Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Great Gatsby


When I was in high school, one of the obligatory novels we had to read was "The Great Gatsby." You know how it goes, the teacher assigns the book, you put off reading it until the day of your test, your flipping through the book to learn who the important character's are and what they did in the last four chapters...But, something was different about "The Great Gatsby" for me.

I won't say that the characters "spoke to me" because that sounds...pretentious, but they were much more interesting than the books I was forced to read up until that point. I should also note that at this time I was already an avid reader, I lovedlovedloved the Harry Potter books, I liked mysteries, romances, even a little poetry -- but I didn't love being forced to read something.

The characters in "The Great Gatsby" were tragically relatable. I was elated and heartbroken for them. I wanted life to undo their pasts and heal the scars that turned them into who they were at that moment. The structure of the book was so...poetic? Lyrical? Genius? The fact that the narrator is Gatsby's neighbor and Daisy's cousin didn't make sense to me when I first started reading the book, but then it DOES. You can't handle feeling what Gatsby feels. Sure, at first it might be okay -- some parties here, some loving from afar there. At the end, though, we would have felt Gatsby's desperation, the feeling of everything he's ever wanted slipping out from under him slowly. He devoted years of his life to become who he was to be worthy of Daisy.

Once he has her, he smothers hew with his devotion and affection and drives her away. The saving grace for him is that he thought she was calling him, he thought she was calling to say she was coming back to him FINALLY -- and then he was shot...before he could find out it wasn't her on the phone after all.

And from Daisy's point of view? She's too weak. Unable to leave her emotionally abusive husband, she leads a depressing life alone in her mansion (figuratively alone, there were plenty of people around her). She does what's easy. All of her major actions were decided by someone else. She married her husband in the first place because it was easier to do that than to wait for Gatsby. She staid with him through all his infidelity because...what else was she going to do? What did women do other than be married?

Even when Daisy met Gatsby, it was only at Gatsby's orchestration. Everything that happened thereafter in their relationship was driven by him. Near the end of the book there is a beautiful scene where she walks the tight rope of being controlled by her husband and by Gatsby. In some sort of tug-of-war of the heart. Gatsby screams at her to tell the husband she never loved him. The husband (in an uncharacteristically gentle moment) is heartbroken, begging her to look back on the moments that they were happiest together. And she can't make up her mind. She DID love her husband. She DID love Gatsby. She has no idea what she wants.

Then there is the car crash, where all worlds collide (no pun intended....okay it was kind of intended). Gatsby's car smashes into the woman that Daisy's husband had been sleeping with and DAISY was driving. They didn't stop, they were both shook up, but Gatsby was willing to take the fall. The problem was, that the rest of them were willing for Gatsby to take the fall too. After Gatsby was shot by the man who's wife Daisy killed, no one came to the funeral. His house had been filled wall to wall every weekend, but no one cares now that he's dead. DAISY completely abandons him -- again, taking the EASY way out and reconciling with her husband.

And the movie was very well done. The way they mixed the actual story with hip-hop and wild colored outfits was subtle and not at all overpowering. I know that remakes are "in these days" but there is a right and wrong way to do them, and Gatsby was done very well.

How do you think Gatsby and Daisy would have been portrayed from the husband's point of view? Or the best friend?

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