In the film version of The Great Gatsby (1974) Robert Redford’s performance as the title character is one as timeless as that of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (1942). Since a quality film adaptation demands great source material, it was quite fitting that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel was adapted to the screen.
Whether or not it’s a good idea to do a modern-day film version starring Leonardo DiCaprio (presumably in Redford’s iconic role) is debatable. In fact there’s so little that hasn’t been debated about this novel, particularly with regard to its theme for generations.
ChicagoTribune cultural critic Julia Keller asks a poignant and valid question in the aptly titled article, “The Great and Greatly Misunderstood Gatsby.”
Perhaps academia is to blame for the common tendency to ask what a novel is about. Anyone who has read Fitzgerald’s novel will most likely agree with Keller when she states in her article, “It’s about the American dream-which is celebrated, not undermined in the novel.”
The more important question for Keller it seems is, “So why has the novel been so grievously misinterpreted, especially these days, when it is routinely commandeered as a symbol of capitalism’s shortcomings?”
The answer to Keller’s question lies in the fact that literature by its very nature is subjective. Literature is meant to be interpreted. Perhaps instead of focusing on the fact that some readers might not interpret novels in the same way, Keller should appreciate the fact that novels as wonderful as The Great Gatsby are still being read, in the age of digital media.
Fitzgerald’s novel is considered a standard part of the English curriculum in most high schools. But the great thing about novels like this one is that they are just as profound, sometimes even more so whether you’re reading them for the first, the tenth or the hundredth time.
And Keller is correct when she points out in the article that, “The plot, though, is not what gives The Great Gatsby its charm, its fizz, and its classic status. That distinction belongs to Fitzgerald’s style, a breezy, assured, efficient one that wears its depth and profundity lightly, like a crisp seersucker suit on a hot summer day.”
If you’ve never read this novel, it’s definitely a must-read. And even if you have read it, pick it up again. To say the novel is great doesn’t do it justice.