The Classics Club: How I Rediscovered The Great Gatsby

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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.

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8 thoughts on “The Classics Club: How I Rediscovered The Great Gatsby

  1. This is one of my favorite books. I didn’t read it until my 4th year in college so I appreciated it from the beginning. I’ve read it many times since then. I love this book.

    • I wonder what I would have thought of this if I had read it in college; I may have loved it and not needed to reread it. In a way, though, I’m glad I got to experience it as though for the first time twice.

  2. So glad you gave Gatsby another chance! One of my all-time favorite novels. I love it more with each read. However, I remember reading it in high school and I didn’t enjoy the tedious picking-apart of the various symbols scattered throughout. I think it took away from the appreciation of the main themes. Those stood out so much more to me when I read it the second time.

    • I definitely think that scrutinizing the symbols in high school turned me off from the book – there was only so much of the green light I could take! It seemed to be the only thing I remembered about the book. Reading it at my leisure this time really allowed me to get into the story and, like you, come to understand the themes.

    • I never had to read The Old Man and the Sea in high school, but it’s on my Classics Club list, so I’m looking forward to reading it. It’s probably for the better that I didn’t read it in high school. I read my first Hemingway novel – A Farewell to Arms – a couple years ago, so I’m excited to dig more into his work.

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