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The Great Gatsby (1974)
A slight disappointment
The Great Gatsby is set in the summer of 1922, a time that was defined by glamorous parties, loud music, high-class living and underworld life. It was an era of parties and good times, both for the wealthy and for the thousands who flocked to liquor, jazz and a general relaxation of inhibitions.
Nick Carraway is the narrator. He is also a main character and Gatsby's closest friend and confident. He is loyal to Gatsby's dream and ultimately commits himself totally to Gatsby. Through Nick's point of view we see the events of the novel. Also, he does not clearly see or understand all that is happening, a confusion shared by the reader. We learn Gatsby's feelings and hopes as seen by Nick.
Jay Gatsby makes his first appearance at the 30 minute mark. That is rather odd, as the other main characters are introduced from chapter one. All we know about him is that he is Nick's neighbor, lives in a big mansion in Long Island and throws big parties every night. His parties are the center of the novel, they are so vividly described and we are completely drawn into Gatsby's world. Supposedly Fitzgerald who also lived in Long Island got his inspiration for Gatsby's parties from his neighbor. The novel is structured around parties, both large and small. Thus far we know little about the man Gatsby. Who is he? Why does he throw parties every night? We are yet to find out. He soon makes acquaintances with Nick and draws him into his inner circle. A business partner of Gatsby is Meyer Wolfsheim, a disguised Arnold Rothstein, the notorious gangster who fixed the 1919 baseball world series. We learn that Gatsby has had an affair with Daisy, Nick's cousin, now married with idealistic, corrupt millionaire Tom Buchanan. The novel is about a quest: Gatsby's quest of having Daisy. This is the dominant motive in the novel. He seeks to repeat the past and the magical moment from five years ago when he was a poor young man, enlisted in the army. He knows all about Daisy where she lives, whom she is married to. They eventually get together and for a brief period the two are happy together. Gatsby's dream is so close to succeed and he wants to put an end to the hiding and get Daisy only for him because he is afraid of the consequences of not having her after he was blinded by so many hopes and dreams.
Gatsby is a tragic character: not only he would give everything in his pursuit of Daisy but also his doomed from the start relationship with her got him killed.
As seen by the common reader he has a perfect life: his wealth is never cloaked; from the mansion, to the weekly parties, to the countless dress shirts and expensive cars, it is evident that Gatsby is rich as sin and is initially, through his inclusion in the nouveau rich, the epitome of the American dream. He's handsome, he's rich, he's socially reputable. What the reader doesn't know is that he built his empire with Daisy in mind and probably for her. Hadn't she had such an impact on him, he might not become that rich. What should we think of him: a romantic or a man who wants all for him? First time I saw this film, found it a bit too pretentious. Just before I read it the second time and saw two different Gatsby films I realize the impact it had had on me. One thing that I like about The Great Gatsby is that it works on so many levels: a romance story, a lavish description of the 1920's, a tragedy and a story about two characters longing for happiness: this is as much Nick's story as it is Gatsby's.