I saw The Great Gatsby tonight. I loved the way the movie looked, and the acting was generally good, and the spectacle of the whole thing was great. It was as intimate and emotional as it was loud and spectacular. The way the soundtrack was incorporated was unexpected, but I didn’t mind it, and I thought it worked really well at moments. But that’s not why I’m writing this post. I’m writing this to offload some thoughts on the meaning behind the movie. To be clear and honest, I have never read the book. I would say that one of my deepest regrets is not spending more time reading great literature, and this is an example. In any case, that means that this was my first exposure to Fitzgerald’s iconic American tale, and I am still forming thoughts on it. I’d like to preserve a few of my preliminary thoughts. Here’s the big thought I’ve had so far. Gatsby was right to hope, but he hoped in the wrong thing. He saw a grand future, one full of fulfillment and joy, and he wanted it. He knew that it would be difficult to make it a reality, but that is precisely what made it a worthy dream. He put hope in that future, to the detriment of any other possible future; that is, once he had committed to the dream of a life with Daisy, no other life would do. And more importantly, he put himself in a position of complete dependence, and left his sanity, his ability to ever be happy again, in the hands of the one he loved. He took a risk. And I think in a way, that’s what love is. Love is self-sacrifice. Love is making yourself vulnerable, and trusting that you won’t be disappointed. But, ultimately, Daisy let him down. And he was too far gone to move on. Without her, his life, once so bold and hopeful, was meaningless. He was right to hope. But sometimes we hope and we are disappointed. I don’t know whether he was wrong to put his trust in Daisy. I think that he was right to do so, because he was following his heart. Whether he was right or not, he got burned. He put his hope in someone who let him down. I think that happens to a lot of people, and a lot of the time those people give up on vulnerability. I think that we have to keep hoping even when we get burned. Keep hoping until we put our trust in someone, and they come through. Then, all the pain will have been worth it.
My other thought is that if the timing had been different, things would have worked out. Daisy wasn’t always going to let him down. She did in this specific scenario, but there were others in which she would not have needed to make the choice she was faced with. Does that mean that those other happy endings would have been lies? That there would have been some weakness of constitution in Daisy that went unrecognized, untested, lurking below the surface? Does that illegitimize Gatsby’s hope in the first place? I don’t know. All I know is that he was right to try. He did all that he could to realize his dream, and that is admirable.
I’m sure I’ll read the novel, and I’m sure I’ll think a lot more about the story. I’m aware that the scope of my interpretation has been very limited. But I think it’s what I need to be getting out of the story right now.