The Great Gatsby Essay: The Great Gatsby is Not So Great

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The Great Gatsby is Not


The novel has no plot to mention. ... The book is highly sensational, loud, blatant, ugly, pointless. There seems to be no reason for its existence Harvey Eagleton (Dallas Morning News, May 10, 1925).

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is an absurd story, whether considered as romance, melodrama, or plain record of New York high life.  The occasional insights into character stand out as very green oases on an arid desert of waste paper.  Throughout the first half of the book the author shadows his leading character in mystery, but when in the latter part he unfolds his life story it is difficult to find the brains, the cleverness, and the glamour that one might expect of a main character.

            The Great Gatsby is a parody of itself. While Fitzgerald tries hard not to make Gatsby and especially Daisy laughable personalities, this is where he ultimately fails. There's not enough ironic distance to his characters. As Gatsby, at least in the eyes of many critics, should represent the idea of the American Dream, the presentation of his character puts the whole concept in question again, without being intended as criticism. This is mainly the fault of another weak character in the novel, Nick Carraway.

At first, the only function of Nick in the novel seems to be to act as a reporter, telling us the truth by telling us his shrewd, objective perceptions. Then, as the novel progresses, it turns out that the opposite is the case, and he is siding with Gatsby to make this character stand above all others and shine. Nick Carraway could be one of the finest examples of reader manipulation in literature. But his sympathy towards Gatsby is exaggerated, not so much in actions, but in the much praised language of the novel.

Fitzgerald's book at first overwhelms the reader with poetic descriptions of human feelings, of landscapes, buildings and colors. Everything seems to have a symbolic meaning, but it seems to be so strong that no one really tries to look what's happening behind those beautiful words. If you dig deeper you will discover that hidden beneath those near-lyrics are blatancies, at best.

In Nick's "perceptions" of the events in the last four chapters, this symbolism is overdone, especially in the scene where Gatsby kisses Daisy and in the scene where Gatsby dies.

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Fitzgerald also uses "cinematic" techniques like flashbacks and extensive foreshadowing to make the reader identify with Gatsby's struggle. But he doesn't convince the reader. Gatsby is a "cheap little crook", and Nick tries unsuccessfully to explain to the reader why we shouldn't perceive him in this way. But the Jazz Age is over.

For no apparent reason Fitzgerald obviously thinks that Gatsby's vision, his "gift for hope" is best to be called great. That's why he chose this title. And the title even fits - at least somehow, because the words are as inappropriate and hard to follow as the descriptions of Gatsby and his dream that are presented in the novel.


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