Andrew J. Michaels
26 June 2017
As the title implies, the character of Gatsby is great. He is not just a great Gatsby, but arguably the greatest Gatsby. But is Gary Gatsby so great? Or did Scott F. Fitzgerald use the book to say that, no, Gatsby isn’t great?
In this book report, I will be exploring that question.
But first, let’s think about what the word “gatsby” has come to mean in popular parlance. When rappers like Lil Wayne and Tyga, today’s poets, refer to a “gat,” they use it to mean a gun. Guns are powerful, but I think we can all agree that guns are bad. Unless you think they’re good, but even then consider the way that guns can do bad things to good people: getting shot is something that nobody enjoys.
This is something Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Gatsby, and even Lil Wayne can agree on.
In each case, the biggest thing to consider is what is and what isn’t great. At the beginning of the movie Iron Man, Tony Stark says it’s great to be both feared and respected. But at the end of the movie, he decides to be respected and not feared by having his awesome weapon suit. The Great Gatsby was also feared: feared by his family, his neighbors, his friends, and even his lovers.
This was not great, but there are plenty of ways in which Gary Gatsby was pretty great for somebody living in the 1920's.
For instance, when you read the novel you really get the impression that he did not have polio. This was no small feat at the time, when everybody had polio, alcoholism, or both. Also, not to be anti-Semitic or anything like that, but at the time being Jewish was not considered great. The fact that Gatsby does not seem to be Jewish is probably a good thing, given the circumstances of the time.
In fact, one needs to ask if Mr. Fitzgerald was commenting on the pervasive anti-Semitism of the time. And that’s a question we may not be able to answer.
The cover of the book you gave us features a woman’s face crying in the sky. Great men, even in the 1920's, probably aren’t sexist enough to make women cry. Even if they were, it’s possible that Scotty Fitzgerald was trying to criticize that tendency by showing a woman crying in the sky in a way that suggests, shockingly, that making women cry is a bad thing.
Because it is.
Ultimately, the time I spent reading The Great Gatsby tells me that while Gary may not have always been a Great Gatsby, he was always a good Gatsby, and that’s what matters.