Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Great Gatsby: A Book & Movie Review

I think this might be the first classic that I have read outside of school.  I feel like, with saying that, this is also the first classic that I have voluntarily read.  LOL.  Why is it that reading for school is always so forced?  Well, since the movie recently came out, I decided to order The Great Gatsby to read.  I saw the movie first, which isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I didn’t want the movie to be out of theaters before I ordered and read the book (from yet another book haul that broke my book buying ban).

Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Genre: Classic, Fiction, Satire
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: 1925
Pages: 180
Out in Paperback?: Yes; September 30, 2004 (several other versions published at an earlier date)
My Rating: 5/5

Goodreads Summary:

In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.


Overall, I didn’t feel a great connection with many of these characters.  Nick seemed the most reasonable and relatable to me; however, I still didn’t get a great connection with him.  He tends to feel similarly as the reader would in regards to the excess that Gatsby and Daisy and many of the other minor characters are accustomed to.  Nick is pretty adorable in his little house that is settled next to Gatsby’s enormous mansion.  As for Jay Gatsby, I loved the distinction that he created and the juxtaposition he portrayed with Daisy’s husband, Tom, in regards to the old money and new money.  I felt that Jay’s character was interesting to read about and to get inside his thought process (through Nick’s thoughts) of how he views Daisy and her relation to his past and future.  As for Daisy and her husband, Tom, they are a great representation of the satire that Fitzgerald hopes to portray.  Their lives of excess and privilege can be a bit annoying but are important and critical to the underlying themes.   


I really liked the plot of this novel.  It is definitely a classic for a reason!  The themes connecting the novel to the American dream and to the idea of America in the 1920s are extremely interesting to read about.  I never was required to read this book in high school, but after finishing it, I really wish we had.  It was interesting to think deeper than the love story between Jay and Daisy.  I really like how that love story is used to portray the satire that Fitzgerald wants to portray about the excess in lifestyle during the 1920s in America.  I also really enjoyed the motifs of the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock and the eyes on the bulletin board.  The green light really showed a lot about Gatsby’s character and his issues with the past and the present; the eyes are interesting because they don’t receive a true meaning (Myrtle’s husband presents his idea), but as a reader, you can insert your own meaning.  Overall, I really enjoyed the plot of this novel because of the underlying messages and themes!

Writing Style:

Overall, I did enjoy Fitzgerald’s writing style in this novel, mostly because it is different than anything that I have read recently.  I don’t always reach for classics, so it was nice to mix things up a bit.  This book seems like it would be a quick read due to the page length and the fact that there are only 9 chapters, but I found that it did take me longer to get through than I thought it would.  I think this is mostly because the language was different than what I am used to reading.  I also feel like, during the longer chapters, each sentence was important and conveyed an important message to develop the characters or deepen the theme, so I wanted to make sure that I caught every word!

Movie Review:

Like I mentioned earlier, I saw the movie before reading the book.  Usually, I don’t prefer to do this, but I feel that the movie was able to tell me the basics of the plot so that when I read the book, I could better understand and focus on the themes and motifs.  I did enjoy the movie (of course Leonardo DiCaprio is never a bad thing), and I found that it really did follow the book VERY closely!  I loved that fact because I very much dislike falling in love with a book and then the idea of it becoming a movie and having a let down after seeing the movie.  Although the movie did follow the book closely, I am still on the fence about the choice of music during the movie.  Jay-Z music during a 1920s movie?  … I’m not really sure if it was kinda cool, playing into the theme of excess in America during that time period or if it was really just out of place.  I still can’t decide.  Overall, I really enjoyed the movie (mostly because it was my first introduction to the story and it did closely follow the book), but I feel that it didn’t really portray the satire and themes that Fitzgerald was after in his novel, as the movie seemed to focus more on the love story between Jay and Daisy and too much on the grandiose party, portraying the wrong message.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you enjoy reading classics outside of school? How did you feel about the movie?

FTC Disclaimer:
All items mentioned were purchased by me.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.  No affiliate links were used.

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