The Great Gatsby was required reading in high school. It was most likely part of the American Lit curriculum, but I can’t remember if that was taken in my sophomore or junior year. Regardless, I was maybe 14 or 15 years old when I first read the book. At the time, I remember thinking, “At least it’s short.” Reading the classics in school was never something I enjoyed. It was maddening to be told that what I was reading meant “xyz” by the teacher. Sometimes I didn’t see it, and other times I didn’t agree. The Great Gatsby was no exception.
A few months ago the trailer for The Great Gatsby movie came out. It’s a Baz Luhrmann film so the preview was flashy and sparkly and loud with good music. Immediately, I was drawn to it, like a baby to something shiny. When the film came out a couple of weeks ago, the reviews were mixed. The critics haven’t been terribly kind, but regular people seemed to enjoy it. I saw it this past weekend without too much expectation. It has been years and years since I read the book, but as I watched, the story came back to me. I rather liked the film, and I think it was pretty spot on as far as the story goes. It has a modern spin to it, and there was a lot going on visually, which I think turned a lot of people off. They took a few liberties with Nick Carraway’s method of telling the story, but to me, that was minor. The dialogue was almost verbatim.
After seeing it, I felt like there was so much more I could relate to in it than there was when I read it over 20 years ago. I went home, searched my bookshelves for my old copy, and started reading it again. The book resonated with me more as an adult than it ever did as a teenager. Doesn’t that say something about having teenagers read these books with themes so far beyond their experiences. Most kids that age don’t have any way to connect with these stories of power, the human condition, politics, love; at least I didn’t.
It surprised me, that even after all these years, the quotes that I had highlighted back then were actually my favorite parts of the movie as well.
Daisy: Well she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, so I turned my head away and wept, ‘All right,’ I said, ‘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.’
Nick: He had passed visibly through two states and was entering upon a third. After his embarrassment and his unreasoning joy he was consumed with wonder at her presence. He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an overwound clock.
Nick: As I went over to say good-by I saw that the expression of bewilderment had come back into Gatsby’s face, as though a faint doubt had occurred to him as to the quality of his present happiness. Almost 5 years! There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams – not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.
I think Fitzgerald wrote Jay Gatsby so well.
As a whole, even though it’s a sad story, the movie was entertaining and fun to watch.