(This contains spoilers for The Great Gatsby)
I’m not very surprised by Gatsby’s death. It seems to me there are very few ways Fitzgerald could have wrapped up a story such as this, and certainly fewer still in so few pages.
There’s something oddly soothing, too, in his death. The reminder that for all of our dreams, successes, and relationships with people, our stories all end the same way: “And then he was dead.”
The irony in this book is also a refreshing reminder of how little greatness can mean. Gatsby makes sure his parents are happy when he becomes wealthy, but it’s his father who is taking care of him when he’s lost it all. For all of his parties, he has no friends by his graveside. After working to getting the girl for five years, he has her in his grasp for only a moment before she’s back to her husband. And his large house, a place meant to be full of people, stands empty at the end.
I was talking with someone who read this book last year and he was saying that he felt the characters were psychotic. I don’t think that’s true. I think they’re just incredibly human, portrayed in a way few authors I’ve read dare to portray their characters. There are faults, ambitions, loves, and losses. There are split-second decisions, cruel twists of fate, and stupid ideas. And aren’t those the things that make us human? Aren’t those what we think of when we wonder how we got to be where we are today? Authors write about these things because they – and we – can connect with them. The ‘what if’s, the ‘if only’s, the ‘why’s. It’s what draws us to stories over and over again, from spoken to written to recorded to filmed. The stories of who we are.