Monday, September 20, 2010

The Great (or maybe not) Gatsby -

Re-reading ‘The Great Gatsby’ made me realize its true worth. I was, unfortunately, a little disappointed in the book when I had read it the first time. Maybe I skimmed through it quickly, wanting to know the end and not realizing that the beauty of the story finishes in the end, with Gatsby.

 In Gatsby, Fitzgerald created an alluring character. From the moment you hear of Gatsby as Nick’s next door neighbour, you start wondering about him. His mansion, his yellow Rolls Royce, his immaculate garden, and especially, his Saturday night parties fuel your curiosity. Who is he? Why does he throw such big parties? How did he come into so much money?

All these questions Fitzgerald answers at leisure because he has to take you through the dynamics of the other characters that end up determining Gatsby’s fate. The most important of all these characters is Daisy, Nick’s cousin and the wife of Tom Buchannan. An affluent couple, Daisy and Tom spend their time socializing, travelling and entertaining. Their married life isn’t much to talk about, which the reader discovers early in the book when Nick meets Tom’s mistress, Mrs. Wilson.

Mrs. Wilson and Daisy are complete opposites and yet similar in many ways. Both are in unhappy marriages and in love with another man. Both cheat on their husbands and both have an unhappy ending (Mrs. Wilson more than Daisy, literally!).

The revelation by Jordan Baker (Nick’s love interest and one of the only headstrong woman in the novel) of Gatsby’s love for Daisy comes as a shock to the reader. At least it came as one to me. Daisy appears a shallow person, someone who is flirtatious and childish. On the flip side, maybe she wore a mask, knowing that she could not undo her life as it was of her own choosing. Gatsby’s re-entry into her world came as a respite from her unhappy marriage. He brought back her youth and her care-free days. Maybe she wanted to take revenge on Tom also, to punish him for all his philandering.  But she wasn’t going to leave her husband, Gatsby or no Gatsby. To walk off from a husband, a daughter, and a comfortable life requires resolve, courage and a lot of love and Daisy did not possess any one of these. Gatsby had come back into her life at a time when she was emotionally weak and therefore, she embraced him with open arms. It is easier to fall back on something or someone from our past when we are emotionally vulnerable. Gatsby, sadly for him, mistook it for love.

After reading and thinking over the book I agree with hubby dear, ‘The Great Gatsby’ is a tragic love story. Gatsby might be a conman who made his money through not-so-legal means, but he did it all for love. His fine taste in clothes, his yellow Rolls Royce, his mansion and his parties – all were for Daisy. He had no shame in admitting everything to Nick and in the end; he ended up losing his life for no fault of his. It was Daisy, and not Gatsby, who was driving the yellow Rolls when it hit Mrs. Wilson.

It seems Fitzgerald is saying between the lines, ‘Beware! Love is a dangerous thing!’ All three characters; Gatsby, Mrs. Wilson, and George Wilson, wanted a little love but ended up dead.

A little trivia related to the book. A number of movie versions of the book were made; the most famous is the one starring Robert Redford as Gatsby.  If for no other reason, it is a must watch to ogle over the young and very handsome Redford, immaculately dressed in some amazing Ralph Lauren suits. His suits started a new revolution in the fashion industry and I came across (thanks to Google) a cover of GQ magazine (March 1974) featuring Redford in a Gatsby getup. I wonder why this image is not used as a book cover!

Another trivia; there is a computer game based on the book also! I thought of downloading it but the source site seemed a little shady, so I just downloaded this picture.  

Pictures: Google Images