Letter: Fitzgerald’s Cautionary Tale
To the Editor:
Ernest Hebert’s May 10 critique of The Great Gatsby , while pointed and eloquent, overlooks certain things about the novel. Early on the narrator, Nick Carraway, informs us that he was cautioned by his father not to pass judgment on those who have not been fortunate enough to enjoy the same advantages he has been granted. So when Carraway tells us the story of Gatsby, he is simply reporting what he sees, allowing us to make our own assessments.
Nor does Carraway approve of his cousin Daisy. In fact, he sees Tom and Daisy as the monsters they are after Daisy runs over Myrtle. Carraway also rejects Jordan Baker for her shallowness, thereby rejecting the same shallowness he has seen in these rich parasites. He hangs up on Klipspringer, the callous piano player who calls after Gatsby’s murder looking for a pair of lost shoes.
In the end, it is Carraway who sticks by Gatsby and attends his funeral after the other leeches have abandoned their party-throwing host. Carraway does not judge Gatsby but simply sees him as a flawed, romantic gangster who proves the “heart is deceitful above all things.” Hebert also neglects to acknowledge the place Gatsby has in the history of American literature. The novel marked a shift in style that influenced all fiction writing that came afterward. The rich imagery and language are beautiful in their own right.
True, the novel does exhibit anti-Semitism and racism, but that is more a reflection of the attitudes in the 1920s. If nothing else, The Great Gatsby should be viewed as a cautionary tale. Gatsby ultimately pays for his transgressions. He is not a hero in any sense. “Great” is meant to be ironic, not flattering. Like all the characters in the book, Jay Gatsby is merely human.
Fitzgerald did what any great artist does — he held up a mirror to the times in which he lived and rendered a classic that has stood the test of time.