What Makes the Great in Gatsby?

So the 2013 film adaptation is about to be shown. I am so excited to see the 2013 movie since I haven’t seen any other Gatsby adaptations.  When I first saw the trailer, I squealed in awe. Everything that I have imagined while I was reading the book (well, we all have that tiny movie-making thing going on our brains when reading something, right?) were there. It was amazing, how they have seemed to translate the page to the screen well (judging too early, I know.) I know that not everyone has read the book but are most likely to watch the movie anyway – hello Leo! – so I thought of sharing some thoughts on why Gatsby was great, or deemed great.

The Great Gatsby is a novel written by American author, Francis Scott Fitzgerald. The story transpires during the 1920’s (which was also famously referred to as the Roaring Twenties), a time when the United States was highly affluent and where the society exudes a significant change in social and cultural inclinations.  It was an era of transformation: Jazz music flourished, the flappers were the new breed of modern women, materialism defined being and the society was highly status-driven. These were the consequences brought forth by the violence and atrocity of the First World War and people compensated the ordeal by lavishness and extravagance.  People were disillusioned and stripped off of their moral values.

The Great Gatsby basically mirrors Fitzgerald’s thoughts on the rise of a new era – an era which was embraced yet loathed at the same time, at the same extent. It was an era of progress and decline, of rudderlessness and meaninglessness, and of hypocrisy and debauchery.

The Great Gatsby is the illustration of the distorted American dream, which was the pursuit of happiness and individuality. In the Great Gatsby, the pursuit of happiness was merely depicted as the attainment of status, power and wealth. Everybody was detached from everybody because of their selfish and whimsical desires, and carelessness.

Gatsby, however, was different. Yes, he was rich, well, new money rich, but he was wealthy. Back then, the old money rich looked down on the newly rich ones because of lack of taste and integrity – well most new money rich people acquired their wealth illegally, engaging in illicit businesses. Even though such was the case, everybody was still attracted (and at the same time intrigued with) to Gatsby, taking advantage of his lavish parties. And though Gatsby was amidst the glamour, the elite and the extravagance, he was not disillusioned from the idea of chasing after his dream, which is Daisy’s love. He was the party host who never even partied, the alcohol bootlegger who never got drunk and the rich who was never consumed by the mundane desire for the material. He made his dreams happen (not justifying that his means were fine though), in his hope to win the love his life. Perhaps in that empty world they thrived in, Gatsby was the only one capable of discerning the noble values like that of love and hope despite the hollowness and the lavish indulgences that has taken over the society, thus making the great in Gatsby.


Just some notes:

  • I just focused on why Gatsby was great to be some sort of guide to those who will watch the film (Oh hello there, Leo) but has not read the book.
  • I hope the film doesn’t disappoint. But I’m quite of expecting that the movie will be depicted in a cheesy kind pursuit of love, taking away the meaning behind the novel’s symbolisms. AHHH COMMERCIALISM.


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