Voices Full of Money, The Great Gatsby

When I first read F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby I was absolutely enchanted by the parties, the wealth and the subtle satire. The sheer glittering whirlwind of it all, a long summer spent in the company of the rich and powerful. Until I got to the final chapter, that is. But then, I read it in school so of course I paid more attention to the fashion and the glitz. However, now a few years on I’ve come to the realization that The Great Gatsby is not great at all. It is a terribly sad tale, a dark warning of the excesses of wealth and carelessness.

This is a book of sadness. Decline and emptiness and decay. Jay Gatsby is a self made millionaire whose extravagant lifestyle knows no bounds, throwing party after over the top party, hoping that one day the woman he loves will see the lights of his house and come right to his doorstep looking for him.

No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.

The woman in question, Daisy Buchanan, is a bauble of a woman. Selfish and shallow, she represents Old America with the arrogance that comes from being uber-rich, and the carelessness as well. Even Daisy’s voice is “full of money” and it is with this that F Scott Fitzgerald sends the upper classes into a decaying downward spiral.

Nick Carroway is our unflinching social observer, a Midwesterner with a large and sudden inheritance, he is enraptured by Gatsby’s wealth and charm, and above all his hope and optimism and ambition. For Gatsby is the embodiment of the American Dream – a desire to have it all and enjoy every second of it. There is no end to his excess, all in the pursuit of Daisy’s love.

Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men

Daisy and Gatsby’s love is intense, but Daisy is torn between Gatsby’s obsessive desire and her husband Tom’s iron grip. I personally found the climax of the book to be disappointing, a true ‘what was the point of all this?’ For Daisy and Gatsby’s affair rips the delicate fabric of their lives to pieces, revealing the rot of arrogance and money as Fitzgerald famously described…

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

Basically, their affair is discovered! Fury and jealousy rage, choices are made and revolting truths about the characters are discovered before it all crashes (literally). Everyone is exposed for the selfish, hedonistic fools they truly are. Even Nick Carroway leaves New York, disgusted with the emptiness he’s found.

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The deep irony of The Great Gatsby lies in is disaproval of excessive wealth, when the stock market crashed and plunged the world into the Great Depression. And yet… and yet… it is impossible to resist Gatsby’s charm and his endless optimism. A dreamer in search of a better world, and true love, trying to reclaim a past that was untarnished before the mess of his real life swept in. You can’t blame him. The Great Gatsby is a powerful novel, the fading American Dream, the allure of golden wealth and the ambitious reach for the ‘green light’ that never fades.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

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