Sunday, December 15, 2013

To Aspire to Greatness

Some people- generally people who don't actually read- believe that for a book to be good, it must have likable characters. This, however, is only true for "good" books. It is true for those fluffy, summer (or winter, spring, or fall) books that are nice to read but would never have a term paper written about them. While I am certainly not trying to insult these books- I do enjoy them, really- today, I am going to talk about the not those books books.

The not those books books are classics. They have successfully mounted symbolism, vaulted over plot, and won the battle of the "signpost". They are books like Jane Eyre (spoiler: he kept a WIFE in the ATTIC), The Grapes of Wrath (what, are there three nice characters?), and The Great Gatsby. 

I do not really like any of the characters of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic. Nick is much too passive, Jordan only a little less so, Tom is violent and unfaithful, Daisy betrays both her husband and Gatsby, and lets Gatsby take the blame for Myrtle's death. Even Gatsby- while wonderfully romantic- is obsessive, wanting Daisy to tell Tom she NEVER loved him. He is, as Nick says, worth the whole lot of them. That lot, though, is not much to measure up to.

So why do I love The Great Gatsby so terribly much? Because F. Scott Fitzgerald was a wonderful writer. The novel is well written and tragic, entertaining and full of symbolism. He gives us a novel full of terrible people, and makes us root for them.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the difference between a great author and a good one. They may not give unappealing characters every time; that would be much too predictable. But they can write those characters. They can make girls fall in love with Gatsby.

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