Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fitzgerald's Characters........

Fitzgerald’s eloquence of writing is unsurpassed. His mastery of words on paper are equivalent to Renoir’s mastery of light on canvas. One can be engaged in foretelling the next scene and then it is laid bare in the most artful way. It could not exist or be written in any other way by any other person.

A Look at the Characters……..

Nick Carroway: A oddity in the sense that he is a man who reserves judgment and therefore can see more clearly into peoples motives, desires and insecurities. “I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores.” He is from the mid-west. He is a sensible guy not prone to the fancies of the rich but is able to mingle in their presence without feeling inferior. Nick is well educated and is a bonds trader at a large firm in New York. He becomes a New York denizen for the excitement and vitality that life will bring. Nick dipsticks into the lives of Gatsby, Tom and Daisy by accompany them on journeys most would not I.e. traveling with Tom as he goes to visit his mistress. He hangs out all night with a ragtag crew passing a bottle, taking in the different personalities and situations until Tom’s mistress Myrtle gets her nose busted. Some of Nick’s best descriptions are of Tom Buchanan. “There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind.”

Tom Buchanan is described as a strapping dark and handsome man from a wealthy family. A man who can carry off a riding suit without looking ridiculous. He is well educated, cultured and worldly. He has the way of the wealthy, feeling comfortable to spout off details of this or that which having nothing to do with the conversation at hand. “Have you read ‘The Rise of the Colored Empires’ , by this man Goddard? Well, these books are all scientific. This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.” Another time, he informatively tells his company that he has read that the earth is heating up; the sun is getting hotter (hmmm).
Tom has the means to indulge his whims. He has a mansion, an appropriate wife, his first child, a mistress and believes that all of these things are fitting of a man of his stature. He goes slumming with his mistress and then goes home to socialize with the upper echelon who wouldn’t even contemplate giving his mistress the dignity of a disgusted grunt. When he discovers his wife’s indiscretion with Gatsby, his world is momentarily cracked. “Things get out of order: Self control…I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that’s the idea you can count me out…Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white. Flushed with his impassioned gibberish, he saw himself standing alone on the last barrier of civilization.”
In the end, by sheer magnetism and the unequivocal belief that he is superior to Gatsby in every way possible he takes control of his indulgent childish wife.
Daisy is the epitome of the wealthy society woman of the 1920’s. She purposefully appears to be in a constant daydream and says ridiculous things only someone of her station could get away with. I can imagine a dust soaked Okie saying “Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year then miss it?” She is described as intentionally speaking in a soft whisper so those around her would have to lean in. She knows of her husbands affair and talks about it like she’s retelling the details of an afternoon picnic. She has her brief affair with Gatsby and then the tragic accident. After, seemingly without regret, she scuttles back into her safe glided cocoon, needing Tom to take control and leaving the carnage behind for others.

Jay Gatsby, handsome and mysterious comes off in a lot of ways as a bore. Fitzgerald over emphasizes Gatsby’s careful self programming, his ardent self discipline to be someone he is not. Gatsby’s “I say Ol’ Chap” umpteen times, leaves one saying, “I’ll Ol’ Chap you in a minute!!” He seems to use it even more as his façade crumbles, desperately grabbing onto those so carefully learned expressions and affectations. He is almost robotic in his descriptions of his past as though he is reading the information off a mental cue card. Nick describes his stories as “threadbare”, again Fitzgerald precision. “I talked with him perhaps half a dozen times in the past month and found, to my disappointment, that he had little to say.” And, it continues that way throughout the book. Fitzgerald describes his past in a narrative style; it isn’t told by Gatsby himself. His obsession with Daisy is more about himself than of any real love for her. He is from a poor simple background. “His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people-his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself.”
It is suggested that his fortune came from scandalous business (possibly bootlegging). He has no real friends and maybe I’m way off but he seems to be a bit sociopathic in his interpretations of the world and his inability to connect with people in a genuine way. After the tragic accident, which is quite brutal, he is only concerned whether he gets his prize. He is at that point pathetic, sniveling, desperate and entirely delusional. He is a sad character and maybe embodies Fitzgerald’s rise and fall within high society in the form of a person, Jay Gatsby.


Jenny said...

I love these types of lists (100 best books, etc.) I look forward to your reviews!

Padfoot and Prongs - Good Books Inc. said...

What an excellent book!! And we love your site...this is a fantastic idea! Although...we prefer the reader's choice of 100 best novels...but the board's list is still great!