It all started with a commercial in a movie theater.
I had gone to the local theater to see 42, and I was waiting for the film to begin. A commercial began about this movie The Great Gatsby, a Baz Luhrmann adaptation of the classic novel. After watching this commercial, knowing absolutely nothing about the movie (or the book), I decided that I wanted to see it. So, in my month of preparation, I read the book twice, listened to the soundtrack, and watched the trailers a countless number of times. Somewhere along the line, I fell in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece.
When I first read this book, I had absolutely no clue what I was getting myself into. I have a tendency to take my love for books, movies, and music to obsessive levels, and this was no exception. I immersed myself into Fitzgerald's fabulously flawed world of wealth, lavish parties, jazz music, and men in pink suits. In June, I created a Weebly website outlining the general analysis of the book out of sheer desire to study Gatsby further.
What is it about The Great Gatsby that makes it so charming? How has a book written in the early 1920s withstood the trials of time nearly 90 years in the making?
One simple answer: its ideas, beautifully universal, have applied to the many generations that have read it since its publication in 1925.
All astounding works of literature provide clarity to the complexities of humanity. They leave an impression in the minds of readers for years to come. In my last post, I implicitly stated that books teach us lessons. The Great Gatsby demonstrates a powerful message about the American dream and the corruption of hopes due in part to materialism and the empty pursuit of pleasure. We can't chase worldly goals if they compromise morals, ethics, or higher ambitions. Moreover, Gatsby warns us not to cling to the past. We must move forward. We must endure the hardships that attempt to restrain us. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
Literature, if anything, provides lessons to be learned and warnings to be heeded. It's as if books from the past speak to us. Don't make this same mistake twice. The 1920s were grand on the surface, but underneath boiled deadly tribulations that truly defined the era. Fitzgerald, like any other literary genius, didn't write this book to show us the opulence we assume the generation possesses (and it does, to an extent). He wanted to reveal the ugly and painstakingly genuine side of his world. He lived it. He witnessed it firsthand. The Great Gatsby is a window to a world that exists only in the pages of books and on the screens of movie theaters now, but it's just as real as the world I walk in every day. Reading is time traveling, and The Great Gatsby is a portal to the 1920s.
So, while we may not party at Gatsby's or dance all night to jazz music, we can still apply timeless concepts to our 21st century lives that were introduced to us through a novel written in an era far different than ours. That's what a true classic is.
... And there's Leonardo DiCaprio.