I have read The Great Gatsby five or six times, and I have never liked it. I have never been able to understand the characters. They are selfish, self-absorbed and destructive. I don’t know anyone who is so self-defeating. Imagine my surprise when, on this reading, I not only identified with the characters, but I also enjoyed the book.
In starting this review process, I thought that I should give every book I read a much closer scrutiny than I would just reading for the hell of it. So I sat down and thought about the characters. Really thought about them. And I discovered why they are, to me, now very compelling people. They are unhappy. Not just normally unhappy, but desperately so. They try anything and everything to distract themselves from total and utter despair. In the end, nothing works.
The ending is still highly depressing to me. Often at the end of novels there is some kind of resolution, redemption for at least the main character, if not the others. The Great Gatsby does not conform to this pattern. No one is happier, has learned anything, or is even worse off than the beginning. Nothing changes. It’s as though Fitzgerald is saying, “See? Nothing matters. The fleeting happiness or unhappiness that you can gain in this life will not change anything for anyone.” And that, I find truly sad.