A novel can be read literally or figuratively and people like me who are looking for a realistic representation of life tend to take things literally and often overlook broader implications.
My first time through, The Great Gatsby seemed clumsy and hyperbolic, and I was distracted by the way the author stretched the definition of first-person point of view. It felt like Fitzgerald was straining to impress with his wit and wordplay. But after reflection and discussion and research I reread the novel and the novel came in to deeper focus. The characters became archetypes and the plot their existential path, the themes timeless and vital.
A man's desire for feminine romantic love is personified in Gatsby's obsessive dream of reuniting with Daisy and the way it powers him through life. It's his prime motivation to strive and take risks and be tempted by unethical choices. There is an echo of The Odyssey in how Gatsby goes away to war and returns to her and observes her before claiming her. Daisy personifies a woman's existential choice of financial security over true love.
Tom exemplifies the spoiled, entitled, entrenched, careless wealthy. Jordan is the hanger-on, an enabler for Daisy, feeding off her power over Tom. Wolfshiem represents temptation, the dark path to riches, the cheater's option like today's athletes who use performance enhancing drugs. Myrtle, George--we've seen them before too.
Read the newspapers and you will see Gatsby and Daisy and Wolfie every day. Or sit in a mall or a restaurant and look around. Wolfshiem is there. Gatsby is there. Daisy is there. They are all there.
If you're a man and you can't see some Gatsby in yourself, and men in general, you need to look closer. Or maybe you've got some Wolfie in you. The same goes for women and Daisy.
TGG slices open the American apple so we can get a deeper look at ourselves.
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