Recap: The Great Gatsby is a classic novel about love and money and the way they develop Jay Gatsby, a man who spends his life chasing two things – fortune and a woman named Daisy. Gatsby lives on Long Island, throwing lavish parties regularly and flaunting his money in a 1920’s pre-Depression era. Across the way live his former flame, Daisy, and her husband, Tom. Next door is the new neighbor and narrator, Nick Carraway – one of Daisy’s cousins.
Gatsby and Nick quickly become friends, though Nick has a difficult time learning Gatsby’s story. He ultimately finds out that Gatsby and Daisy used to date until he enlisted in the Army. By the time he came back from the war, Daisy had married a man named Tom. Nick reconnects Daisy and Gatsby, and their old feelings soon return.
Meanwhile Tom is having an affair with a woman named Myrtle. When her husband finds out about their affair, it results in an argument and devastating car crash. It’s a crash that leads to two more deaths in this small group of people. And just when you think Daisy might end up with Gatsby after all these years, it becomes clear how shallow and definitive Daisy’s decision to marry Tom always was and always will be.
Analysis: The Great Gatsby is a rarity; it’s one of those classic novels that toes the line into popularity, something not often accomplished by books that are praised for their literary prowess.
But Gatsby’s combination of the setting (the Roaring Twenties), scandal, and themes about love and greed make for a book that both appeals to readers and makes a greater social statement.
Not to mention, Fitzgerald’s descriptions and use of symbolism are breathtaking. The eyes on a large billboard near the railroad track represent Gatsby’s stalking obsession with Daisy and his need to be with her. The use of a billboard also emphasizes commercialism, advertising, and money. Green lights along the water and coming from Daisy’s home symbolize Daisy herself and her real true love – money. After all, she married Tom for money. That’s what encourages Gatsby to force wealth upon himself and appeal once again to Daisy.
But above all else, it’s Gatsby that both amazes and astounds us. He’s wealthy, but it’s new, dirty money. He’s kind but only to those that help him. And he’s fun, but only if he’s getting closer to his ultimate goal. As Nick often admits during his narration, Gatsby engrosses him with that beautiful smile, even though there’s something devilish about it.
MVP: Gatsby. Brooding, complicated, and charming. He’s the perfect bad boy in every way, and despite his massive flaws, he’s what draws us all into this classic novel.