Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Great Debate

Yesterday at Write Club everyone got into a bit of an argument about books, which is always an entertaining thing to do. The book that started this discussion? The Great Gatsby. (and i wasn't the one to bring it up, before you ask!)
I know it's a divisive book, one people love or hate, and i know that i'm one of the people who absolutely love it, and find it hard to see how anyone could possibly hate it. I get that people see Gatsby as naive and obsessive, and in a way he is, but that's part of his attraction.
I'm not going to write an essay about why i love Gatsby, but i do want to point some things out, direct quotes from the text, which illustrate his lack of creepiness, his naivety, his almost childish optimism in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. I hope that these will interest you if you've read the book, or inspire you to read it if you haven't. At the very least, i hope that they'll allow you to see Gatsby as I see him, as quite possibly the most romantic, tragic, compelling character ever written. Strap in, here we go.

"There was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life...it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as i have never found in any other person and which it is not likely i shall ever find again."

"He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as i was from him, i could have sworn he was trembling."

"He smiled understandingly - much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced - or seemed to face - the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey."

Probably my favourite moment of the whole book, which won't make sense until you read it, but is painfully adorable. "Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes."

"But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed: without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room...there were twinkle-bells of sunshine in the room, he smiled like a weather man, like an ecstatic patron of recurrent light."

"His heart was in a constant, turbulent riot ... Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an oblivious embrace. For a while these reveries provided an outlet ... They were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing."

“I wouldn’t ask to much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.”
“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”
He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadows of his house, just out of reach of his hand."

"Jay Gatsby" had broken up like glass against Tom's hard malice"

This bit never fails to make me cry, it's so hopeful and hopeless at the same time. "Of course she might have loved him just for a minute, when they were first married - and loved me more even then, do you see?"
Suddenly he came out with a curious remark.
"in any case," he said, "it was just personal."

Umm...so yeah, Gatsby is tragic and beautiful and lovely, and i think sorely misunderstood in today's overly cynical society. In my opinion there is nothing sinister about his love. Possibly he is naive, but this just adds to his innocence and charm.
Basically, i love him. That's all there is to it.

2 comments:

pepperminnt said...

I understand your love for the man now...but I still can't quite grasp how a grown man would allow himself to be so naive, so hopelessly hopeful.
I'm inclined to be cynical here, and say that his ridiculous wealth plays a part in this.
However, the book was a good read.
x

Lucy Jane said...

but the only reason he has his wealth is because of the vitality of his hope, that's what pushes him to succeed.