By Ahmed Latif
The Great Gatsby, the 1925 novel by the master F. Scott Fitzgerald may be required reading for many high schoolers today. It may widely be considered one of the greatest novels ever written. It may widely be celebrated, critiqued, parodied, and modernized. But ultimately it is, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, a gem that was unappreciated during its own time.
The novel is oozing decadence as it captures a tale of love and excess in an era defined by the love of excess. Fitzgerald's poetic descriptiveness is never useless and always pertinent. I consider this work a masterpiece and a personal favourite for the non-judgmental judgement it renders on the characters, the era, and the reader as well. The large keen eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg that grace the cover rarely judge, they only reflect. This book is a critique of society; a reflection of who you are individually and who you are as a part of the collective.
It is a depiction of humanity withering, struggling, and canonized in a waste-deep pit full of messy emotions, confounding pains, and emancipating hopes. Fitzgerald brings to the altar of Capitalism an inquisition without prejudice, without hatred, without inequity, and armed only with truth. It is a love story that is anti-romantic much like Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. From this excess and richness Gatsby is a man reborn; he is a man of utterly unbridled hope, the kind that can only come from witnessing the uncapped heights of wealth. He is so optimistic it is unscrupulous. The novel is an examination of what it means to be in love, not with an individual, not with an idea, not with an era, but with everything, with the very notion of love. It is a testament to the cold rankness of humanity in the face of such euphoric love. It is the rancid collective of human action in any era; we are simultaneously uplifting and imprisoning. Moreover, we are defined in this incorrigible combination of the hypocrisies we choose to accept and the hypocrisies we write off as morally offensive.
Jay Gatsby believes in a manner so firm and pure it is reminiscent of Root, the Tibetan impoverished worker from the Chinese film A World Without Thieves. Gatsby believes so purely he unconsciously attracts those bright characters intoxicated on the whirring whimsy of New York City and those unctuous slugs dancing out of the gutter to the alluring tunes of the Jazz Era. The hope is infectious, the heartbreak is gut-wrenching, and the story is filled with unappreciated potential. However, just like Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby fulfills that potential in unexpected ways. Nick Carraway like all of us is inspired to carry on the ideas that were not adequately understood in their own time but amazingly still stir deep within us today 90 years later.
Every character in this story is loveable, embraceable, and utterly condemnable. The Great Gatsby is a rhythmic improvised symphony that captures us all and puts society in the cross-hairs so we can best see with those same keen eyes what we have become.