Like many American students, I first read The Great Gatsby when I was in tenth grade. I hated it… but I had a crush on my teacher and decided that her enthusiasm wasn’t for naught. The day we took the test on the book and handed it back in, I went to the library and took out another copy, this time to pay full attention to.
When I reread it I was astonished by the beautiful language. Often Fitzgerald employs simple methods like alliteration, but it seems profound on the page because the story Is so compelling and the words are a writer’s dreamsicle.
It is a story that changes with age. Now I can see, Daisy wasn’t such a fool, herself. She was a modern girl, just as conniving as her husband, and a terrible mother who probably wasn’t really interested in being a mother in the first place, but society forced it’s hand. In the 1910’s, that’s what you did. You married for security, you had babies. Daisy is, to use Fitzgerald’s words, an angry diamond. There are layers to her frivolity. I have read this novel about six times now, and it has changed form every time.
I first read this book before my feminist awakening. Looking back, I was always an intersectional feminist, but didn’t have the words or the personal education to understand this about myself. In recent readings, I have been aware of Fitzgerald’s plagiarism of Zelda Sayre, his wife. I have been aware of the lack of characters of color (although there are theories that Gatsby is black). I have been aware of the women as side characters to further the plot (principally Jordan and Myrtle). Yet I have also become aware of Nick Carraway’s bisexuality.
After partying with Tom, Myrtle, Catherine, and a photographer and his wife, drinking alcohol for the second time in his life, Nick comes to on the photog’s bed. The artist is sitting in his underwear wrapped in a sheet, a post-sex viewing of his pictures is underway. I always felt, too, that Nick had a little bit of a crush on James Gatz, the titular great one who we all come to know little by little, yet not at all, with each silent rereading.
And then there are the lies. Tom says that Daisy is catholic (she isn’t) and thereby does not believe in divorce. Jordan Baker is described by our narrator as “incurably dishonest” (58). But the biggest lie of all is told by the presumably most honest person, Mr. Carraway (154). He says he never approved of Gatsby… yet he did. He approved of him, believed in his swirly twirly mix of lies and half-truths. He arranged meetings for and with Gatsby. He watched him at night from the darkness of his own porch, and became consumed with him.