One of the most enduring novels of American fictionist F. Scott Fitzgerald is “The Great Gatsby“. Many contemporary audiences may associate this work with Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in a recent film adaptation of the book. But even before it was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster, “The Great Gatsby” has been generally regarded as one of the best American novels to date.
First published in 1925 to very limited success, “The Great Gatsby” is an exploration of the excesses of the rich, the folly of youth, and the author’s general cynicism about the environment he was in at the time he was writing the novel. Set in the 1920s, the novel mirrors the prevailing conditions of the day, including an unprecedented growth in the economy, the lavish parties held by the affluent, as well as the wealth acquired by a few through organized crimes.
The novel follows the story of Nick Caraway, a Yale-educated man from the Midwest and a World War I veteran who finds himself pushed into the immediate environment of a certain Jay Gatsby, a millionaire young man whose wealth comes from dubious means. As he gets integrated into the high-rolling lifestyle of the uber-rich, Nick becomes witness to the gradual deterioration of relationships around him that ultimately culminates in tragedy. Thereafter, he leaves the East Coast for the Midwest where he came from, sodden and jaded, and perhaps disillusioned by it all.
The beauty of the literature on The Great Gatsby lies in its masterful exploration of the subject of decadence. In the novel, most of the characters lead a lavish lifestyle and are in fact motivated by the sheer desire to acquire more wealth, with the least disregard to how this may impact other people.
Closely related to decadence is Fitzgerald’s analysis of class differences in society. In the book, there is constant conflict between the establishment and those seeking to alter the status quo. The tragic ending speaks of a breakdown of sorts of the generally rigid class relations, highlighting the introduction of a new economic system.
Ninety years since it first saw the light of day, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” remains as influential and enduring as it did back in the day.