“The Great Gatsby” Book Review

Banned Book Week: Fitzgerald’s great American classic is a timeless novel, banned or not.

I’ve read an uncountable number of books in my short life, yet “The Great Gatsby” lies in my top three. This is not an honor lightly placed. It’s taken consideration, three rereads and an entire analysis-based argumentative essay to solidify F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beautiful masterpiece on my podium of literature, and here’s why. 

It takes a particular type of person to read and thoroughly enjoy this book. Many are quick to dismiss it as just another old, dusty and decidedly senile book that students are forced to study in school, but I find this approach to Fitzgerald unfair, as readers often don’t give the novel a chance before they give up and plead misunderstanding of symbolism or decry the excessive detail. Several of my academia-loving friends profess their lack of interest in Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan’s love affair, much less Nick Carraway’s interpretation of it all. I cannot relate. 

From the moment I picked up my hand-me-down copy of “The Great Gatsby,” I fell in love. The characters, the setting, the language—I was hooked. This book has been labeled the great American novel, a title I believe it well and truly deserves. 

The titular figure in this novel is none other than Jay Gatsby, an elusive and wealthy businessman known for his extravagant parties thrown every weekend at his mansion in West Egg, Long Island, where “people were not invited—they went there” (Fitzgerald). Gatsby represents the fallacy of the American Dream and this novel presents a case of fragmented love and obsession, a critique of the 1920s societal values as well as political structure, and a character-driven storyline weaved together in a precise and exact manner. 

The novel is short. At only 208 pages, Fitzgerald packs a punch into every page, every paragraph, every sentence, and every word. For those unaware, this is a love story and takes place over a single summer. Yet, within these fleeting months and just over 200 pages, Fitzgerald manages to craft a beautiful story with complex characters who all undergo stunning arcs and revelations. That, in and of itself, is a feat. At the risk of giving too much away, this book made me feel everything, from joy to deep sadness at its tragic ending.  

According to the American Library Association, an organization that advocates for intellectual freedom, with an emphasis on banned and challenged books, the only issue administrators have with Fitzgerald’s work is, and I quote, “language and sexual references in the book.” It deeply pains me that some individuals are hindered from reading this masterpiece, per feeble criticisms such as this, and it is still on the notorious banned books list. 

Even today, the book is removed from many school curricula, along with other notable literary works such as “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “Catch-22,” per the New York Times. Banning books, full stop, is dangerous, as the delicate balance of censorship and freedoms threatens to wobble and in the case of “The Great Gatsby,” there is so much to get out of this book if one only reads it. 

Having read “A Portrait of a Lady,” I have to agree with T. S. Eliot when he said that Fitzgerald’s masterpiece is “the first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James”—for who am I to argue with Eliot?