My impression of classics has always been that though one must read them in their lifetime, they seem rather pretentious to me. It seems as if they look down upon the world as if from a high pedestal they put themselves on and judge us all. There have been times when I have started a classic and couldn’t bear to go on further than a few pages. Then I’d say to myself, “Don’t worry. Maybe you’ll like it another time.”
But then, time and again, there comes a classic knocking at your door that defy your impressions. You have to read it, dumbstruck, and admit in the end that you were wrong to have assumptions. Although, despite the impressions that these leave on you, your general idea about classics remains unchanged. This is until another one of those greats comes along and whacks you over the head.
While Jane Austen’s Emma and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy were two of the classics that I couldn’t read more than 10 pages of, The Great Gatsby is one of those that I finished last year and one that I liked. Three Men in a Boat is the only other classic that I absolutely loved. And though I wouldn’t go and read the latter in a hurry, The Great Gatsby, I would read again, this I’m sure of.
This book is the story of Jay Gatsby, who goes to lavish lengths to win over the love of his life. Or so he thinks. But he doesn’t factor in her husband, his mistress, and his mistress’s husband into the equation. And when he does, there’s everything to keep the story from getting the happy ending that he deserves. Will he or won’t he? Will his extravagance follow him everywhere? Will the people thronging to his parties stay with him till the end of the story?
Told from the perspective of Gatsby’s neighbor and close friend, Nick Carraway, who is also a cousin of Gatsby’s love interest, Daisy Fay Buchanan, The Great Gatsby is a story that is such a pleasant surprise that it almost shames me. It talks about dreams and aspirations and love. It talks of the unattainable and of the optimism that comes with dreaming great dreams. It talks of how prosperity brings you flatterers who yet talk behind your back and come downfall, will turn their noses up at the very thought of coming to your aid. In times like this, gossip is more powerful than fact, many-a-times rendering us helpless.
The Great Gatsby is set in a time (post World War I) when ‘we are all whites here’ was a matter of pride. But ignore the rare appearances of such statements, and you have a classic. And then there is the absence of absolute morality in there. Because extra-marital affairs are common. The character I didn’t like at all wasn’t Jay Gatsby, but Tom Buchanan. For when it came to his bandying around with mistresses, he didn’t bat an eye. But even the suggestion that his wife had anything to do with another man, and his hackles went up like a provoked cat. Hypocrisy is thy name! Of course, that doesn’t mean that any extra-marital affair is pardonable, but hypocrisy in any form angers me to no end.
The Great Gatsby isn’t the story of the great Jay Gatsby, per se. Nick Carraway, the narrator, is honest in his evaluation of everyone and everything he comes in contact with, especially the man he calls his close friend. And the tragic, multidimensional story of Jay Gatsby is one that makes you sit back and think about your priorities in life. Because you now know, that like Jay Gatsby’s priorities, or should we say, Daisy Buchanan’s priorities, even yours will change. Without a doubt. It is sad, but that is how life works.
All I can say in the end is that somehow, despite my disagreeing with some points in the story, this book touched my heart in ways that I cannot possibly explain. Like I mentioned before, I’m definitely going to read this again sometime in the future. Thank goodness I picked this up. Finished it in a day. And proud.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Picture Courtesy: Simon & Schuster.
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