Gatsby. A name with a strange, sophisticated yet clean sonority; pronounced as if each letter that comes out of one’s mouth is slowed down by the refined golden coat, rubbed against the lips. Gatsby. The yellow life embedded in a green light that alters the pure gold. Gatsby. Money, dreams, The Roaring 20s, massive, absurd parties, hundreds of people, strangers, all together but all hiding from each other underneath a beautifully polished facade. Yes, we are all familiar with the distinct elements that make The Great Gatsby so great indeed, but when I hear this name the first thing I feel is a profound sadness.
The first time we hear about Gatsby, he is presented like some kind of legend that some have heard about, other haven’t, but even among the ones who know his name there are some who have never seen him. And again, the ones who know how he looks like, don’t really know anything more about him than rumors, rumors, rumors. Now, if we were to stick around just enough to hear about Gatsby, we only see him as this extremely rich guy wrapped up in thick layers of golden mystery. These masks aren’t such a big problem, since everybody wears them. The problem is that not everyone at Jay Gatsby’s parties has something explicit to hide. They seem to be shallow people with carefree and careless lives, and this very carelessness is more to be feared than even death.
I know the general idea of Jay is that of an antihero, but I’ve never seen him this way. I just perceive him as a victim of the American Dream, after which he wasn’t, in the first place. If we think about it, of all those hundreds of wealthy, interesting people at his parties, he was the only one who had a dream different than the classical American Dream – he wanted true love. So a different perspective on Jay could be the one of a soul with a too profound sensitivity for the superficial world he got lost in. But, as we see in the beginning of the book, he “turned out all right at the end”. This makes me think of him as the only one who remained true to himself till the end, believing in the fairy-tale he tried so hard to bring to life through the means of the American Dream: “these reveries […] were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.” Wealth and gold didn’t represent his ultimate goal. That’s how the American Dream became Gatsby’s facade disguising his real dream – the love story he believed could save him. After all, not his, but Daisy’s voice was “full of money”.
Of course, we cannot talk about the innocence of Jay, because nobody in this book (or in real life) is a saint. He did lie about his past, under the pressure of shame, or about his dubious ways that turned him rich, but we have to acknowledge that he went from nothing to everything on his own, just to please a woman who he thought he loved. Only after we see the true face of Daisy, at the end of the book, we realise that even love was fake and the only truth that remained for Gatsby was the ardent idea of love. He created himself from scratch and brought his fantasy to life, but all his life turned out to be exactly that – a fantasy. Yes, this is miserable enough, but for me the most heart-breaking moment was when he ended up with only two people on his side, from all those hundreds of interesting people at the parties, always coming, always going.
I too am on his side, as you’ve probably already figured. I empathise with this great sorrow in the story of the Great Gatsby, sorrow that can be seen only if you look closely at all the gold and notice a faded green light flickering, crawling inside of it, just underneath the surface.