtle( wife of a motor workshop owner) and Gatsby with Daisy nourished amidst this  back ground and this conspicuous surrounding. All that seems to be good has to have an end, which came through a motor accident, resulting in the death of Myrtle, causing a chain reaction of incidents.

What is impressive about the whole book is it simplicity. The freshness of language and narration is intact nearly after 90 years and the interest is rekindled in the reading world with many screen adaptations ( six already).  The vibrant life of the 20s through  the characterisation of Gatsby and the general life style of the elite is depicted visually.  Nick Carraway, likely with many elements of the writer himself, mostly form as the catalyst, the distant observer to the world he is living. Despite the high living, there is a moral shallowness in Gatsby, his own knowledge of his unworthiness despite the money he flaunt, the feel of abandonment and loneliness ( all that who throng his parties have no connect to him in any emotional way , including his own employees in the mansion) he feels within him. Nick, then become his only confidant, despite the reluctance of Nick to be in that circle, knowing his own limitations.  

Fitzgerald wanted to writer ""something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." and that is what he has done. At the outset, it is a typical love and lost story with a tragic end. As a clever writer, Fitzgerald distances himself from the morality of the tale and at no point tries to win sympathy for his main character. Many characters is retained as 'superficial' as they appear to us with no attempt to get into their psyche. Even, the elusive Gatsby, despite the attempt from Nick Carraway, is not revealed in complete personality. For traditional readers, we find it difficult to accept a completely developed characterisation. To me, the brilliance of the writer is here, in not allowing you to grow your affection on his hero, and  keep a distance between the character , plot and the reader.  Even the narration- the first person narrative of Nick Carraway-  is fast paced. Little gem of a book.
The Great Gatsby ( 1925 )

F Scott Fitzgerald

Heritage Publishers

173 Pages

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