The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald This is another example of a novel that I didn't think I was going to enjoy but did. I found that even after having seen both film versions I could still get involved in the book.
Something that has caught my attention is how much Jim Burden from My Antonia and Nick Carraway are similar. Both are Mid-West boys, which gives them a sense of earthiness, also they have that insightfulness that I saw in Jim. Both Fitzgerald and Cather use these characters as objective narrators, by creating likeable young men. Both men seem just a little out of place in their surroundings but still are drawn to the mystic of the Great Plains. Jim and Nick are an everyman, balanced between the working class and the rich, able to put both feet on either side but most comfortable sitting "on the fence"ÃÂ.
Both seem to have a fascination with another person that they hold up on a pedestal. For Jim that is Antoina, for Nick it is Jay Gatsby. Nick admires Gatsby's ease and humility. He senses that Gatsby isn't just a shallow rich socialite when Gatsby allows him to see him when he is vulnerable. When Gatsby first sees Daisy after their long absence, Nick sees how nervous Jay is. While Nick doesn't fully understand Jay's actions, he is endeared to him for showing himself "beneath the skin"ÃÂ.
Daisy's character is maddening! She seems to have more opportunity to make a life for herself than Edna in The Awakening. First, the social morals in the 1920's and of Long Island seem to have allowed for wives leaving their husbands. Daisy clearly accepts her fate in Louisville when she decides to quit waiting for Jay and marry Tom. She decides or realizes that if she can't marry for love, she will create a safe world to live in, i.e. money. She is even aware of her husband's infidelities yet remains. I can only guess her flightiness is part of the creation of a world that she pretends to live in to deal with her fate. One place in the novel Daisy shows us that she is does have depth and thought when she tell Nick about having a daughter, she says, "I hope she'll be a fool-that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool"ÃÂ(17). We realize early on that Daisy is tossed into this world and is fumbling along and getting by the best she can. It is really no wonder, with women like Edna and Daisy as representatives, that women at the turn of the century were often diagnosed as hysterical or mad when the options are so limited.
One unanswered question I have is why did Tom choose Myrtle as a mistress? Why was he "slumming it"ÃÂ when he probably had the pick of the litter? Myrtle also seemed to slip into the society quite well as we could see when they are entertaining at the apartment. How did that relationship come to be? Having seen both films before reading the novel did not disappoint me. Perhaps because it is an easier novel to adapt to the scene that I felt that both the Robert Redford version and the Mira Sorvino version were faithful to the book. Both films accomplished conveying Fitzgerald's message of excess, lack of human dignity, and irresponsibility. The only characterization that didn't sit well with me was Daisy's overly breathlessness that both Sorvino and Mia Farrow's portrayals impart. Nick does comment on how breath her voice is but the actors interpretation is too annoying, especially Farrow's. Farrow's Daisy almost comes across as crazy where as Sorvino's is more grounded, closer to Fitzgerald's.