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The Great Gatsby ()

Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (2)

I reread this one immediately after seeing the list, because I couldn't believe it was #2, a classic American novel sure, but number 2?

It is undeniably well written, but the story still leaves me unmoved.  Jay Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy Buchanan (& the wealth with which to win her) is apparently supposed to represent the more general striving for the American Dream and his fall would then  be a cautionary lesson to those who would pursue the dream.

But the underlying assumption is that  the American Dream consists of nothing more than gaining great wealth.  Perhaps in the first blush of Marxist Socialism it was possible to so misread man's motivation as being merely materialistic.  However, as the Socialist Century ends, we've surely seen that man is motivated by a dream of Freedom, not a lust for wealth.

Thus, the real tragedy of Gatsby is not that he is destroyed pursuing the American Dream, rather it is that he pursues an empty dream.


Grade: (B)


I think The Great Gatsby is fantastically good. I think the problem is that everyone thinks Gatsby is supposed to be this tragic figure. He's obviously not, though, and I don't think he was ever meant to be tragic. He's like the guy who owns the Dallas Mavericks. Tom and Daisy and Gatsby are all equally detestable.

The greatness of the book lies in the choice of narrarator, so that we get to see these people from a certain "normal" point of view, and in the true tragic figure of the book: the mechanic (George?), a minor character who had more actual moral character than any of the major players.

- Seven Machos

- Dec-30-2004, 11:44