Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"The Great Gatsby", yes or no?

This novel is considered to be a classic of American literature and is Fitzgerald's magnum opus. Before I answer the question, let me speak briefly about another literary work.

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek" is a short story by Ambrose Bierce. I was first exposed to it in High School English class, where we watched a short movie made of the story. I loved it. I have read the story since and continue to love it. The protagonist is a Confederate soldier during the Civil War. The story begins with him about to be hanged by Union troops. Greater minds may offer detailed insight about the story (that perhaps it is anti-war, etc.) but I love it simply because it is wonderfully crafted. This was one of those stories that grips you to the extent that you will not walk away from it until it is finished. Once Bierce humanizes the protagonist you find yourself hoping against hope that he will be spared his fate, and once it appears that will happen your heart rises into your throat as you cheer him on. The ending is surprising and something of a kick to the gut (I won't reveal it specifically...go read it for yourself). Frankly, most any other ending would have veered off course from the realism of the story.

I mention the above as a contrast to "The Great Gatsby". You see, "The Great Gatsby" sucks on ice. I realize it is filled with a steady supply of plot undertones and that there is a deeper plot than what is seen on the surface. What I cannot get past are the two glaring faults with the basic plot, which must be sound before any undertones can work. My gripes are these:

1. There is only one likable character in the entire novel and he gets run down and killed by a car (driven by another character). The characters are not unlikable because of a reader's personal preferences either. They are unlikable because they are duplicitous, self-centered jerks.

2. The premise of the story is that a man is so smitten with a woman from his past that he becomes rich so he can buy a mansion near hers (where she resides with her husband) and throw lavish parties in the hopes that she will one day attend one of his lavish parties and they will be reunited.

So, after much use of words, the answer to the question is "No!"

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