Book Review: The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reviewed by Eleazar Wawa, age 17

The Great Gatsby written by F. Scott Fitzgerald takes place in a flamboyant period in America’s history, a time known as the “Roaring 20’s.”
The narrator of the novel is Nick Carraway, who is recounts his time spent in New York City. He especially recalls the events that took place involving his friend, the man for whom the novel is named, Jay Gatsby.
Gatsby is a charming, optimistic and incredible wealthy young man. He exhibits his riches at the wildly extravagant parties he throws every weekend for anyone who will come. Nick moves next door to Gatsby in West Egg, New York and does not know much about him until he receives an invitation to one of these soirées. After meeting Gatsby, he learns the real reason Gatsby settled in West Egg. Right across the lake is East Egg, inhabited by some of the richest people in the city, including Nick’s cousin, Daisy Buchanan. Five years to prior to Gatsby’s move to West Egg, he and Daisy had been romantically involved. The relationship ended when Gatsby left for the war; Daisy, unable to wait for him, married a rich man named Tom Buchanan. After explaining his intent to win Daisy back, he asks Nick to arrange a reunion between them, to which Nick agrees.
Nick’s willingness to aid in an affair between Gatsby and Daisy is mostly based on the indifference of Daisy’s husband, Tom. An aristocratic and chauvinistic man, Tom is the stereotypical privileged, white male of his era, believing that society is best when those of his race and class stay on top. Constantly cheating on his wife, Tom’s infidelities are well known among his friends, including Daisy. Nick officiates a meeting between Gatsby and Daisy, and as a result, they rekindle their past emotions, and fall deeply in love.
Though Nick prefers Gatsby being with his cousin rather than Tom, it has little to do with Gatsby’s character. Throughout the novel, it is hinted that Gatsby, originally a penniless man, gained his fortune through a stream of illegal activities, including bootlegging. What draws Nick to Gatsby is his idealistic approach to life, which Fitzgerald uses to mirror the idea of the “American Dream.” Despite being ill gotten, Gatsby worked tirelessly to attain his wealth, all in the pursuit of happiness, which in Gatsby’s case, is Daisy.
However, Fitzgerald also uses Gatsby to symbolize the façade that lies at the heart of great wealth. In his pursuit of wealth, Gatsby did not only gain money but created an entirely new persona for himself to complement the money. This character, “Gatsby” is nothing more than the ideal man that would regain Daisy’s affections. Unfortunately, Gatsby fails to realize that Daisy is unworthy of him and his drive for greatness, which ends up being his undoing.
The Great Gatsby is more than a romantic novel. It epitomizes the ever-present need for man to become greater than what they are, as well as the degradation in a society where pleasure comes before anything else. Fitzgerald, through the intuitive voice of Nick and the ambitious actions of Gatsby, shares his views on American society and idealism. I would recommend this book to high school students and young adults alike.