“Who is he?” I demanded “Do you know?” “He’s just a man named Gatsby.”
Last summer, my father offered me a book bag. Unfolding it, I saw a pair of sad yellow eyes staring at me, a mystical creature, a femme fatale, a burning city with great melancholy. Printed with big white letters was the name Gatsby.
The Great Gatsby. The Great American novel. So they say. But when I read Gatsby, it’s not America(understand USA) that I see, that I feel, that I experience. But a story of human condition, of weakness and delusion, of greed and grieve, of stupidity and sorrow. There’s surely a picture of that so called ‘American dream’, or of its birth more likely. But I would prefer to go beyond that etiquette and explore Gatsby’s world. So let’s push the gates ant step in. We have to meet Gatsby.
Gatsby is just a man. He’s in his core no different from any other human being. He’s simply mortal. He has this awful dream about a girl, a dream that drives him through life that gives him sense about what he is and what he’s doing. Without it, nothing of what he has gained does matter. He sees his dream every night through a green light…"I'm the Sheik of Araby,Your love belongs to me. At night when you're are asleep, Into your tent I'll creep----"
And he creeps, slowly but surely till the moment he finally meets that girl again. And at that moment everything falls apart. The dream disappears, as does Gatsby like a shiny fat soap bubble. It’s a story about how we, as human beings, make sense of life, how we answer the question ‘why we live’ and ‘what’s everything about’. But practically, life has no meaning, no big one, but our own. And Gatsby is doomed from the beginning till the end to see the nonexistence of this life meaning. And that’s only right because Gatsby does not exist either. He’s part of the dream. He’s a lost boy’s sad delusion. And no one comes to the funeral of a mirage.
As we step forward, we hear a little voice…“I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool--that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."
I think Daisy describes herself beautifully. Because, it’s what she is. A fool. Daisy sees no meaning in her life. She does not think. And precisely because she doesn’t think and doesn’t know what she wants, she is governed by the desires of others, by their little games and dreams. I thought Daisy to be the weakest of them all.
But then, we must step aside. There’s a crowd to let in. A crowd of empty people.“Once there they were introduced by somebody who knew Gatsby and after that they conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with amusement parks.”
There are Tom, Myrtle and Jordan. Another bunch of shallow fools Fitzgerald gives us to play with. They have no significant role in the book outside of being fools. They are of no use at all, but to witness the downfall of a dream and to rejoice at its death.
And finally we meet the honest almost chevaleresque
Nick. He says about himself to be in and out at the same time. And he is right. He’s in the story but has no real part of it. He plays no role of how the destiny of the others will turn out. He observes them, describes them and makes no judgment. "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
There are few book openings that fit for me so perfectly with a feeling how a hero should be. Nick is like Dante who leads us through Hell and offers us all kinds of sins and sinners. But he has the cardinal virtue of honesty and there’s no place for him between them. He just can’t fit it.
Every good book is like a zoo offering some of the finest human specimen. Every great book is like a mirror fill with smoke which reveals at the end our own picture. Of us, humans. Gatsby deserves to be read just for that if it’s not for the delicious prose of his author. I made an attempt to read the book in French (due to my French residence) but gave it up. Unfortunately Fitzgerald is one of those authors whose prose is untranslatable. The beauty, the sadness and the melancholy, one translated, are lost. So I picked up the one staring at me all the time from my book bag. And I must say it. Read it in English or do not read it all. Otherwise, there’s no use of reading it.
Finally, reading Fitzgerald reminded me of reading Kerouac
. There’s something of the way Sal sees and describes the world that reminded me of Nick. There was that same feeling of melancholy, of asking why, why we are here, of thinking over and over “You can't live forever, you can't live forever."