While this is a review, I decided to do this one differently. So sit back, and relax as I tear this book to pieces.
Full story: Being in American Literature (my school’s version of Advanced Lit for Juniors), we have to read four novels during the year. Into the Wild was the first, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and then The Great Gatsby. The one we read next is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
We are required to read these books, and write a in-depth essay on them. This isn’t my essay, but here’s my true feelings on the book as a whole, along with quoted evidence and reasons for my utter hatred for this “American Classic”.
The American Dream: Why I Dislike It with a Passion
First, what is the “American Dream” and what does it have to do with The Great Gatsby? Well-
However, a friend of mine voiced exactly what I was thinking:
“The American dream is the idea that anyone, through their own hard work and determination, can achieve success and happiness. (It’s a fuckin’ lie). This is just an excuse to tell the poor and disadvantaged that they don’t deserve help–it’s their own fault that they hadn’t pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.” She continued on to say, “[The American Dream]. . . is just a way for the wealthy to blame the poor for their circumstances instead of doing anything to help . . . It just makes me mad because people act like it’s the responsibility of the disadvantaged to overcome any hurdle in their way, and that doing anything to remove the hurdles is unfair.” (Check out her instagram HERE!)
Let’s just say it blames the wrong people for circumstances they can’t control. It’s a personal belief, and one that I stand by.
* Be aware that this review has spoilers. Frankly, I don’t think someone should waste their time on this book, so why bother with spoilers?*
All of the -isms I Have Run into at Once
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite character. Tom Buchanan is married to Daisy, the narrator’s cousin. He’s basically the definition of a bigot, which is basically previewed the moment you meet him: “Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be–will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.” And, even better: “It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.” Daisy joins in, “We’ve got to beat them down.”
In addition to that, there’s also repeated usage of “n*gro”, and that seriously made my skin itch. I put off reading the book again after reading it, and honestly nearly went into my class without reading it, despite how intense and important the class is to me. Every servant or chauffer is black or “colored” in some way, and every important person besides Wolfsheim is white.
Gatsby was also fairly sexist. “They oughtn’t to let her run around the country this way.” Which basically implies that a woman can’t take care of herself. “Most of the remaining women were now having fights with men said to be their husbands . . . One of the men was talking with curious intensity to a young actress, and his wife, after attempting to laugh at the situation in a dignified and indifferent way, broke down entirely and resorted to flank attacks–at intervals she appeared suddenly at his side like an angry diamond, and hissed” Why are women being painted as idiots? Why are they being written as being childish, spoiled brats–especially when these women are of the few that are actually in the novel.
“She does though. The trouble is that sometimes she gets foolish ideas in her head and doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
There were quite a few other examples, but this book tires me so much that I’m really just skimming for quotes.
There is one character, Wolfsheim, who is a Jewish character. He’s known as a gambler and to have rigged the 1919 World Series (correct me if I’m wrong, I can’t find the passage). Basically, they describe him as a iffy character with iffy morals. They describe him in a way that made me uncomfortable: “A small, flat-nosed Jew raised his large head and regarded me with two fine growths of hair which luxuriated in either nostril. After a moment I discovered his tiny eyes in the half-darkness.” They also made him into a questionable person with his casual talk of a murder and having human molars as cuff buttons.
Promoting Abuse and Stalking
Tom and his mistress met on the train. After Tom basically harasses her: “When we came into the station he was next to me, and his white shirt-front pressed against my arm, and so I told him I’d have to call a policeman, but he knew I lied.” And not long after that was said, “Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand.” Nothing ever happened to Tom about this scene, other than Nick leaving. Myrtle (his mistress, the one who was speaking before) continued sneaking off with him and being with him.
And the entire premise of the book promotes stalking. Playing Gatsby’s obsession for Daisy off as love was twisted to begin with, but when he starts going off on Tom and their group about how Daisy loved him and never loved Tom and was basically speaking for Daisy without letting her say anything? And he later revealed that he basically built his entire last-five-years around finding Daisy and putting her back in her place–at his side. Yea, it was basically a shit show.
You read that right. This one I can explain without quotes or anything. Myrtle is murdered when Daisy and Gatsby hit her with their car. They didn’t stop or turn around. Multiple people know the truth, mainly Jordan, Nick, and Tom.
And no one says shit.
They continue playing around like it’s a dating game, and that the fact that someone happened to get in the way of Daisy’s emotional driving is their own fault.
Final Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Published: April, 1925
Page Count: 256
Genre: Classic/Historical Fiction/Romance (IT’S AN UNHEALTHY AND ABUSIVE REALTIONSHIP OMFG)
THE GREAT GATSBY, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.
The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.
18 thoughts on “The Great Gatsby: A Rant™ by an Indignant High Schooler (Review #67)”
I couldn’t agree more! I’ve never understood why this book is so highly regarded by people. It speaks of a different time, sure, but it’s such a hateful book as well and Gatsby is just a total baby, too. I hope your essay on this went well!
Thank you! Everything about this book bothered me, so it was quite a hard essay to write, but I think it went well!
Quick Note: The usage of the word negro during that time frame was not in itself racist. Negro and colored were what everyone, including Black people, called Black people. During that time, to belittle a Black person was to call them a nigger. An evolution took place during the civil rights movement to reclaiming language from the white man, and that was when negro and colored – titles given to us by whites – started to become obsolete and offensive.
Another note: I really don’t think the book was promoting abuse, stalking, and murder. With the stalking thing, the book wasn’t saying ‘hey look how great this guy is for stalking this chick’ it was saying ‘look how sad and pathetic he has become for trying to conform to the lie that is the American dream.’ With the abuse thing, Tom was meant to be seen as a piece of shit. You’re not supposed to like Tom. Really, you’re not supposed to like any of them. And with the murder thing: when someone gets killed in a book, you don’t need a soapbox character to run into the street telling the readers that murder is wrong. The point of ignoring the murder was to say ‘hey, these people are assholes and the American dream is bullshit.’
All the other stuff, though, I super agree with you like you’re completely spot on. Also, you’re probably going to fucking hate huck finn.
I realize all of these things. What bothered me was how my school, and basically most people, pass it off as some amazing book that perfectly encaptures what it means to live the “American Dream”. All of these problems are products of their time, but the fact that it is still considered an amazing book despite how sociological views have changed, is my real problem.
That’s actually what I wanted my essay to be about, what was accepted now and then, but we had to do a comparativ essay between Gatsby and a movie. And of the movies, we had to choose from a Jay-Z documentary (yes, 100% serious there) and Citizen Kane.
And, with Huck Finn, I’m reading it right now and am just conflicted. Is the whole book satire, like it seems to reference, or is it actually hella fucking racist? I just want this shitshow to be over with 😭
Oooh I must’ve misunderstood your review! I agree with you, then. That would have made a very interesting essay.
Okay, so Huck Finn is, technically, a great example of satire and irony. But The problem with it is it is 100% written for a white audience. It’s holding a mirror to white people. It does this very well. But when Black kids have to read this book, it’s just painful. It feels more like a violent attack than clever satire. I can respect the book and I can understand what it was trying to do. I would just prefer it does it far away from me.
Thank you for explaining! I feel uncomfortable with how they’re treating Jim, but I didn’t feel like I knew enough to call it out. Plus, I’m not black. And I’m not sure if I included that in my original review, so you’re fine!
Huck Finn is also really fucking racist. It’s not just satire and irony. But it’s racist in the that’s literally how people were at the time racism (and really everything of Twain I’ve read…or tried to is).
I just finished it and HO BOY was that ended so racist. I counted the N word exactly 214 times, and how they treated Jim INFURIATED me.
As for count of n word, that doesn’t surprise me. And yeah the ending was shit. It’s why I don’t read Twain often. Unless I’m looking to get angry.
I’m ready to throw out the few that I have of his…
Donate them if you’re going to do that. Libraries will usually take books you don’t want. Or find a used bookstore that will give you credit towards “new” books
The only used bookstore near me gave me $11 for 24 books, so I’ll probably donate to the library. My Huck Finn copy has a lot of annotations, though, for class, so I can’t really do much with that one.
This is awful. I see that this is something in loads of books that are considered classics and literature-you-must-have-read. This is why I’m cautious when people state that they are fans of classics.
Same here. Most of the classics I have read have been insulting in the least.
I feel like a lot of people are just fans of the classics because they think that it marks being an intelligent reader.
I 100% agree with this. Is it awful of me to say I’m happy to have finally find someone else who hates The Great Gatsby? Reading your post only confirmed my opinion on this book.
I actually just had
*sorry, accidentally posted too soon*
I just had a similar experience while reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. I’ve heard people praising it for years and years, so I decided to read it. And there is so much problematic and offensive stuff in there, I ended up hating it.
Ughhhhh I can feel you. Gatsby especially hurts because when people asked at school why I hated it, I explained and a “friend” took it as offensive and started cussing me out. I don’t get why people get so damn offended over books. People are allowed to hate what they want.
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