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Further Thoughts On F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

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Ever since I read The Great Gatsby, I’ve wanted to write a ‘further thoughts’ post on it, but haven’t because I wasn’t sure I had enough to talk about on one theme to warrant it. Call me silly, no, really, you can, because it’s only just occurred to me that I can put all my thoughts into one post. What does it matter about my rigid posting rules if they are stopping me from writing what I want to write?

First I want to consider the conscious irony between the ‘great’ and Jay Gatsby. Jay Gatsby isn’t ‘great’ at all. He seems a nice person, misled and naïve perhaps, and in all he’s a fair enough character that you can’t help but feel for. He’s had lots of luck in his life, it’s true, but he’d trade it all in to have Daisy. He’s nice, but only ‘great’ to those who don’t really know him. His parties are great – but not what they seem. They aren’t for any of the people who turn up. He’s great, he’s cool, he’s rich, and his life is all about a woman who he can’t have and who doesn’t know of his whereabouts.

This said, we can consider Gatsby from a different perspective. He’s great in his love, if incredibly over the top. He’s greater than Daisy, who doesn’t deserve him. He’s a great person to Nick even if it’s so that Nick will help him get to Daisy, and even if Nick’s narrative has some bias due to his awe of Gatsby. But if Gatsby, both the book and the character, portrays the American dream, then Jay shows the flaws that can occur in the plan.

Thinking of the American dream, it’s interesting to delve into the way that Fitzgerald presents the dream as wonderful, but only presents it as such to a certain point. The issues he illustrates are far from specific to America or the dream, yet this doesn’t matter. The concept of happiness and wealth was banded about so much that people would have lost track of reality to it and kept believing. In a way, Fitzgerald is reminding us that greatness comes with a price (this greatness being both of Gatsby and of the dream). You can have fame and wealth (and thus work) and love, but you can’t always have them together.

Lastly, the aspect of the book I found the most compelling – the comparison to Fitzgerald’s relationship with Zelda. Fitzgerald had to be successful in wealth in order to call Zelda his wife1. Fitzgerald’s wasn’t quite so extreme a plan as Gatsby’s, however. Perhaps in Gatsby Fitzgerald is illustrating limits, and using Gatsby’s extravagance so that it’s more easily identifiable and of course not so damning as it’s so out of most people’s reach? Perhaps it’s something different, perhaps Fitzgerald is saying that it’s sad that he, Fitzgerald, had to go to such lengths? He got a job in advertising, but that wasn’t enough for Zelda in the beginning.

Gatsby wins Daisy to some extent, but is killed and Daisy doesn’t seem particularly bothered by it. Is this wealth and status so important they take over everything else? Could Daisy have been happier with Gatsby the soldier? To the last question, I don’t think so, but it’s interesting to consider other possibilities.

Have you read this book, or perhaps seen the film? What are your thoughts on the topics covered?

1 The Great Gatsby, Wikipedia, accessed 29th June 2014.



June 30, 2014, 9:47 am

I just watched the Gatsby movie, depressing


June 30, 2014, 1:38 pm

Everything I’ve ever read about Scott and Zelda suggests that he adored her and would go to great lengths to make her happy–without resenting it. I think the character of Gatsby resonates with people because he illustrates what we know, that you can work hard and get lucky and be the envy of all, but still not acquire the thing that inspired you to ascend to such heights.

Tracy Terry

July 1, 2014, 2:34 pm

I haven’t read the book but have the film sitting next to the player waiting to be watched so thanks for providing some food for thought for me to ponder on.

Jenny @ Reading the End

July 1, 2014, 3:48 pm

I need to read more about the Fitzgeralds! The Great Gatsby is an excellent book without that context, but I think it would be really interesting to read it in the light of their lives together.


July 7, 2014, 11:26 am

Blodeuedd: It is really, isn’t it? You’ve got all this colour and music and show and it demonstrates that that doesn’t always mean anything.

Jeanne: Thanks for that information :) I wonder if secondary sources have made it seem more about unhappiness. In Gatsby I think you’re spot on :)

Tracy Terry: There’s a difference to it, obviously, but the plot of the film is faithful enough :)

Jenny: I agree. I read it without the context and it is good, especially as there are other contexts anyway, but my later viewing of Midnight In Paris made me interested in comparing them.



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