“There is something mysterious, flirty, and rebellious about the Jazz Age. Many authors have tried to capture it (some more successfully than others) but no one describes all the glamorous and seedy facets quite like Fitzgerald. Authenticity through firsthand experience is hard to feign.
Nick Carraway is a Midwest man who is spending time in West Egg on Long Island. He finds a small, affordable house to rent squeezed in between the large, new money mansions and across the sound from the old money East Egg. Jay Gatsby lives next door. He has massive amounts of money from an unknown source which he uses to throw lavish parties, parties that represent all of the alcoholic, amoral, excessiveness of the 1920’s. Nick shares his three month window into the lost love, secrecy, extramarital affairs, and personal drama of Gatsby.
I haven’t read this book since high school and I know that I did not truly appreciate it then. Fitzgerald has a wonderful way of writing that transports you back almost 100 years. His word selection and cadence is wonderfully natural because they are his words, not words he thinks he should use because he read them in a Fitzgerald novel.
I have to admit that some of the symbolism is still above my head (yes, I read SparkNotes afterwards just to see what my high school teacher probably told me but I ignored). I picked up on the obvious encapsulation of the rise and fall of the entire Jazz Age in the short three months (and 180 pages) – although this seems very insightful of Fitzgerald given that it was written at the height of the era. The one symbolism that fails me is the eyes on the Dr. T.J. Eckleburg billboard. I know they are often compared to the eyes of God watching down on the debauchery of the rich and careless, but other than the one reference by Mr. Wilson toward the end of the book, I just don’t see that as a reoccurring theme.
The Great Gatsby is a true timeless classic and I hope to read it again someday when I have even more life experience under my belt and can appreciate more of the nuances.