Unlike today’s sitcoms, the characters in Gatsby are living glamorous lifestyles, but are not happy with them. The narrator’s cousin Daisy is married to a handsome polo player (though he would rather not be known as such) whose frequent extramarital affairs cause her constant grief. Her husband himself carries on these affairs despite the pain they cause, affairs which not only pull him into adultery, but his mistresses as well. The narrator, Nick Carraway, is repeatedly put in the uncomfortable position of being trusted with scandalous secrets which he did not want to know or keep.
Gatsby himself outshines the filth of the culture around him because he is carrying a love which is more pure and unfailing than the affairs of his frequent house guests, the people of New York, who flock to the over-the-top parties he opens his house up to weekly. His love lasted for five lonely years, as he watched the object of his affection marry for money (partially out of necessity), and he fashioned his whole life around trying to win her back. Unfortunately, though Gatsby’s love is much deeper and more beautiful than that of most, he also makes the mistake of fashioning his life around an earthly love, a worldly longing, as opposed to an eternal one.
Thus, when Gatsby stoops to join the society around him in his efforts to be with his love again, his foundation being built on an unattainable, fallen person, he must suffer the consequences that come with believing “the end justifies the means”. Though his hope is unfailing- and is a virtue to be admired- it was misplaced, and thus failed him. But he is not the only one who suffers, and no one walks away from the glittering Long Island scene without scars.
The movie, which has been receiving quite a bit of mixed attention, captures the suffering endured in
a way which shocked me. Honestly, I had expected Hollywood to soften an ending which warns against the very lifestyle the cinemas sell to their viewers. But this adaptation of the classic novel does its job well, in my opinion. I enjoyed DiCaprio’s Gatsby, and felt he captured the magic, desperation, vulnerability, and virtue of the legendary figure effectively, while the rest of the cast performed well also, though Maguire’s Nick was dry at times.
Many people have complained about the soundtrack, which incorporates modern rap and hip-hop music and is set against the vibrant scenes, but the music helps fulfill a greater purpose – it takes this story and helps make it modern. As the director himself explained, “It’s gotta feel modern, of the moment.” This relevant feeling helps the audience to realize that the short thrills and long-suffering is not something of the past, but something that could happen again, could happen here and now, could happen to them.
Because there was one scene which went further than I feel was necessary, I would not recommend this to anyone not yet in the older years of ”teenagehood”. That being said, I feel that this book has a particularly important message, which this generation needs to hear. Within The Great Gatsby, Pope John Paul II’s words about the degradation of intimacy are played out. As the Blessed Pope wrote in his well-know Evangelium Vitae, “…sexuality too is depersonalized and exploited: from being the sign, place and language of love, that is, of the gift of self and acceptance of another, in all the other’s richness as a person, it increasingly becomes the occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts.” As the pages of the book and the scenes of the movie progress, the false, shimmering depiction of the shallow sexual lifestyle is betrayed, and exposed in all of its confusion and emptiness.
Though the book teaches a somber lesson, the reader is not left without hope or inspiration. Gatsby’s virtues, though misguided, are admirable, and hint at the heights one can reach when he holds onto hope unceasingly. And through Nick Carraway the brilliant author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, leaves his audience with a promise for a better future, if only they would “take arms against the sea of troubles” in the spirit of Shakespeare, and create a future that is brighter than the past:
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-May this honest tale of disappointed hopes and wayward souls inspire this generation to rise above its influences, to place their hopes in a light more bright than green, and to finally reach that goal which all their lives should be striving towards- a goal which is truly worth fighting for.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Written for and originally published at Catholic Stand.