Happy 90th birthday, 'Great Gatsby,' you old sport. Here's everything you taught us.
Like so many, I fell in love with The Great Gatsby in high school. I loved Gatsby’s torrid obsession with Daisy. I loved Daisy’s lush life and her gorgeous selfishness. I loved the way Nick narrates the story, and how he tries not to be judgmental, but he totally is. I loved how Fitzgerald describes a crying woman’s mascara-streaked cheeks as her “sing[ing] the notes on her face.” I loved all of it, every tragically beautiful word.
The Great Gatsby, one of the most well-known classic works in the western literary canon, has been a staple in every high school classroom, every library, and every bookshelf. Its depth, both in terms of theme and style, has been inescapable —there have even been several film adaptations, some more successful than others. Gatsby, above all, has proven itself to be such a smart book, a book that will forever resonate with us and teach us endless life lessons.
One of those lessons? Romanticizing people can be dangerous.
We fall in love with people because we’re human and want other humans to want us and make us feel adored. And when those humans fail to meet our expectations, sometimes we pretend they do. Jay Gatsby romanticized his relationship with Daisy, truly believing she was the girl he loved when he was younger. Idealizing her, he faces disappointment when Daisy realizes she loves both Gatsby and her boorish husband, Tom. And this, sadly, leads to Gatsby’s downfall.
Gatsby taught me that in order to be close to someone, to really know and accept someone for who they are, we need to take them off the pedestal we might place them on in our minds and realize that they are human just like the rest of us. It’s okay to make mistakes and not live up to someone else’s expectations for you, because if someone truly loves you, they’ll take you flaws and all.
You can’t turn back time, old sport
Gatsby learns the hard way: physics doesn’t lend itself to time travel. Although Gatsby tries to recreate the past, Daisy ultimately is unwilling to abandon her family and run away with him. And this can be super applicable to our lives too. Stop chasing the past, and always, always be looking to the future.
Oh, and materialism is never a good habit
Gatsby’s character is quite the consumerist. He purchases a huge, fancy-fancy house, expensive clothing and cars, and throws lavish over-the-top parties JUST to win Daisy over. Although we learn Daisy is just as bad as Gatsby (i.e. when she drools over Gatsby’s beautiful shirts), ultimately we know that money really can’t buy you love. In fact, mo’ money, mo’ problems (as they say).
So, happy birthday Great Gatsby. Thank you for your lovely words, and your infinite wisdom.