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The Great Gatsby
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on April 22, 2004
This probably sounds like heresy given it's reputation, but I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why "The Great Gatsby" is universally considered one of the greatest novels written in the English language during the 20th Century. I've read it twice trying to figure it out; I'm still at a loss. Just not my cup of tea I guess. To me the story completely lacks drama. I'm not saying Fitzgerald can't write, I'm simply saying that the plot and characters are just plain boring. Stringing words together in a pleasing way is very different from telling an interesting story -- the main reason we read, of course. I feel completely uninvolved, distanced from time, setting, characters, conflict and plot. I couldn't care less what happens. And after two readings I barely remember any of it. I don't think it's that I'm not "smart enough" or "cultured enough" to get it, I can after all, appreciate the likes of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Faulkner, etc. I'm not some philistine. I do hold advanced degrees and have read many other books of equally great reputation. Fitzgerald just doesn't make me care about these people for some reason.
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on February 24, 2004
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
For my report I really didn't know what book to read, I asked around and one answer I got was to read the Great Gatsby. The person I asked had said they had never read the book but it was a really good movie. Since I have heard of this book before because it was a classic I decided to read it and I have to say I was not at all impressed. I decided that maybe the movie would improve on things, but I soon realized that this also was not all it was cracked up to be.
I thought that the book's basic plot was really good and interesting, but the problem with the book was that it didn't always follow the basic plot. This book was about a past love between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Duchanan trying to rekindle itself many years later, but there is only one problem, Daisy is already married to a man who is cheating on her with a girl from New York. Yes this sounds very intriguing, and it is, but this was only the story for a little more that half the book. The other half was the cousin of Daisy, Nick Carraway (teller of the story) telling about a party he went to, or what his backyard looked like, or the weather that day. What I am saying is that the tangents Nick went off on took away from the attention of what was really going on in the story.
The fact that it was told by Nick was a weird point of view to lay the story out at. It is difficult to tell a love story from the point of view from neither of the lovers. You can never really tell what they're thinking, which either adds to the suspense of the story or, takes away a lot of detail.
The book also left so many unanswered questions, one in particular being: where did Gatsby get all his money? He said that it was inherited from a man he was with at sea who died, but later tells us that most of it was wasted in the panic of the war. All we can infer is that he was gaining all this money through something illegal; drugs maybe, but never really know exactly what he was doing. This is not to say this is a bad book completely, just a very slow paced book in which most action takes place the last 70 pages about. This book is more for people who are into quiet romance novels and are very patient in their reading, in other words, for people who aren't me. Even though it seems like I spent the last paragraph trashing the book I would like to make it clear that I didn't hate it, I just didn't really like it either. It did have its moments though, just not as many as I would have liked.
The movie didn't improve on things. It mirrored the book exactly, scene by scene. I can honestly say I don't think they had a sentence out of place. It is like, if you saw the movie, you practically read the book. Not like in other movies such as "I Know What You Did Last Summer" where once you've seen it, you still don't know what the books about. This really surprised me because for such a short book (189 pages) it was a long movie (2 hours and so). This was mainly because of how much they stuck to the book, which I think wasn't the smartest thing to do. I think some of the scenes they included where a little stretched out rather than just getting to the point. Like the scene where Daisy and Gatsby meet again for the first time in many years. They just sat there for a while, then walked around a bit and talked in a very drone voice.
This brings me to another case about the movie, the acting. The parts of Daisy and Jordan (a good friend of Daisy and Nick) were very either over dramatized or under dramatized. Daisy is supposed to be calm, with a soothing voice. Instead they made her constantly shaking and her voice always in a quiver. The part of Jordan, who was supposed to be jaunty and full of life, walked slowly and spoke with a monotone voice. The movie did however clear up a few parts in the book that were confusing to me. When I read a certain part I didn't really understand what had just happened but the movie is able to show you rather than just describing it.
In conclusion for those of you who enjoy faster paced books, this isn't for you. I would recommend this to romance readers who are very patient with their reading. This book is obviously not for everybody but I have asked more people and got good responses about this book so all I can say now is read at your own risk.
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on October 30, 2003
I thought that the book The Great Gatsby was decedent. There were some things I liked about the book but more things I didn't like about the book. It seemed like too much of the same thing happened, with the affairs and then the deaths.
The Characters were one of the things I enjoyed about the book. That was probably the only thing I enjoyed about it. Nick Carraway, he was the narrator, the thing that I didn't like about him was he claims to be objective. Throughout the whole book he isn't objective at all he always seems to judge others. To me Jay Gatsby was my favorite character. He started out poor and left his love to go to Vietnam and then he came back and worked hard to try to get her back. He became a millionaire. He always threw the most amazing parties and he just seemed like the man. All of the other characters I didn't like that much daisy tom Myrtle, and Daisy.
The things that I didn't like about the book were there was too many affairs. I understand that there are a lot of affairs that take place in the real world but I don't think you need to have that many affairs in one book. I also don't like how Nick left Jordan at the end and he just went back because things got too weird and complicated. I also don't like how Gatsby dies at the end and I thought when Myrtle died that was a little cheesy. I mean she died by Gatsby car running over her. I couldn't stand that at all. I also didn't like how Daisy didn't wait for Gatsby; I mean if they were in love you think she would wait for him.
I gave the book a bad review because to me the book didn't seem to keep my interest for a long period of time. I also think that the book just wasn't a type of book I like to read.
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I question whether I should even write a review of a book I dislike which most people, even most of my friends, seem to adore. What it comes down to, for me, is that all the characters, even the best of them (namely Gatsby) are amoral, and the worst of them are vile. I ended up reading this book for school twice. The first time, in high school, I finished it and thought, "I must be missing something," so I bought and read through the Cliffs Notes, and then said, "Well yes, I knew all that, but so what?" In college I was assigned to read it a second time, and that time I got more substance out of it. The book will never be one of my favorites, though. I just haven't got enough cynicism in my soul (at least not yet, anyway) to look into a moral vaccuum and find much enlightenment there.
Perhaps I should read it a third time; it's a short book, after all. I'm older now, and I do get the point in a way I couldn't have then--Gatsby falls in love not with a real woman, but with his own dream vision of her, and confrontation with the real thing shatters him. (Then again, Don Quixote did the exact same thing without making me dislike him.) The equating in Gatsby's mind of love with money is also worth understanding as a very American hang-up, but it does just make him seem pathetic. And yes, I know that's the point.
I also concede that one reason I disliked it was the sheer glut of tragedies I was forced to read in school. I find that I have more patience for unhappy endings in fiction now that they're not being forced on me. (Heck, I read Dostoevsky for fun, now). But unhappy endings need not be the same thing as nihilism. Gatsby's universe is a highly nihilistic one, a world so far gone that even the saddest ideals seem priceless simply for being ideals.
Perhaps it's the kind of cynicism the book represents--it's not "grumpy old man" cynicism like Vonnegut or Twain, which at least feels earned and honest. No, this is youthful "look how worldly I am" cynicism, the sort that drives us as kids to write bad poetry and wear lots of black. Perhaps that's inevitable--the characters ARE all young, and the book is about decadence.
It may also be the humorlessness of the book that sets it aside from Vonnegut and Twain. I enjoyed de Laclos's "Dangerous Liasons," where the protagonists are both insidiously evil, but at least the cynicism there is laced with black humor. Gatsby carries an unrelenting air of "I'm writing something important, dammit!"
It's not my cup of tea. You're free to like it. Most folks do.
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on November 24, 2001
The Great Gatsby was voted number two on the list of 100 greatest of the twentieth century and I never questioned this rating until confronted by an influentual college professor who made me examine the novel more closely. Many of the thoughts I now have on Fitzgerald and Gatsby I owe to him and I think it would be good to share them and allow people who read these reviews to rethink Gatsby somewhat. The fact is that Fitzgerald's "great" novel of the "American Dream" has serious problems that make it a questionable text for number two on such a list, especially considering it is placed above such novels as Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and Light in August and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.
From the beginning of the novel, we are in the hands of a first person narrator in Nick Carraway, an empty shallow young man from the midwest who moves to the east to try his hand at the "American Dream." The problem is that although most people would regard Nick as a shallow character, Fitzgerald doesn't seem to offer an underlying critique of this moral void inside of his character but instead forces the reader to accept what Nick says at face value. Then we meet Tom and Daisy Bucchanan. Tom is the quintessential Aryan prototype spouting racist propaganda about how it has been scientifically proven that the blond haired blue eyed Nordic male is superior in every way to other races, and again there is no satiric edge from Fitzgerald to say that Tom is not correct in his beliefs and assumptions. Then we reach the introduction of Gatsby and the melodramatic love story of Gatsby and Daisy. Gatsby is the nouveau riche who throws large excessive parties for anyone who will come to his mansion hoping that Daisy will someday show up. Fitzgerald goes down a list of participants in those parties and most of the people there are Eastern Europeans. This is a criticism of the parties in Fitzgerald's prose and begins to venture into the anti-semitic areas of the novel. The introduction of Meyer Wolfsheim, the stereotypical Jew seals the deal on that. We also soon discover that what attracts Gatsby to Daisy is not a human bond of understanding and friendship, but the fact that Daisy's voice jingles like money; and yet, people seem to view this love affair as stirring and tragic. The sad thing about the book is that all of its characters are shallow and money hungry. There is not a redeming figure in the book though the narrator Nick would like to say that the hero is Gatsby. Gatsby was all right in the end. It was what prayed on him that was bad. This is Fitzgerald's judgment.
If this is the quintessential novel about the American Dream, if the lust of Gatsby is our lust as Americans and the love story of Daisy and Gatsby the type of love we as a people aspire to, we're in a great deal of trouble in this country. When books such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn come under attack in high schools across for using the word "Nigger" and others such as The Grapes of Wrath are banned for using profanity such as "Christ," The Great Gatsby, which is a far more damaging and subversive novel, slips by unnoticed. I'm not for censorship in any form, but we must think about what we want to tell children or any other students about America. While Huckleberry Finn and the Grapes of Wrath are being banned yet are permeated with important and positive messages about the meaning of America, The Great Gatsby is a staple in cirriculum everywhere saying that this is really what America is about. Part of the problem is that Fitzgerald's prose is so exquisitely poetic that the themes of the book sometimes disappear beneath the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleberg or get clouded by a green light at the end of a pier. Half the time if you stop to think, you can't even figure out what Fitzgerald is talking about. "And so we float on, boats against the current borne ceaselessly back into the past." At the end of examining the novel in an American literature class in college my professor asked the students what this line meant. No one could come up with a satisfactory answer. The teacher who had been teaching The Great Gatsby in class for twenty years told us that he had never met anyone would could tell him what it meant. Perhaps the novel should have fallen to a lower spot on the list of the twentieth century's greatest novels.
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on October 4, 2001
First let me start out by saying that I am a high school student who was forced to read this book during summer, which is the first downfall. The Great Gatsby is a story of a man, Jay Gatsby, who wastes his life away throwing parties, hoping his first love, Daisy, would maybe attend one of these parties. The narrator, Nick, finally meets Gatsby at a party and since Nick is Daisy's cousin, Nick is pulled into a plot that ends in a very tragic way. I was more interested in Nick than Gatsby or any of the other characters. Gatsby is a character that really isn't defined besides the fact that he loves Daisy. Also, along the way readers are introduced to characters at parties that have no signifigant role in the book. Another problem with The Great Gatsby was that it seemed to progress so slow. The plot didn't keep my attention like it should have. The ending is a little surprising but not enough that could redeem the rest of the book. Although this is a highly acclaimed book, I found out it's not a book for everyone.
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on April 9, 2001
I had heard about this book a long time ago and knew that it was supposed to be one of the great "classics," but I hadn't ever actually gotten around to reading it. Well, recently a friend of mine reccommended it to me, saying that it was the best book he had ever read...so I finally decided to read it. After finishing it last night, I was left with one question, "What was all the fuss about?" It's alright, I suppose, but why it's considered a classic I have no idea. As a lover of history, I found it interesting as a commentary on the life and times of the 1920s, but at times I was left confused as to what was going on and found the plot line drab overall...There are some interesting ideas included, but they are very poorly developed. Also, there are notes included in the book about how Fitzgerald was poor with geography and made a lot of errors that had to be revised later on. If he couldn't even write a book on his own, why was it even published in the first place? Bah! I could take it or leave it, personally.
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I did not like the novel entitled "The Great Gatsby" very much. I really found it disappointing, for before reading this book I thought it would be interesting enough to capture my attention. This did not happen because those parts that would be considered the climax were not interesting (I found theses scenes dull and predictable).
Furthermore, I would like to say that most characters were not good at all. I consider that some scenes, such as the one in which Daisy starts crying on Gatsby's shirts, are meaningless (perhaps because what these parts want to symbolise, is not clear enough). Moreover, I think that the story should not have been told in the first person by Nick, because by doing this Fitzgerald gave no possibility of including an account of the emotional relationship between Gatsby and Daisy from the time of the reunion to the catastrophe.
Finally, I would like to make clear that my opinion should not be taken as an insult towards Fitzgerald, who is a worldwide well-known writer, but as a personal comment in which I highlight what for me was wrong in the setting and development of "The Great Gatsby".
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on June 26, 2000
This can hardly be called a novel. It is, at best, a novella at roughly 150 pages. The craftsmanship that went into choosing words is obvious, but it is equally obvious that Fitzgerald didn't have much of an ability to create and tell stories. The novel moves ahead predictably, with nary a twist. Similarly, the characters are flat, each painted with an overly broad brush. None of the characters is multifaceted enough to maintain reader interest beyond the bounds of this tiny book.
Clearly, this novel deserves the lack of attention it received when first released. It's too bad the 1950's gave rise to a class of pretentious persons who lifted this book up from the slime into which it had deservedly descended. It is thanks to them that school children across America are subjected to this tripe in the name of education.
How many more children will have their budding love of reading destroyed by being forced to read such purile and juvenile garbage as this?
Fortunately, I had been reading much longer, more complicated novels for many years by the time I was required to read this one in my Sophomore year of High School. I hated it then, but I thought at the time that it was I who was at fault. Now, some 15 years later, I've re-read the novel, and I find it to be almost completely without merit.
It's a good thing I was already a reader by the time this garbage was inflicted upon me, or I might never have acquired a taste for books, thinking this was representative of the works available. Not many children have been so inoculated against poisonous works such as this one.
Is it any wonder why American kids don't like to read?
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on April 22, 1999
Don't get me wrong I have a tender spot in my heart for Gatsby, but I try not to kid myself that it is one of the greatest American novels of all time. No what it is is one of the most accessible serious American novels of this century. This said it must be acknowledged that serious flaws exist in this novel. The style and structure are self deluding in that they hark to established reader responses. Nick is a crutch for Fitzgerald in that he needed this neighbour character to make the distant yet close tone of the novel easy to write...this character device is old hat, check out any of the more noirish so called pulp novels of contemporaneous times. Indeed the whole cast are just finely worked cliches (and it is not just that they have become so due to TGG's popularity) and an excuse for Fitzgerald to address what he is really after the American dream. Oh well it is just this atmosphere that we're after as readers, we love it and can't get enough of it. The problem is that we then pat ourselves on the back and say we're reading a masterpiece. No a masterpiece causes us to question deeply our own held beliefs and offers insight, not as the GG does which is serve up ideas which are just ever so slightly below the surface in everyone...No it is just too easy, the ideas are never really represented on several intellectual fronts so that when we finish the gg we cannot help but have on some level an empty feeling. Maybe as a cynical/demanding reader I'm the outsider, but this book always leaves we looking for more. More than the trite Nick can hand me anyway.
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