Monday, May 13, 2013

Watching The Great Gatsby

I've been thinking about The Great Gatsby. For me it's one of those novels that is beautifully written, achingly so, but is full of characters I dislike. Curiously enough, I love Gatsby--who doesn't love a man in love?--but everyone else? Bah.

It was Daisy Buchanan, in particular, who always bothered me. She picked a brute, she stayed with the brute. She was childish, haughty, flighty, empty, vacuous, and totally undeserving of the love Gatsby reserved for her. This isn't terribly unusual for me, I tend to pick apart the heroines of novels, in turns empathizing and scorning their actions. It probably started with Calico Captive, the wonderful Elizabeth George Spears young adult novel that saw the heroine leave a glittering life in Montreal to return to be a minister's wife on the New England frontier. Leave the furs, the parties, the jewels, the dashing young frenchman to return to plain-spun and...I dunno, milking? Why? And Jane Eyre? Don't get me started on that simpering, spineless, woman-child. Perhaps I was an adult when I realized these characters shouldn't be forced to compare themselves with modern women, but it would always be too late for poor, poor Jane Eyre.

Gatsby moved heaven, earth, and a million gallons of liquor, to create himself and find Daisy. What did Daisy ever do, besides walk around with a voice full of money? A friend leaned over after watching The Great Gatsby, and confessed her dislike of Daisy. Both of us, half in love with Gatsby, jealous of a woman made up of white clothes and type on a page, who didn't deserve his devotion. When you get right down to it, it's just a literary case of Taylor Swift's You Belong With Me.

The film wasn't good, either, which is a shame. If Baz Luhrman is going to direct The Great Gatsby, you expect the first half of the book, with its crazy parties and drunken days to overwhelm you, crush you with opulence and waste. It would be necessary, considering the second half is the implosion of it all, to balance the highs with the destruction, and that didn't happen.

I did, however, feel something for Daisy for the first time. Carey Mulligan's performance is lovely, full of regret and longing, for the life she didn't choose. Age lends you some forgiveness for such characters, knowing that you, too, have made decisions and must live with the ramifications, whether they fit or not. But there's Nick Carraway, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, who sharpens the finest point when he says, "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." And you realize Fitzgerald also had mixed feelings about Daisy and her class--his class--who ruined lives that were not theirs to ruin. The tale has forever left me with a tiny hole in my heart for Gatsby, who was, after all, worth the whole damn bunch put together.


Gretchen Alice said...

This is my favorite version of The Great Gatsby:

jorjalea said...

I watched it this weekend and didn't care for it much either... Although, I have thought about it several times since seeing it... and so it must've had some impact on me.

Heather O. said...

YOU DON'T LIKE JANE EYRE?? Oh sister, we might have to break up over this.

But I'm with you about Daisy. She is one that is hard to like. I just finished Thomas Hardy's "Return of the Native", and while Eustacia Vye isn't as bad as Daisy, boy howdy you do wonder how not one but two men fall in love with her. It's also a sad commentary about men, as well. Wasn't there a nice, happy, normal girl for Gatsby somewhere, somebody who would love him without the money? Everybody is saying that nice guys finish last, but it seems that often, nice girls finish last, too, or at least are completely overlooked.

EXCEPT FOR JANE EYRE, who is nice and simple and loves Rochester even when he loses his eyes and a hand. Because she's super cool like that.

Emily said...

Thank you for your review of the movie. I always value your opinion...far more than the ones I read anywhere else. Seeing the movie trailers makes me want to read the book again. Perhaps I'll do just that and see if my opinion of Daisy changes.

Emily Foley said...

Oh my goodness, I had the exact same thoughts, though not worded nearly so eloquently. I called Daisy a stupid fool of a girl in my post but vacuous, flighty, empty... Much more apropos. Love Gatsby. But I also really liked the movie. I started reading the book over the weekend and haven't finished and now I'm not sure I want to.

Lindsey Johnson said...

I'm going to see it now because my curiosity is piqued. The Great Gatsby has always been one of my favorites for the same reasons as you listed.

But I have to say that I will always love Jane Eyre. Favorite heroine of all time! Totally disagree with you there, my friend.

Mary said...

Jane Eyre = caca

Emlyn said...

LOVE Calico Captive! I'm going to read THAT again and then Great Gatsby again.

Bridget said...

My sister and I have been saying that about Miriam Willard from Calico Captive for YEARS. Pierre forever.