It wasn’t until our book club decided to throw a Gatsby themed picnic on a bright and hot Sunday morning, some time ago, that I realized what I had missed out when I read “The Great Gatsby” for the first time. As I was debating on which bracelet was the more extravagant one that would have perfectly fit the 1920s ‘Gatsby style’ parties, I was taken aback by the contemporary resonance Fitzgerald’s book held on today.
While I had initially discredited the book for just being a portrayal of the times back then, without seeing an adequate reason for being heralded as an all-time classic even now, I now realize why Fitzgerald’s work is considered as a great one.
Like Gatsby, we strive for goals that we believe cannot be attained in our current situation. We pursue love, fame, power, wealth, success, happiness, and so on, firmly convinced it will all be worth the sacrifices along the way. And in the process, we lose ourselves, trusting that what we thought were simple means to our end goal were the objective we wanted to attain from the beginning. Once we think we have reached the top, it takes a while for us to realize we’ve made it, and we forget how to actually grasp ‘it‘ in our hands, even though we’ve been dreaming about ‘it‘ for so long. We don’t realize that some things have changed, that reality has changed, while we were blindly pursuing ‘it‘, and we refuse to believe that it may not have been worth it.
Like Daisy, we fool ourselves with our beliefs and values, when we are mere puppets attached to the strings of our own little world, unable to compromise when it matters most. We will choose the options we are most comfortable with, the ones that do not require sacrifices or major changes, because, even though we said we were longing for diversity and novelty, we are so much… at ease where we are now.
The irony though, with the recent Gatsby frenzy brought by, mostly, the new movie starring Leonardo Dicaprio, is that we have fallen for the extravaganza, the sparkles, the shiny, and the superficiality Fitzgerald was subtly criticizing in his book.
While we blame Daisy and her surroundings for being too materialistic, for living in an ephemeral world of partying and shimmering lights, we are nevertheless mesmerized by the grandiosity of it all, and we wouldn’t mind being part of such a world. We criticize Daisy’s world and pity Gatsby’s efforts and end, but don’t we all long, in one way or the other, to be part of Daisy’s world, even for just a moment? Don’t we sometimes, just sometimes, think that money could solve so many of our problems? Would we have chosen to share ‘eternal love’ with Gatsby, giving up our social status, wealth and comfort? Would we have attended Gatsby’s funeral?
People say that the world has gotten too materialistic, that people care so much about superfluous things, but it seems that this is not just a recent trend. People have been doing so since the 1920s, and even before, surely. Mistaking wealth for happiness, fame for satisfaction and success for peace of heart, this is an erroneous path we’ve all been walking down for a long time.