The person known as the Great Gatsby is a very mysterious character. During the first part of the book we only know that he is unimaginably rich and that he throws outrageous parties to prove it. Although when Tom remembers Gatsby at the beginning of the book he has given us some important clues of what to expect. “There was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life” (2). This clue meant that he must not be an old man, an oil baron or railroad man, as I had expected. Still we do not know exactly how he became rich until page 133 when we learn that he had definitely made his money selling grain alcohol during prohibition. Also on page 2 we learn that Gatsby had “an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness.” I expected something good and beautiful but instead it turns out; he had made his money illegally with the only purpose being to impress a very superficial woman, the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan. The clues on page 2 had a lot more meaning after finishing the book then when I started reading the book.
There is a lot of suspense in the book on finding out who Gatsby really is and how he became so rich. The plot of the book by itself is a soap opera. I was surprised to read about the American ‘aristocracy’ being so influential in society. Their dislike of anyone outside of their crowd seemed very cruel. I was also surprised at how out-of-control life was in the 1920s. The people with money were very wild. Even though it was the time of Prohibition there was more than enough alcohol to go around. Their parties were wild; they were selfish and they did not care about others. In some ways they were a lot like people today who are
very self-centered and grab what they want instead of sharing. The lessons Fitzgerald taught in the book have not been taken seriously enough because the U.S. went through another boom that ended in a terrible bust.
The Great Gatsby reminds me of Vanity Fair by William Thackery because the plot has a lot of similarities. But the important part of both books is the history of the time the characters are placed. Vanity Fair is set in England so the English aristocracy parallels the American aristocracy in The Great Gatsby. Becky is like Gatsby in the way she thinks money will solve her problems and make her dreams come true. Both Becky and Gatsby made a fatal mistake when they fell in love. Becky is able to redeem herself (in my eyes) but Gatsby ends up dead. Gatsby does not have a chance to redeem himself because George Wilson blames his wife’s death on Gatsby and shoots Gatsby to death in Gatsby’s swimming pool. If George had met Gatsby in real life I had the feeling they were similar enough to be friends. They both seemed naively hopeful and innocent about life in the way they were both romantic dreamers. Their lifestyles and other parts of their character make a friendship impossible though.
The women Gatsby and George loved were both wrapped up with Tom. Daisy was married to Tom and Myrtle was his lover. This is very sad because Tom had the worst character of the whole group of major characters. He was arrogant and rigid. He was mean to the two women in his life. Daisy was not a very attractive character either but she had a vulnerability that a reader could recognize through Nick’s eyes. Ironically it was Daisy who killed Myrtle in a hit-and-run car accident while she was driving Gatsby’s car. Now Tom does protect Daisy by telling George that Gatsby killed Myrtle, but I think that Tom was not motivated by that. I think he wanted to hurt Gatsby so Gatsby could not have Daisy. This reflects the cruelty and meanness behind the wildly ‘happy’ parties that finally collapsed when the stock market crashed.
Fitzgerald, Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1925. New York, NY: Scribner, 2004. Print.
Trollope, Anthony. Vanity Fair. 1848. London, England: Penguin, 2003. Print.