“boats against the current”

The title is a quote from The Great Gatsby, as I am sure you well know! I suppose that my first post should be one of those tedious introductory posts in which I tell you about myself and try to sound interesting. But, I have never been one for rules and therefore I shall begin as I mean to go on, old sport.

When I was reading The Great Gatsby the last time – which is in fact actually the fourth or fifth – I stumbled across an interview with Baz Luhrmann about his 2013 film of this irreplaceable American classic. He refers to The Great Gatsby as a ‘great, tragic love story’. I heartily disagree.

I feel that when The Great Gatsby is portrayed as a love story it loses so much of its wonder.

Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film tried very hard to make it a love story – even going so far as to change parts of the story to fit his vision – and whilst, as a film, it has its merits it just fails to fully capture the true essence of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novella.

I believe that The Great Gatsby was never supposed to be seen as a love story and that Fitzgerald simply used the background of a love affair in order to represent the collapse of the American Dream – but then, maybe I think too much.

There is however, evidence in my favour. Fitzgerald uses Gatsby’s constant desire to gain wealth and, in turn, Daisy as a way of talking about the American people as a whole. This constant desire for wealth is a metaphor that runs throughout the book in everything from Nick Carraway’s excitement about joining the ‘bond business’ – about which he says ‘everybody I knew was in the bond business’, such a throwaway line tells us a lot about the America that Fitzgerald was trying to convey – to Gatsby’s entire life, and in fact, his whole existence.

This is further supported by the fact that Jay Gatsby completely epitomises the American Dream. The belief that absolutely anyone can do absolutely anything if they work for it, even is they started as ‘Mr. Nobody from Nowhere’. He goes from James Gatz, from the Midwest with poor parents and no prospects to Jay Gatsby, man of the world with more money than anyone could possibly need. Most importantly, he achieves this entirely off his own back.

BUT… in contrast to this, he also exemplifies the failings of the American Dream. Jay Gatsby earns his fortune through organised crime and illegal alcohol. Is this really the American Dream? To be so desperate to be so disgustingly rich as to lose all of one’s morals in the process?