13 May 2013

The Great Gatsby

... the book, that is.
Haven't seen the movie yet, but I want to.

Some sick part of me misses high school English. {Hey Mrs. Ball!}

So, I reread the book, in anticipation of the movie, and Ms. Bonnie, who is a high school English teacher, is hosting a book discussion. {Nevermind that I am like 3 weeks late writing my thoughts. I never was good at getting crap done on time. Oops.}

Here are some questions she wrote for us to get us thinking:

Who do you hate the most in the book?  Why?
Tom. And Daisy is a very close second.
Tom - 
I hate Tom because his ego is insanely huge, and he seems to literally have no true emotion or concern for anyone else - at all, even the woman he is having an affair with. He sees her husband on a regular basis like it's nothing. While he is clearly having an affair - and everyone knows it, in his eyes, that is perfectly fine. But - when he realizes that Daisy is doing the same thing with Gatsby, he flips his shit. Selfish. Cowardly. How dare he think that he has a right to ruin someone else's marriage and his own (potentially), but in the same breath, throw a tantrum when his wife does it?

And Daisy - same deal, basically.
1) She lead Gatsby on - twice! When he returns and realizes she is married, she has an affair with him, knowing damn good and well that she has no intention of leaving her husband. Cowardly ass puss.
2) She should have never married Tom in the first place if she still had enough feelings for Gatsby the day before her damn wedding to get wasted and cry and throw away $300,000 pearls.
And also - the way Daisy and Tom just go on with life after all the tragedy they caused, is absolutely sickening. Daisy refused to even take the blame for hitting Myrtle. Disgusting.
Why is Gatsby so focused on Daisy?  What is it about her that makes him love her so much?
To me, Gatsby is child-like. He thinks, like a child would, that you can just go back in time, and pick up where you left off and things will be magical. He never realizes that time moves on and things happen. He is insanely wealthy, and has no real value for anything in his life - or anyone. He sees people (his servants, his party guests, Nick) as objects that he can just rotate out and replace, depending on if he needs them or not. For Gatsby, Daisy is something glittery and magical that he can't buy. Although she loves money, she already has a (fucked up) life with Tom, and she sees both men as a toy. She never has any intention of leaving her husband for him, but Gatsby is too simple-minded and lovesick to realize it. He has also spent the last five years creating a "perfect Daisy" in his mind. He has essentially brainwashed himself and cannot see any of her negative qualities - greed, selfishness. Both he and Daisy are emotionally immature. Gatsby's obsession with Daisy sounds like a middle school crush gone cray.

Is Daisy's affair excusable because Tom is having an affair?  Why do people cheat and is it ever justified?
No, Daisy's affair is not excusable because Tom is having one. To me, while Daisy did love Tom, she loved Tom's money at least as much as Tom, which is why she stayed with him. Her priorities were all wrong in the first place. Her heart was with Gatsby in the beginning, as evidenced by her crying fit over him the day before her marriage to Tom. Her marriage to Tom was never truly built on love in the first place. It was based more on social pressures and convenience than love. It never seemed to me that Daisy minded Tom's affair so much. And even when reunited with Gatsby, even though she loved him in the past, and cried over him before her wedding day, it was all still nothing more than a game to her.

Why is this book an American classic?
I think it's an American classic partially for the way it is written. In my opinion, Fitzgerald could have toned down all the flowery language. But - it is evident that he poured his heart and soul into choosing each and every word. (And he wrote six drafts of it before publishing.) The fact that it's written from Nick's point of view is sort of strange because he is the narrator, but it feels like he's there looking over the story, instead of actually physically being there because he isn't really involved in any of the main points of the story. He is sort of watching it all fold in on itself. 
Also - the book was a huge commentary on American society - greed, always chasing something better, never being satisfied, worrying about social image, etc. It was true in the 1920's when it was written, and it's still true today.

Why do you think Fitzgerald chose Nick as the narrator instead of someone more directly involved in the action?
I have no idea, but it was brilliant. As I mentioned, it really gives the reader a unique perspective, because Nick is telling the story, almost like he's observing it third person, as if he's not even there. Some readers are irritated with Nick for not intervening. But, I just think that Nick realized that all the characters' selfishness was deep-rooted and beyond his control or help anyway. 

Did you like the book?  Why or why not?
To be honest, I think some of Fitzgerald's language - while vivid and descriptive - droned on and on  and didn't necessarily contribute to the plot. The book has some of the longest run-on sentences of all time.
However - the story itself, though slow at first, has a brilliant ending, and was especially "shocking" for the time period, I would imagine. It's a classic because the theme of American greed was true then and is still true now. The Great Gatsby was like the trashy reality TV of today. :)

Have you read it?
What did you think?
Stop by Bonnie's to see what others thought. 


SMD @ lifeaccordingtosteph said...

I hate Daisy. Her and Tom disgust me.

Suze said...

Ooooooh I love this book! But I hate Tom too. And daisy.

The Pink Growl said...

This is one of my all time fav books. The story is so epic and sad.

twiggy@thedirtlife said...

I didn't want to read too much of your post because I haven't read the book yet!! I want to read it before I see the movie!