Disclaimer: I actually read this book back in June, but I didn’t write my review then because I knew I was going to need topics for National Blog Post Writing Month. Hopefully you’ll find this post was worth the wait.
I managed to avoid having to read The Great Gatsby in high school, and I honestly think this was an advantage–instead of being forced to scrutinize and over-analyze every single scrap of symbolism that was packed into the story, I was able to enjoy the story for itself. But there certainly is a lot that happens in the story itself, so much so that I limited myself to one aspect (which also happened to be my favorite), that aspect being the unusual friendship between Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway. What makes their friendship unusual? The mere fact that it exists at all.
Take Gatsby–he’s your stereotypical party animal of the 1920’s, and his money allows him to throw elaborate parties on a weekly basis. It naturally follows that the weekly elaborate parties attract a very large following for Gatsby–even when there isn’t a party, Gatsby is usually entertaining company in some form. But although he lives a life about which most people only dream and is surrounded by the cream of the crop of society, Gatsby is lonely. Although he embraces this extravagant lifestyle–indeed, he embodies it in everything he does–he can’t escape the loneliness of his own soul, can’t ignore the emptiness and artificiality that lies just beneath the glamorous surface. This is why he seeks the friendship of Nick Carraway–Nick is an honest, genuine man who has not let the world corrupt him.
Knowing that, it’s easy to see how the friendship developed on Gatby’s side–but what about Nick’s side? From the very beginning, Nick loathed Gatsby and everything he stood for. He hated the wild and garish parties that went on at his neighbor’s house and despised the shallow masses of humanity that mingled there. Even when he began attending the parties at Gatsby’s invitation, all he did was find himself hating that portion of humanity more and more. This loathing was focused especially on Gatsby, whom he viewed as the personification of that hated lifestyle. But while he loathed Gatsby, he pitied him at the same time. He could see beneath the facade Gatsby put out for the world to see, see the lonely and pathetic man he really was. And he pitied him. He realized that what Gatsby needed most in the world was a genuine friend, and that was what he tried to be.
That unusual friendship was definitely my favorite part in a story that was well worth the read. I highly recommend The Great Gatsby if you’ve never read it before–just don’t over-analyze anything and enjoy the story for its own sake. You’ll be glad you did.