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For the love of reading.....What is so great about The Great Gatsby?

Don't ask me where I got this copy because I made this cover myself. This book 'makeover' is still work in progress btw, but so far I like how my new DIY cover is turning out. I think I might 'make over' all my penguins copies (and I have a large number of them). Today we're talk about The Great Gatsby (in more than 1000 words so if you don't have the ability to read quickly I won't blaim you for skimming or wanting to skip the text altogether and just browse the photographs). If I were to sum up this novel in two sentences, I would rephrase Oscar Wilde's famous 'the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it' into something like this: 

"The best way to yield to temptation is to read great literature. To be seducted by art is not only pardonable, it is one of the greatest life's pleasures."

my goodreads review here

When people ask me what is so great about The Great Gatsby, I'm almost tempter to answer with - what isn’t? Seriously though, I can understand why someone might not like this book or why some simply don’t see it as a great work of literature. In fact, I can think of a number of reasons why people might positively dislike this novel. Lately, I've heard a lot of people  say they don't like this novel and honestly I can see why they fight feel they way. I won't discuss movie versions of this book because I haven't seen any yet. I know about them, but I haven't had the to watch them, so I can't be the judge of them. That being said, I must add that I think this novel is not the easiest one to transfer to the screen. It might seem like it is, the story seems (at first) pretty straigh-forward but there is a lot of mystery in this novel and to transfer its complexity to the screen it would take an immense amount of talent. Going back to our subject, the novel itself, I will examine a few aspects of this novel that people often feel the need to critize. 

To start with, the characters aren't exactly sympathetic, are they? In fact, there is a chronical lack of decent human beings in this book. Nick our supposedly 'objective narrator' is everything but that. He is highly critical and often quite judgemental, no matter what he says about the value of "reserving judgement". Nick so poetically defines the act of reserving judgements  as a matter of "  infinite hope" but he isn't exactly the most non- judgemental person, is he? The object of Jay's love, Daisy, is one of the most shallow heroines of all time. Even her Southern Belle charm is only about an inch deep. Compare her to Blanche from The Street Car Named Desire and you'll see what I mean. Daisy actually cries upon seeing beautiful clothes, she is moved deeply by expenssive things. I mean it doesn't get more material than this girl, at times she is so ridiciously attracted to money, she seems a parody yet there is a ring of truth about her, making this novel more a satire than a parody.

If what you're looking for in a work of literature are characters that will be your moral rolemodels, this is not a novel for you. This lack of moral characters actually seems a common trait in Fitzgerald’s writing. The protagonists of The Diamond As Big As The Ritz are kind of hm…. psychopaths? If you have read that short story, you will know what I'm taking about, it's really morbid, isn't it? The characters in his novel Tender Is The Night aren’t exactly saintly figures either. Quite often, his protagonists are people who selfishness is as massive as their personal wealth. The protagonists of The Great Gatsby are all guilty of a complete lack of empathy. The abundance of their egoism seems to be matched only by their bank accounts. One could argue that it is hard to feel for these type of characters and I can see why someone might want to take that point of view. At some point in the narrative, you will probably feel sick with actions of these rich people from the tweenties. Why should we even think about those idle rich ego-maniacs?

However, isn’t that the true writing genius? Does it not demonstrate the real talent of this author? To make us feel for people we would probably detest in real life? To make us, not only feel for them, but see ourselves in them, see our weakness in their weakness? Isn’t it writing genius to make us love tenderly someone as elusive as Gatsby, someone as elusive as the unreal dream he was chasing? It is not only on the emotional level that Gatsby moves us. It goes deeper than that. If you look closely, you will find that the narrative lacks pathos. Does it really aim at our feelings? Not in a direct way, no. This writer is too subtle and too clever to even attempt it-because there is a method to his madness. In fact, I sense a great deal of self-control in his writing, not just in the way characters are portrayed but in the way the story itself is told. To those who say that we're reading too much from this novel, that we're just attempting to be clever, that this novel isn't a great work of literature, I say that I must, respectfully, completely  disagree with them. This is not a novel about characterization, not in a basic way anyway. It portrays  not so much an individual, as much as a society- and it is not exactly a mere potrayal of the society of the time. What is all comes down too is mr. Gatsby himself.

The portrait of Gatsby isn’t exactly the most intimate one, is it? We get to see him through Nick’s eyes, perhaps in the same way we get to see Lord Jim through Marlow’s eyes. I will have to make an obvious reference and ask- isn’t Gatsby one of us? Isn’t he the best of us? Perhaps also the worst and the most naïve, but how much beauty there is in his innocence and his pursuit of love! He is a symbol and more than a symbol.  A tragic figure, slightly distant and wonderfully imperfect. Someone you can understand, if not admire. He is far from being perfect, but among all the materialistic characters, he shines like a beam of light. Ironical considering that Gatsby isn't exactly a moral vertical himself. He is a criminal and he got hold of his wealth in a very dishonest way. Who knows what acts (of violence even?) he might have commited in the name of his fatal dream? Is it what other characters fear about Jay, is it what makes them uneasy about them? No, it isn't. During Gatsby's fabulously wild and elaborative parties, people will discuss pleasure the notion that he might have killed a man. Gatsby is a flawed character, a hopeless romantic lost in his own dream, but even with this numerous flaws, he is morally superior to money obssesed society around him. What makes him seem 'fishy' to other might paradoxically be- his innocence. For there is innocence at the core of his being, of that we are remided over and over again in the course of the narrative.

Alright, enough about the characters. Some might see this novel as a love story and somehow I don’t see those readers enjoying this one. Personally, I don’t even see romance as a possible reading. There are, I’m sure, multiple ways to read The Great Gatsby. However, I must say that I just don’t see a romantic reading as a real possibility.  If you look at this book as a love story, it is a disaster. Gatsby is a pathetic loser and Daisy is a self-centred monster. This is almost an anti-romantic novel. Is there a single honest relationship between a man and a woman in this novel? Not that I can think of! Love seems to be forgotten in this one and it might be what gives The Great Gatsby its signature bittersweet taste. The sincerest relationship there is is the one between Gatsby and Nick, the narrator of the book. If you’re going to read something more from that relationship, that might actually make sense, but seeing this novel as a love story between Daisy and Gatsby. No, no, no! I have never read Nick as someone in love with Gatsby (in a sexual way) but I do sense love in their relationshop, so if someone was to elaborate on that, it might actually be an interesting reading. I don't see Jay returning those feeling, but it could be claimed there is a bit of homo erotism (if not homosexual love) on part of Nick. Certainly this is a novel that might be read in variety of ways, depeding on our mood and present life's views. I really feel like it this sense of mystery is one of its strong points. Just don't go see it as something belonging to the romance genre. It simply doesn't.

Let’s examine a few more arguments against this novel. I already explained why I think that the critique of its characters is misplaced, now I will talk about other possible shortcomings of this novel. I’ve heard complaints that The Great Gatsby is too short and that it ends abruptly.  I disagree with both. I think its length is perfect. After all, The Picture Of Dorian Gray is also kind of brief but we still consider it to be a masterpiece, don't we? Besides, isn't it vulgar to discuss the size of a work of art? As for the story, I think it flows very naturally. The narrative of The Great Gatsby is easy to follow. The story is well constructed and brillantly executed. As far as the depiction of the Jazz age goes, this novel is gold. It doesn’t toil at portraying the society, nor  does it lose itself in long descriptions. The Great Gatsby shows the spirit of the time with ease and effortlessness. Sometimes less is more.

 Does it end abruptly? That might be open to intepretation, but I would rather say it ends the way it is supposed to end. Its ending carries a profound message. Is happiness really as approachable and as accessible as we make ourselves believe? The intelligence says no, but our heart deceives us. This novel speaks volumes about what it is to be a human being. The Great Gatsby reveals the curses of this world. What more could one ask for in a novel? How is is that this novel isn’t perfect? We can dissect it and find many issues with it, but why should we do that, when we can look at it as what it is- an incredibly touching journey into the human soul?

“He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.” ― F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby


“There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams -- not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.” ― F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby

We all have our phantoms chasing us. Fantasies of old and new loves, the weight of present and past desires and plants. We all have a Daisy we lose our head for. We all create idols and bow to them- at some point of our lives. We’re all as ignorant as children- and infinitely less charming- in believing that this world is just waiting to make our dreams come true. We’re all as fragile as Gatsby is. What is so ingenious about Fitzgerald is that he shows us what it is to be human. What it means to be cursed with living in this world, that makes "pretty little fools" of us all, regardless of the gender. This novel shows, almost without even trying it, just how frustrating it is to be tramped in this world. If his characters are wealthy, it doesn’t mean they escape the curse of this world. Nobody escapes it. 

 The poor are often so tiresome in their jealousy of the rich that there is something refreshing about the nonchalance of Fitzgerald’s wealthy protagonists, but don't be mistaken, this writer  is no advocate of immortality and shallowness. It's just that his characters are as deviously charming as Lord Henry, the secuder of Dorian Gray. There is a lot of seducing in this novel as well. There is glam in it that is almost tangiable and something about the characters is rather intoxicating...while reading about them, you almost feel like you had one drink too many. Don’t deny it! You might hate them, but you want to look at them, like they were pretty birds displayed in a golden cage….and isn’t that what they are? Isn't that what the writer is trying to show us? 

Not merely that the money is a trap, but that the whole world is a trap and neither the rich nor the poor can escape it. Wealth is a comfort in many ways, let’s not be hypocrites, but in the end what it all means? Nothing! This writer balances between nothing and darkness to create a thing of beauty.  The fact his characters are moral scum just testifies about the immensity of his writing talent, for it must have took a lot of self-control to prevent such a novel from becoming a parady. If anything, it is a very intelligent satire. I happen to think it is even more than that, I see it as a complex novel that examines the ties between the individual and society. Fitzgerald really managed to create something exceptional with this novel. His writing is absolutely flawless and his style is, often, quite lyrical. The contrats between poetry and materialism in this novel is quite startling!  This writer seduces us with the ease of his glamour, and if we lose our hearts to him, we shouldn’t feel bad about it. To be seduced by art is the greatest of pleasures and possibly the only pardonable way to yield fully to temptation.


So, what is the best thing about this novel? The agonizing beautiful ending paragraph? The eternal promise and allure of achieving the American dream? The wonderful insight into human psyche and our never-ending capability to project our happiness? The hard lessons about the ugly side of humanity that we want to deny but we can’t? I don’t know, perhaps all of them and probably much more. Tell me, what is your favourite thing about The Great Gatsby? You know, I will never forget the first time I picked up The Great Gatsby. I’m not sure exactly how old I was, somewhere between age 11-13, I would say. The opening paragraph charmed me, but much to my dismay, I realized that I don’t understand a number of the words. This made the novel seem all the grander to me. The fact I was not at that time fully fluent in English added a sense of mystery to the words. Nowadays, this novel puzzles me in a ways that have nothing to do with the shortage of vocabulary. What is so great about The Great Gatsby? What isn't it? That last paragraph might quite possibly be the most hauntingly beautiful novel ending in the English laguage.

 “And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” ― F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby

To sum up, I see The Great Gatsby as a masterpiece. That is how I have always viewed it and that is how it is probably going to stay, because to me this novel is a true classic. It was Italo Calvino who said that a classic is a work of literature that never stops saying what it has to say ( Un classico è un libro che non ha mai finito di dire quel che ha da dire, Italo Calvino). The Great Gatsby is such a classic. Its message is still relevant, its warning just as meaningful as when it was first published. It is my favourite book by Fitzgerald, even I happen to think that Tender Is The Night is his most mature work, The Great Gatsby will always have a special place in my heart. I reread it every few years, that’s how much I love it. With so many amazing works of literature waiting to be read, that’s the best recommendation any novel can get, don’t you think? When a bookworm commits to one book, then it is either a case of a book with a strong sentimental value or a really fantastic read. In this case, for me it is both of these things.


  1. So nice! Thanks for sharing.

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  2. nice!

  3. Super post dear! I like it!

  4. looks great ^^

  5. Thank you for your review. This is still on my list of books to read. I've heard so many great things about the book and I can't wait to enjoy it :)
    Sauniya | Find Your Bliss ♡

    1. thank you for your comment. It really is a wonderful book.

  6. Wow Ivana, what a detailed review for a book, you make me feel bad for not reading ;)
    Have a great day my lovely

    1. don't feel bad:). I read beacuse I love it, it doesn't have to be everyone's cup of tea.

  7. Che bella la copertina che hai realizzato Ivana!
    Mi tantissimo piace l'idea di personalizzare i libri, soprattutto magari quelli che ti sono piaciuti di più!
    Quanto al "Grande Gatsby", non posso che sser d'accordo sulla tua analisi: ha senz'altro delle pecche ma nell'insieme rimane comunque una storia avvincente ed appassionate!
    Io l'ho letto per la prima volta qualche anno fa (quando è uscito il film) e devo dire che inaspettatamente mi è piaciuto davvero molto! :)

  8. The Great Gatsby is amazing, which is why it's amazing. It's definitely one of the things everybody should read. It goes beyond the art of literature. It absolutely mirrors life.
    Great job on your ongoing book cover dear! Can't wait to see the finished product of your diy <3 sure it would be stunning!

    love lots,

  9. Odličan post, jako mi se sviđa tvoj blog <3

  10. Hi Ivana! To be honest, I'm little ashamed that I have never read this classic novel, but I add it to the list of books that I would like to read immadiately. I have heard many good things about this book and looking at the language, in which it is written (i.e. - a beautiful English) and its content,about which you have mentioned here, I'm sure it's one of those books that you just have to read in your life, at least once. Thank you for your recommendation, dear Ivana :)

  11. I agree that the characters are very well built and the story is great to read. You wrote very cool review:)

  12. Great review dear, thanks for sharing! I have so many books on my list which I want to read and also this one.
    Have a nice weekend:)


  13. Ciao Ivana, non ho letto il libro, solo guardato il film. Che bella la copertina che hai realizzato! Baci, Valeria - Coco et La vie en rose FASHION & BEAUTY

  14. Excellent post (as always)!Thank you very much :)

  15. My friend.. sorry if I'm late for this answer. These are heavy days and I'm as usual a bit down in spirit. But I'll tell you lots of things. Oh, I loved your post! As always you're so sensible, so deep, so beautiful in thoughts and in art. <3 I loved this cover too! You're amazing!! If I'll write another book, I would like on of your wonderful paintings as cover!! Ti voglio bene amica mia! Tanto tanto! Bravissima!

  16. I love that you made your own book cover and your book reviews are the beast because you get so in depth and dissect all the aspects form the characters to the plot to the writing itself. It's true that those depicted in this book were the most relatable or likable but they were very compelling because of the way they were brought to life within the pages. I feel like I need to reread this book now :)

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Yes, there is something very compelling in the way characters are brought to life.

  17. Great Gatsby one of the classics which will never age, as love, money, success and crime will always be there. Is it a book about love - yes, it is. Is it a book about money - yes, it is. Is it a book about crime, yes, it is. But most of all, is it a book about success - yes, it is. However, Fitzgerald, a true master of words, tells us a story about a myth of success and myth of love and wealth. Nothing is straightforward and simple. Nothing is predictable. Every word matters and every sentence carries deep thoughts.And this is why Great Gatsby is such a great read. Beautiful cover :) . Cheers Margot :)

    1. thank you Margot. He is indeed a great writer and a master with words. He warns us about the danger of living a superficial life. I love what you said about every sentence carrying deep thoughts- I think it is really the case. Fitzegrald writing in this novel is very poetical and lyrical, but also at times economic- he doesn't explain things, he just shows them to us and leave it to us to make our own conclusions.

      Can you leave me a link to your blog, I always struggle to find it.

    2. :)
      thank you :)

  18. Ciao Ivana..davvero bello!buon week-end <3

  19. I feel bad as I've neither red the book or seen any of the movies! It really is a classic, although like you said there are some things people dislike about it I still feel that it is one of those books I should read, as it's so well known!

    Hope you're having a fantastic week :)

    Away From The Blue Blog

  20. The whole title thing seems sort of braggy to me. Perhaps if it was called The OK Gatsby I might get on board. Now on the other hand, giving into temptation I can fully get behind :)

    All Things Bright and Lovely

    1. ha ha ha...well, in the end he wasn't so great:) so maybe he is an OK Gatsby after all.

  21. Thanks darling :D

    Ohn, you always have the most inspirational posts. Thanks :D

    NEW PERSONAL POST | What’s On My Daily Bag.
    InstagramFacebook Oficial PageMiguel Gouveia / Blog Pieces Of Me :D

  22. I read this as a kid, I really like it. Have yet to see the movie adaptation though. I think it's filled with wonderful thoughts. I should re=read it sometime, been a while. Love the Oscar Wilde quote as well. I hope you have a great day doll. Happy weekend x

    1. it must have been interesting read it as a kid!

  23. Hi sweetie! Honestly i think need to start reading a little more. I love books and read is a pleasure!
    Have a great weekend! xx
    Coco and Jeans by Marisa x My Instagram x My Bloglovin

  24. Never heard of a cover makeover before but I simply loved the idea :)

  25. OMG! that is such a clever idea, to make your own bookcover, Ivana. I need to reread the book. Gotta dash, girl.

  26. è stupendo, buon weekend :)

    Kisses, DadieB. ~

  27. What a brilliant analysis, dear! I read the Gatsby 3 or 4 years and I liked it as much as you do. It is a masterpiece. Thank you for your very interesting interpretations.
    xyxy, Nadine

    1. thank you Nadine, always a pleasure to hear you opinion.

  28. Dear Ivana, I love your posts! I read The Great Gatsby at my first university degree, long ago :) and at the time I saw it or felt it like a romantic novel. Then I read it many years later, and I did see it like you said, an anti-romantic book. And that Daisy is very shallow. And that Gatsby was very naive. His methods to earn money were not OK for moral standards, but he was innocent in his heart. We can for sure dig and find something from Nick to him, but that is speculation. The same as Great Expectations, one of my final exam's topic, and you find whole books talking about "homo-feeling". But no, I think that two men or women can be friends and not lovers, but in our world now people dig to find the nature of love. Homo or friendship, it doesn't matter, love is love. Well, it's sad to say, but this is such a current, timeless book - I meant sad, because we do find many Daisies in our world. For that, I live two quotes. "Rich people live like if they were broke. Broke people live as if they were rich". And "people buy things they don't need, with money they don't have to show to people who don't care". I don't like very much people who are shallow and only live to show off, and show off things they can't afford to take pictures to pretend they are very rich. Why that??? What do they gain with that? But having said that, Daisy and these other people I mentioned, are products of marketing and our "modern" society. Where consumption is all. And if you don't wear the latest expensive fashion you are such a sad figure. It happens that I was and am very lucky in my life, but I don't take it for granted. And I am grateful to my situation, BUT I am starting a new journey, to contribute to less consumption. It's not easy, but I want to. We really don't need all we buy. Daisy is a good example of that, you see, decades after the book was released. We still have shallow consumerists Daisies around! People who read some posts that say "my mother is ill at the hospital: and the comments are "I love your boots, they are so great!" Amaaaaaazing post and thoughts, dear Ivana! Hope you have a great weekend!

    1. thank you Denise. It was exactly the same with me, as I got older and more mature I was more able to appreciate it on a whole new level. There are many girls like Daisy in this world, that's true...and this book is very relevant.

  29. I absolutely love this book! We read it in high school and I totally fell for it back then. I even catch myself quoting from it now and then :) I must say that from the first I found it really enjoyable to read and have reread it twice since school.
    I still think the ending is quite tragic in a way, although inevitable...
    Christina ♥


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All your comments mean a lot to me, even the criticism. Naravno da mi puno znači što ste uzeli vrijeme da nešto napišete, pa makar to bila i kritika. Per me le vostre parole sono sempre preziose anche quando si tratta di critiche.

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