Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Great Gatsby: Introductory (Chapter 1)

In reference to the latest movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby which will be released this month, I am now re-reading the book together with some friends (you are welcomed to join, only this is not a formal read along). My first reading was last year when I read the Indonesian translation. Last October I have won Adam’s giveaway, and I picked the Penguin Classics edition of The Great Gatsby, hardback with lovely cover—thanks Adam! ;).

So here I am now, very eager to finally reading Great Gatsby in its original version. I’ll be doing it for my Well-Educated Mind Self Project, and that’s why you may expect to see posts after posts about Great Gatsby for at least one or two weeks. But it’ll only heighten our expectation for the movie, right? Now here is my first chapter post….

Chapter one is where Nick Carraway introduces us to what he’s going to narrate about, his own background and some hints about the Buchanans.

What is Great Gatsby all about?

Having been grown up in Midwest, Nick Carraway always believes in good morality, doesn’t criticize others, and tries to be tolerant. He moves to the east to start a new and promising life, however he left it that summer of 1922 in terrible disgust of moral decay of the people he met. Gatsby is the only one who escaped Nick’s severe criticism; Nick admires him for his strong optimism.

Meeting the Buchanans, a glimpse of Gatsby, and the first metaphor

Living in a huge mansion in East Egg, Tom and Daisy were extremely wealthy, but snob and indifferent; they enjoyed life leasurely without thinking much of others. Tom is a strong and dominating person; mentally as well as bodily (he hurt Daisy’s knuckle!). First hint of his corrupted moral are his opinion about how the whites should dominate the coloureds, and his having a mistress. Daisy is an empty-headed woman, likes to talk silly and irrelevant things, likes to be adored, and just like her husband, there is a hint of moral corrupting in her (her saying that ‘the best thing for a girl is to be fool’ when talking about her own daughter).

The slight glimpse of Gatsby is enough for Nick to see him as a man with firmness, self-esteem and strong determination. And Nick gives us the last clue of what we’re going to find in this book by describing how Gatsby stood facing the bay in the dark, stretching his quivering arms towards the green light on the far away dock across the bay (the first metaphor has appeared…).

Highlighted passages

The first two pages is the most engaging part of chapter one, where Nick foreshadows what is going to happen throughout the story. My favorites are what Nick believes about human morality and personal judgments.

Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” –I think this is one of universal bad habits we often come across. Nick’s father advice should remind us to always consider before judging!

Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope.” –I think Fitzgerald wanted to say that by not judging people, we have a hope or positive thinking that people might be good; until it’s proved otherwise.

A sense of the fundamental decencies is parceled out unequally at birth.” –Fitzgerald believes that we were born each with different quality of ethics or morality. I can judge something to be right, while you might believe it is wrong. This one bit of sentence makes me thinking ; tell me….do you agree with it?

For me, I always believe that when we are born, we carry the good and the bad inside us. The one that we nurture after that is going to define what we are going to be. The nurturing process would be influenced by our parents, our society, our environment, our culture, and other more complex circumstances that is stretched during our growing up towards adultness. So, I don't really agree with Fitzgerald here, because the 'unequal sense of the fundamental decencies' should be formed after birth. If we already carry it with birth, then what would be the use of free will that God grant us? It would be as if we are robots that are created of what we are, and can only be what we are meant to be. What do you think?



  1. I was struck by the early paragraphs describing Nick's naïveté. He is so idolistic and I think that lense has a huge impact on how the reader sees the whole world he's exposed to.

    1. Do you think it also reflects Fitzgerald's way of thinking? That the world must be in uniform, etc?

  2. I think Nick is Fitzgerald's alter :)

    1. Yep, I suspect he is. Although I haven't reseacrhed about Fitzgerald personalities, but it makes sense.

  3. do you know mba fanda? this disclosure of chapters of The Great Gatsby helps a lot. at least for me who have a hard time reading the book. :-D

    1. I'm so glad that my posts helps others too. Good luck with Gatsby! ;)


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