Many years ago I have read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby and it left quite an impression. Recently we were discussing the book and whether or not Jay’s love for Daisy was real. So I decided in order to be able to answer that question, to read again The Great Gatsby.
Through the eyes of narrator Nick Carraway we are told the story of the rich Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy. But Nick is not only just the storyteller, he is involved and chooses when to divulge which information or events are to be shared with the reader. Nick is a country boy who moves to New York to find employment in the bond business. He knows that friends have done so and it will provide him an income as well as a chance to escape Minnesota. Nick ends up living the American Dream in Long Island, that is divided in two: The West Egg, where the ‘nouveau riches’ live and the East Egg, where the establishment resides, old money so to speak. Where Nick has little money he finds himself a small house next to the grandeur of Jay Gatsby’s mansion.
But although he lives in the West Egg, Nick is an educated man who is connected to those living in the East Egg. For his cousin Daisy lives there with her husband Tom Buchanan, a former classmate of Nick. Where Nick socializes with the Buchanans, he also makes the acquaintance of his wealthy neighbour. Gatsby throws parties every night, with his house fully illuminated all the time, a beacon of light overseeing the East Egg and its inhabitants. It becomes clear that Gatsby wants something: to be reacquainted with his former girlfriend Daisy, with whom he fell in love 5 years ago.
Things are getting complicated: Daisy and Jay meet again and renew their love, husband Tom, while having an affair, is becoming very jealous and our narrator Nick is somewhere in the middle, befriending a girl that is a pathetic liar. Drama is in the air: Daisy is having second thoughts about leaving Tom and marrying Jay, Tom’s mistress gets hurt and dies, for which Jay Gatsby is held responsible. The inevitable ending is tragic, the more because of the fact that we are seeing now that the mask has fallen the man behind Gatsby and his raison d’être, the driving and devastating force behind his actions.
The book is so overwhelming and layered thick, that it tells us not only a lovestory, but also a tale of living in America in the 1920’s, of the gap betwee the haves and have-nots and of the establishment and the newborn riches, who have made their fortune recently. It tells us the compelling and heartbreaking life of Jay Gatsby, who after meeting Daisy was lost forever. From then on everything he did and strived for was to regain Daisy’s love, to be in the same league as her, so to speak, to be someone worthy of being loved by Daisy.
The life Gatsby leads may be envious but it is all empty and hollow, serving one purpose only. In death no one comes and no one mourns except his father and perhaps his neighbour and our narrator Nick Carraway. Of that we are not sure, because Nick only opens up when he wants to. But I think he does mourn, not only the life of Gatsby but of all those, that live idly and in decay, corrupted by wealth and without any moral standards.
To come back to the question I asked earlier: did Gatsby love Daisy? Yes, I think he did, in such a destructive way that he sacrificed everything, including his morality, to be worthy of her, expecting nothing less in return. No woman can answer such love and certainly not Daisy, who married old money and would never leave her comfortable surroundings. Gatsby died twice: first by being rejected (again) and second by the bullet. The first was all the lonely man behind the mask could endure, that mortal blow alone would have sufficed to end his miserable life.
How does the book reflect on and relate to Scott Fitzgerald’s life? There are so many facinating details that that will have to be the subject of another, future blog…