Letter: Exploring Human Behavior
To The Editor:
I’m puzzled by the May 10 Valley News commentary in which Ernest Hebert writes about The Great Gatsby as though both the current film and the book on which it’s based somehow promote aspects of this work which he finds offensive. Here’s the opening sentence of Hebert’s piece: “If you’re a drug dealer, a drunk, a crook, a phoney, a bully, a racist, a snob or a ditz, you might want to see The Great Gatsby because the characters in the movie are your people.”
Gatsby is a novel, and of course a current film that’s much in the news. It’s fiction. To call it a fable wouldn’t seem to be a stretch, in that it’s short and has a moral. It depicts characters saying and doing things that range from mundane to unseemly to downright despicable. The implication of the piece seems to be that Gatsby, by portraying human behavior such as infidelity, harmful substance use, racism and homicide, is somehow recommending or glorifying those types of behavior. Among the specifics objected to are characters whose prejudice is not camouflaged; who are wealthy and don’t have jobs; and one who, in Hebert’s words, is “a total a-hole.”
Hebert concludes, “The book is overrated, over-praised, and held up as, somehow, wise with the result that it degrades American literature and misinforms the public, especially young people, about what this country is all about.”
Thank goodness we’re all entitled to our opinions, as we all seem to have one. One of mine is that art seeks, among other things, to explore the human experience, and that by acknowledging human behavior in all of its aspects, we increase the likelihood of making progress on our greatest challenge — our own behavior.
I submit that that is, in fact, what this country is all about.