Monday, 25 July 2011

Old Sport

In keeping with the theme of my American literature reading habits I took a successful stab at F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

The Great Gatsby is the tale of society in Long Island from the point of view of newcomer Nick Carraway. His house, with lawn unpreened and lacking a multitude of servants, is situated next door to the abode of a somewhat local celebrity, named Jay Gatsby.

I assume you all have the heard the phrase 'a friend of everybody is a friend of no one'. That phrase applies perfectly to Jay Gatsby. For all of his inconsistent life stories and all of his booming 1920s house parties, nobody really knows or cares about him as a friend. And anyway, Mr G isn't the goody-two-shoes in many ways. His shady schemes with a Mr Wolfshiem, portrayed rather anti-semitically by Fitzgerald as a conman with bad grammar, never really dominate the plot, but it still means that we readers know Mr G is a bit dodgy.

Gatsby has a habit of calling people “old sport”. Is this a way of trying to have people think the two of them are great pals? Because it doesn't work, as we so tragically find out. The only exception to this sentiment of 'I'll come to your party but I wouldn't bother with your funeral' is Nick; this is how we find out the story that makes the novel.

Nick, always the friendly one, is the old chum of another man who lives on the other end of Long Island. This man is named Tom Buchanan, and he has a twisted sort of lifestyle. For he is having a long and drawn-out love affair with a Mrs Wilson. Yes, you read correctly: she is also married, to Tom's friend, Mr Wilson. In the meantime, however, Tom learns of his wife's (yes he has a wife) relation with Mr Gatsby, which is one of harboured love. For Daisy and Mr G were once terribly in love but were separated, and now that they have been reunited, they have started to have an affair. Which is a bit awkward when Tom finds out, especially since it was Nick who was persuaded into inviting them both to his house for tea by a mutual friend named Jordan Baker who Nick sort of fancies anyway. Confused?

And though Tom is in the wrong, he has a point. Daisy isn't very subtle with her affections and Mr G thinks she will leave Tom for him, therefore holds back no smart remarks that may hurt Tom. Which is just really awkward for Nick, who turns out to be pretty fickle with who he supports and whether he loves or hates his new clique.

Fitzgerald's writing is compelling and though the novel is not entirely filled with a turbulent plot, I was left thinking about who was in the wrong and who was in the right, leaving me with the conclusion that everyone was in the wrong. Which was a depressing but satisfying conclusion. Give it a read and let us know what you think / thought (if you have read it already). The movie is coming out in the not too distant future with a star-studded cast: Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby; Carey Mulligan as Daisy; Tobey Maguire as Nick; and Isla Fisher as Mrs Wilson, to name but a few, but you know the book will be better, so do read it before then. Pretty please.

By Jess

1 comment:

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