Tonawanda News


May 19, 2013

Fitzgerald's 'Gatsby' a ceaseless classic


Tonawanda News — If you prefer, change the imagery to fit the Lehman Brothers narrative. It works just as well.

I was most interested in seeing the movie to determine what kind of “great” Gatsby was portrayed as. Was he great in the literal sense of the word? If that had been the case it would have been a real shame. 

Gatsby is great in many respects — a self-made millionaire whose outrageous ambitions are made real by his own sheer force of will. 

But the title is really sardonic. Gatsby is a vessel for ambition, a dream existing in a world where fake people don’t possess the ability to discern between the unlimited heights of a cloudless blue sky and solid ground. Gatsby lives in — he creates — a universe unto itself where the only sin is a life not lived sufficiently large.

Daisy is a clueless wanderer who, thanks to her millions, has never had to answer for actions. She and her husband Tom are, as the book’s narrator Nick adeptly points out, “careless people.” She’s Kim Kardashian minus the sex tape.

Even the erstwhile Nick, Gatsby’s neighbor of humble means has a modern day counterpart. Like the sheepish narrators that pass for a working press corps today, Nick sets out to objectively tell a story but quickly finds it’s more fun to be one of your own characters.

Luhrmann’s film isn’t this harsh on Fitzgerald’s characters. In truth, to call Gatsby and his band of brothers hedonists is only partly correct.

They are victims of their own cavalier caviar lifestyles. But intertwined in that morass of amoral indefatigable individuals is the story of American idealism. We value the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps narrative perhaps more than any available to men. It is a mark of respectability when an American stands proudly atop the mountain he’s created out of meager molehills. 

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