Anyone who has ever been dumped for someone with more money knows this fantasy: You get rich (how exactly is unclear, but never mind, that’s not important). And not normal rich, we’re talking crazy rich: As in driving your Bentley into the gold-tiled swimming pool rich, Beluga caviar for breakfast every day rich, tossing your Chanel out after one wear rich. Then, you casually set up house near your ex, throw extravagant parties the likes of which no one has ever seen before, and you wait. When your old flame finally arrives and sees you in all your charming glory, they will beg to be taken back.
For one man, this was more than just a daydream. James Gatsby, a modest soldier, transformed himself into the disgustingly wealthy and utterly fabulous Jay Gatsby to get a lost love back. In the end, despite all his riches, he paid the dearest price for it.
What it’s about
James Gatz ascends from humble beginnings to become a multimillionaire, rechristens himself “Jay Gatsby” and conjures up a privileged backstory. He longs for his lost love Daisy, who has married the rich but bombastic Tom Buchanan. Gatsby and Daisy begin an affair, but she hesitates to leave her husband. As the novel builds to a dramatic close, a shocking twist leaves three characters dead.
Three life lessons
Money isn’t everything
There is a reason Pinterest has 1,000+ Pinboards for Great Gatsby-themed parties. Let’s face it, Jay knew how to throw a party! Champagne, caviar, glitz and glamor all took center stage at his infamous bashes in West Egg. But you know what you won’t find on Pinterest? Quick fixes for your sad, lonely heart after all the guests have gone home.
Money can certainly be fun, but it won’t buy you true friendship or love. Instead of trying to buy companionship, funnel your energy into developing meaningful relationships with people you can trust. Then, when the party is over, you’ll have someone to laugh with as you clean up the mess.
Learn to leave the past behind
Jay Gatsby had everything going for him: Good looks, ridiculous amounts of money and enough smarts to get himself from normal Joe to glamorous gazillionaire. Not to mention, he seemed like a reasonably nice guy. Really, the world was Jay’s oyster. He could have gone anywhere and become anyone. But what did he do? He put all his time, drive and passion into trying to win back a past love. In the end, he paid for it with his life.
It may be tempting to look back at moments of your life with nostalgia or to think you can recapture some of your glory days. But, most of the time, it is best to leave the past in the past. Be brave and move forward with your life. Make yourself new glory days.
Be a Nick
Nick Carraway is the one character in The Great Gatsby who can easily slip between worlds – cousin to Daisy, romantic interest to Jordan, unwilling accomplice to Tom and confidant to Jay. A quiet, reserved Midwesterner, Nick takes time to get to know people and tries not to make snap judgements. In today’s age of public shaming, such a man sounds like a kind of fever dream.
Next time you feel inclined to judge, stop. Take a step back. Consider the person before you. What do you really know about them? What has their life been like? Why are you so quick to label them? You may find that you see the world with new eyes and perhaps even learn something about yourself.
The Great Gatsby is one of the world’s most beloved classic works of literature for a reason. It welcomes us into a world of luxury and extravagance none of us will ever come near experiencing, and then it lets us peek behind the curtain. All the noise, beauty and opulence count for nothing. The people behind the riches are broken. The novel lures us in with a bash and leaves us with a funeral. We exit the book feeling a bit better about our modest circumstances and with a reminder to look after ourselves and our loved ones.
Jay says: Have a glass of bubbly, old sport.
Nick says: I should have stayed in Minnesota, eh.