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The Great Gatsby

gatsbyI read The Great Gatsby in high school and it was OK.  It’s interesting what some years (and I’m not talking about how many!) can do to your perspective because I just finished reading it again and I loved it.  I think the beauty of the book, and the sadness of the story, are wasted on most high school students.  The future still looms far in front of them, full of opportunity and time and chances.  It doesn’t elude them, it’s still in front of them, still something to reach for and achieve.  There is no melancholy yet for their youth, for the chance to be young again and make different choices, to set the path right.

Yet in spite of all that the characters have been through, as jaded as they should be, I was struck in some ways by their innocence.   Gatsby’s unwavering belief in his love for Daisy and its ability to overcome all other circumstances reminds me of the hopefulness that exists in the young.  It’s just that they don’t have any reason to believe differently yet, and Gatsby does.  Even Daisy’s heartlessness and cruelty is wrapped in its own kind of confusion and innocence.  It’s not like she means to ruin anyone’s life…

Some of my favorite moments…

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” 

Not only shouldn’t we judge Gatsby, but we shouldn’t judge Daisy, or Tom, or any of them.  Because there are all kinds of advantages, not all of them monetary, which impact the way people behave.  It reminds me of a conversation I recently had with my kids about my son’s frustration with what he perceives as rampant apathy among some of his classmates – remember kid, you don’t know what their life is like, or what yours would be like if you were them…

And so heartbreaking:

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” 

‘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.’

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5 thoughts on “The Great Gatsby

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