The Great Gatsby is perhaps one of the most famous classic American novel, which has been told to be representative of the U.S. society in the 1920s. Yes, of course it is. And it is also representative of a particular (critic?) idea of being American and what to be American means: that is to be “the Great one,” the one with a chosen and manifest destiny to follow…But I’m not gonna talk about that.
I’m gonna talk about what else the book is about. It’s about love and the idea of love. It’s about identity. It’s about changing in life, it’s about looking at the past and having regrets. In this sense, the book is truly talking about humankind, because everyone once in his/her life has felt those feelings.
Now, BASICALLY the plot is the following: a man of poor origins falls in love with a woman, much more richer than him. He basically doesn’t feel up to being with her, because of the social differences between them. As a consequence, he creates a new identity for himself in order to be considered as a right man for her. But lies are not good means in love, and eventually everyone discovers he is not what he claims to be.
My point is: can you truly say to be in love with someone, if you don’t know who that someone really is? If you build a relationship on the ideas you have of yourselves, can you really claim to be in love with someone real?
Maybe the answer is already clear. Maybe it isn’t. But, what is really great of this book is the irony used by the author to talk about delusion and illusion, to talk about dreams, and broken dreams, to talk about the past and the regrets looking at it. You can’t avoid smiling most of the time while reading it and you almost have the feeling that the narrating voice looking at the past just thought it was all a ridiculous story while writing it: it was just ridiculous for the “great Gatsby” to lose everything for a woman. But let’s be clear, it could also be the reverse: it could be ridiculous for a woman too to lose everything for a man. It’s crazy.
The Great Gatsby, then, in the attempt to follow the impossible, which is being someone he is not and willing to be loved by someone who doesn’t love him, is like Don Quixote fighting against the windmills. So that is the best thing we can learn from Fitzgerald: to love is a great thing, but to become crazy for love is just ridiculous. Although you can have fun in the meantime, but it never ends well, especially for the crazy one. Never look at the past with regrets, just enjoy the good memories, since running after the past is just as ridiculous as running after someone in order to be loved. It’s just something that happens, never something you create. But I truly enjoyed this battle against the windmills.