April 24, 2013

The Great Gatsby Readalong: Chapters 1-2

So Becky has asked some questions about the first two chapters of the book.   I love the in-depth questions because I am noticing I am picking up on so many more nuances this second reading than I did in high school.  Well, I suppose I would be surprised if I didn't, but it is just so much fun to re-read a favorite book and realize how much better it is than you remembered!  

1.     What role(s) do you see for the setting of the novel? Do you like this setting, and does it affect the way you read the story?

The story is set on Long Island, specifically West Egg and East Egg.  I had no idea where this might be so I tried Googling it.  Apparently West Egg is a fictionalized version of the North Shore village of King’s Point, while East Egg is North Shore’s Sands Point.  Obviously North Shore runs along the northern part of Long Island, which borders Long Island Sound.  So East Egg was old money and West Egg was new money. 

Gatsby lives in East Egg and at one point the narrator, Nick Carroway, who lives beside Gatsby’s mansion in a much smaller place, witnesses Gatsby gazing out over the water towards West Egg.   He reaches out his arms toward it as if he is longing for something.  My guess is he is longing for simplicity, perhaps anonymity.  It’s unclear at this point in the book what it is exactly but it is a definite foreshadowing. 

I have only been to Long Island once and I have no recollection of where on the island I was.  I was visiting an ex-fiance’s family and I just cannot remember.  The setting in the book is much grander and interesting than what I remember.  Perhaps because we were probably in a town much like West Egg. ;)

2.   Since Nick is the narrator in this story, do you think it’s possible he might be setting us up to like or dislike certain characters?  Do you trust his retelling?

I think the point of having Nick as a narrator is to see the story and setting as it would be if we ourselves visited there for the first time.  I think the story would be different told from any other point of view because everyone has different experiences and perspectives and brings different backgrounds to the table.  It’s no more or less biased than if it were to be told from Gatsby or Daisy or anyone else’s point of view.

3.   What do you think of Tom, Daisy, and Myrtle?
I think my opinions are somewhat biased just because I know already from my previous reading what is going to happen to the characters but since it has been like 15 years since I read it (holy crap I’m old!) I have forgotten some of it.

I think Daisy is much more complex and manipulative than Nick realizes.  She is fun, though, and I want to like her. 

Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s husband, seems like a waste of space so far.  He doesn’t impress me.  Probably because he is an arrogant and egotistical cad. 

Haha I had to look up who Myrtle was because I didn’t remember her name.  Myrtle is the wife of George, who runs a garage. They live in the valley of the ashes, which in stark contrast to West Egg, is a absolutely desolate landscape.  Myrtle is Tom’s mistress and Tom doesn’t even try to hide it.  It is obvious he feels no remorse for cheating on Daisy, but he doesn’t seem to love Myrtle either as he has no qualms about putting her in her place at the party.  Myrtle seems to be the quintessential mistress.  I don’t really like her, but she seems to be a nice person in general.  You know, except for the cheating on her husband part.

4.   What else stood out to you in these opening chapters?

I think what has stood out to me the most is that Fitzgerald is a genius at creating mystery about Jay Gatsby while also showing him to be friendly with loads of sex appeal.  In fact Gatsby is so mysterious some of the guests at his party at the end of Chapter 2 make up scenarios to try and explain Gatsby to one another. 

I also noticed that I really miss reading the classics.  There are so few writers today who can master the art of foreshadowing without being completely obvious or entirely too vague in the way Fitzgerald and other writers of his generation managed to do. 

Re-reading this book has been like coming home again.  I am reading it slowly and trying to savor every part.  I am so grateful to Becky for organizing this readalong!


  1. I didn't much like Gatsby when I first read it in college (but not as an assignment). I might give it a try if I am dragged to the film as I suspect I will be.

    1. I read it as a Junior in high school and I loved it. Re-reading it has been interesting since I am coming from such a different place now!

  2. I haven't made it to the end of chapter 2 yet, but I'm enjoying rereading it, too. Have you noticed how much Fitzgerald uses adverbs? Ha!

  3. Thanks for your awesome post! I love reading these, because I feel like we're having a great, virtual discussion. :)

    I need to look up Long Island Sound. Do you think that it's really shaped like that, or did Fitzgerald set it there but take some creative license??? I'm just wondering. It would be weird to be living, modernly, in the same place the story took place!

    I have to say that I read Tom the same way. It scared me to death when I realized that I'm OLDER than he is in the story!!! (It's been 15 years since I last read it too...scary.) It's funny though that I used to think that Tom was so old, or much older than Daisy. Now I know he was still this young guy with a bit ego. Crazy!

    Agreed about the set up for Gatsby. It's one reason that I then loved the beginning of Chapter 3. Didn't you just want to find you a Gatsby somewhere (at least for now)? :) He sounds like landed money, with so much crazy coolness factor, that I can hardly stand it! Agreed. This is such a refreshing reread!

    1. It's really shaped like that! 2 peninsulas. Wait, how old is tom again? I might be older now, too. I don't remember how old any of them are.


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