Rediscovery is feeling I don’t experience often enough.
It’s the thrill of seeing something through new eyes, of gleaning new wisdom and new appreciation from it.
I recently had this experience while rereading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
Before I jump into my newfound love for the book, a little bit of background:
I first read the Great Gatsby when I was 16 in my advanced English class in junior year of high school. Junior year English was an odd year for me, as I had trouble connecting to many of the works we read. The Great Gatsby was no exception.
I found the book to be tedious at best, pretentious at worst. I remember discussing the symbolism – the colors, the ash heaps, those eyes – with several of my friends but finding them too heavy-handed for my liking.
I can’t tell you why I disliked Gatsby other than that I just didn’t “get” it. I understood what I was supposed to appreciate, but it didn’t click.
In the few years since that high school assignment, something clicked. It might be that I have a few more years of life under my belt or that I have been reading more classics recently, but everything about The Great Gatsby worked for me this time. The shattered hope. The lost love. The tainted dream.
What I had previously found to be “those endless party scenes” became fascinating portraits of the emptiness of prosperity, and those characters I previously found to be vapid and useless came to exemplify that very theme.
I have to wonder if I also “got” Gatsby this time because I did not get bogged down in the details. Fitzgerald sprinkles the book with references to New York City, and I think that my familiarity with the city now may have helped me immerse myself in the story.
My experience with The Great Gatsby has made me more attuned to how our knowledge and experiences – or lack thereof – guide how we view any work. My teenage self wasn’t ready to “get” Gatsby; I needed to grow in order to appreciate it for what it is.
Although The Great Gatsby is not the first book I have rediscovered, its rediscovery has been the most different for me. This is the first time I have grown to love a book that I had previously panned.
Now I think I need to go reread other books I thought I disliked.
This was Book #11 off my Classics Club list. To see the rest of it, click here.