As there were so many great things discussed during the book club discussion of our June book, The Great Gatsby for my ‘Let’s Get Classical’ Book Club, I thought why not create a little discussion summary. So for those that missed out or for those who want to see the consensus on what people thought, its all here for you!
Between the hour of 8pm – 9pm (UK time) eight questions were posted for book club members to comment their thoughts. Here is what they said:
Q1: What do we make of our narrator? Do you think his character was intentional by Fitzgerald?
Most members viewed Nick as an unreliable narrator and a character who offered a flawed and biased perspective. There were many loose ends in his narrative, as well as contradictory statements.
Nick, in our members’ opinion, was an outsider/observer looking into the world of Gatsby, who was intentionally created by Fitzgerald to act as a mouthpiece for the story. Most members didn’t care much for Nick and viewed him as having the common blissful ignorance of the middle classes, as he chose to only see and believe the things he wanted to be true.
Q2: What do you think about Daisy’s assessment that ‘the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool’?
Many viewed Daisy’s assessment as a superficial and outdated way of thinking. The popular opinion stemmed from members not being a fan of how women were represented in this book, and it portrayed a number of gender imbalances withing a male-centric novel.
Yet there were some members who introduced a great point about Fitzgerald using the character of Daisy to play upon the social norms/expectations of the 1920s woman, portraying her as silly, vain and only valued in terms of beauty; all of which were stereotypes created as an anti-suffrage protest.
Yet this statement also implies that Daisy knows what a woman needs to be to survive in a male-orientated world. She knows that ‘ignorance is bliss’ when it comes to living a happy and care-free life, and many members agreed this was probably why she turned a blind eye to Tom’s cheating.
Q3: What is your opinion of Tom? Do you think he truly loves Daisy?
So one thing we all agreed on was how much we hated Tom. His character is controlling, patronising, manipulative and incredibly hypocritical. Tom carelessly uses people to get what he wants, and enjoys baking his cake and eating it.
His arrogance and jealously confirms the old saying that ‘once a cheat, always a cheat’, and most members agreed that he didn’t truly love Daisy. Daisy was his trophy wife; his possession that suited his social status and therefore only suited him for when he wanted to play happy families.
It infuriated readers when Tom got jealous about Gatsby and Daisy, even though he was off doing the same and arguably worse, and we were even more angry at Tom setting up Gatsby with the murder of Myrtle. Yet some were also quick to notice that because our narrator Nick does not like Tom, us as readers, are less fond of him too, at least compared to Gatsby.
Q4: Do you think Daisy makes the right choice? What would you have done, if you were her?
Members did not hold back on their thoughts regarding Daisy. Some believed that Daisy was the end of Gatsby and her carelessness meant that she was never held accountable for her actions. Many members believed that she made all the wrong choices in life and even though she may have loved Gatsby, she would have always ended up with someone like Tom because she cannot stray from her rich and privileged life (hence why she couldn’t marry Gatsby as he was poor).
Yet some members argued that Daisy had little choice in the end and had her power taken from her by men in the book. She may have come across as selfish and careless but lets take into account for a second whether the grass is always greener on the other side. Many members argued that Gatsby represented an idealistic, responsibility-free life, whereas Tom was real. What would Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship had been like if they has eloped together? I can only imagine Gatsby as a jealous and manipulative husband, not so different to Tom.
Q5: Do you consider Gatsby to be this ‘self-made man’? Is he a good portrayal of the ‘American Dream’?
A common theme running through members’ comments on this question was that Gatsby represented the typical 1920’s ‘American Dream’ and was therefore right for its time. Yet, Daisy was his dream. Daisy = happiness for Gatsby, and we noted that as soon as Daisy began visiting his house, the lavish parties stopped.
Most members agreed that although Gatsby had all the materialistic happiness, his life had no meaning without the love of Daisy. Many argued that through the character of Gatsby, Fitzgerald was showing us how the ‘American Dream’ is unattainable and unachievable, and perhaps predicting its downfall.
Q6: How do you think love is portrayed by Fitzgerald in the story? Is this a love story?
We all agreed that love was not the main theme in the book, and that The Great Gatsby is more of a social commentary. Love is portrayed as fickle and fragile, with Gatsby’s love being borderline infatuation. Was this infatuation with Daisy herself of the idea of Daisy?
An interesting point made by one of the members was that this book can be viewed as a modern tragedy as the two deaths that occur are of the characters of the those ruining the equilibrium within the story. It was also discussed how the characters’ greed outweighed their love, as they were too prioritised with the lust for material things and social status rather than the real thing.
There’s no doubt that there are elements and discussions of love throughout the book but it is not the main lesson to take away from the book.
Q7: What do you believe to be the true message of The Great Gatsby?
So what is the true message of this book? Most members agreed that money was the real theme. Money can’t buy happiness is what most members took away from this story, as money brought everyone to Gatsby’s parties but once he was dead, no one cared enough to turn up to his funeral. Fitzgerald is obviously implying that money is shallow and hope is pure.
A few members also commented on how the book was Fitzgerald’s way of commenting on the society he lived in. How the rich and powerful were careless and had the privilege to walk away in ignorant bliss, whilst the others in society suffered and were witness to their destructive behaviour.
Another interesting point made was how Fitzgerald through The Great Gatsby predicted how the roaring twenties culture and the ‘American Dream’ would inevitably implode and shatter, which is did after the Wall Street Crash.
Q8: Fitzgerald apparently hated the title The Great Gatsby and begged for it to be changed. Why do you think that is?
Many agreed that once you’ve read this book, Gatsby isn’t so great after all. The ironic title builds this expectation of the mythical Gatsby, which is extremely fitting to Gatsby’s character. The grandeur of Gatsby may have earned him this title but it is in fact a complete facade.
This could have also been a way Fitzgerald played upon how society viewed the rich and famous, as well as emphasising the fact that this story is supposed to be written by Nick, who we all know secretly adored Gatsby, and therefore this definitely would have been a title Nick chose.
‘Under the Red, White & Blue’ was an alternative title, but we all agreed that we’re glad The Great Gatsby has stuck in the end.
And there we have it, I hope you enjoyed reading this book club discussion summary, and if you would like to get involved in the next book club discussion, make sure you join the Let’s Get Classical Book Club Facebook Group! Join us on the 26th July at 8pm (UK time) to discuss Jane Austen’s Emma.