Echoes of The Jazz Age

Review of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald; Scribner Book Company; first published in 1925; pp 208

– Darsana Mohan

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is one book that requires no introduction. Considered to be the pinnacle of American Literature, it is an ode to the America of the Roaring 20’s or the ‘Jazz Age’ as Fitzgerald called it. The book has influenced generations of readers since its first publication in 1925 and continues to be groundwork for modern American literature.

It is narrated by the ever so amiable protagonist Nick Carraway, a young and thoughtful man from ‘West Egg’ who moves to the east to make it on his own. Nick begins his tale by informing the reader of a little bit of his own history. He also mentions how he is inclined to reserve all judgements when interacting with someone and hence strange people are attracted to him and end up confiding in him. This gives us a sense of foreboding of how the strange new peoplehe is introduced to, within the time frame of the novel, are also drawn to him.

On moving to East egg, Nick reconnects with his cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom Buchanan. Daisy and Tom are dissatisfied with their marriage but are still tied together by their mutual love for decadence and gaiety. Daisy is described as quite the beauty with a charismatic albeit careless air about her while Tom is a victim of one of the most derisive remarks ever made in American Literature:

“Her husband – one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax.”

What sets the story in motion is Nick’s increasing curiosity about his wealthy and mysterious neighbour, Jay Gatsby, the eponymous hero of the novel. Gatsby has a reputation that reaches far and wide and has stories told about him in varying degrees of gossip, in spite of the fact that not many people have personally interacted with him. After a breezy mention in a conversation at Daisy’s house, Jay Gatsby is introduced in the novel as a solitary figure standing in his lawn looking at what is described as ‘a single green light, minute and far away.’

Gatsby is especially known for throwing lavish and opulent parties in his magnificent mansion but among the throngs of people that attend these events, little fact is known about him. Later on, Nick is invited to one such soiree and through a friend of Daisy’s he is informed of a rather strange request from Gatsby. The story picks up pace from there and we are introduced to what is considered to be one of the most complicated web of relationships, penned down in a strong, grand style of writing. Gatsby’s history with Daisy is revealed and his obsession with her forms the crux of this tale.

On the surface, The Great Gatsby is a simple tale of love lost but what makes it deserving of praise is the marvellous manner of storytelling and use of literary devices. The book is generous with splendid characterisations, personification of colours and lucid descriptions.

Fitzgerald is capable of handling numerous themes framed within a comparatively simplistic plot. The affluence of America before the Great Depression forms the backdrop for this story of a man consumed by his past and his dedication to making a future out of it. Gatsby is a man who has everything and is still discontent as he sets his sights on things he cannot have. Fitzgerald delves into what the ‘Great American Dream’ really stands for and what happens when it is actually within reach. He is able to portray a compelling account of man’s constant state of ‘want.’

In the end, it is a novel of humble plot but driven by its exquisitely etched out characters most of whom are unlikable yet persuasive. The writing is beautiful and it’s a short but lovely read.

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Rating: 9.7/10 (3 votes cast)
Echoes of The Jazz Age, 9.7 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 13th, 2012 at 11:28 pm and is filed under Fiction, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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