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The Great Gatsby: Karl's Take

This is my book review of "The Great Gatsby," but instead of writing a paper on it, my professor wanted a review that is publicly available for everyone to see. Here, I give a summary of the book, my impressions as well as criticisms, and connections to lessons learned during my leadership course. So, here we go!

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For Starters, What is This Book About?

"The Great Gatsby" is a tale set in the Roaring 20s, when, as a New York Times quote found on the back of the book states, "Gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession." We follow the tale of Nick Carraway, who lives in West Egg on Long Island, NY. Across the bay lives his cousin, Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom, who was a classmate of Nick's back at Yale. Later on, we learn that Nick's neighbor, the very rich and prestigious Jay Gatsby, knows Daisy, even dated her once, and is in love with her still. Gatsby knew that she lived across the bay and wanted to show off his extravagance by having her attend one of his various parties, but she never attended much to his dismay. Once Gatsby learned that his neighbor is her cousin and that he served in the same army battalion during World War I, he works with Nick to get Daisy to meet Gatsby after five years of being away from her. The two eventually meet and begin to have a romantic affair, even as Daisy is still married to Tom, but Tom is involved in his own affair. Over time, Tom learns of Daisy's affair with Gatsby and confronts her about it while in New York City, where she admits that she does not love him any longer, if ever. On the way home, Gatsby and Daisy were riding together and hit and kill Tom's lover in Gatsby's car, Myrtle Wilson, in front of her husband George B. Wilson's garage, of whom is a friend of Tom. George learned that his wife was unfaithful and was confronting her about it and when she escaped from George, she ran into the road and got killed. The fact that the car did not stop enraged George and he then began to search for the owner of the car. Wilson eventually tracks down Gatsby and shoots him in his pool, later turning the gun on himself. Nick then asks several of the people who attended Gatsby's parties to attend his funeral, but only him, Gatsby's father, and some of Gatsby's servants attend, and that's it (quite sad if I say so). Daisy and Tom later stay together, as if nothing happened and Nick then cuts ties with the two of them and leaves New York for the West.

Personal Takeaways and Criticisms

Overall, I genuinely enjoyed reading "The Great Gatsby" and started to wonder why on Earth I did not read it sooner. Fitzgerald manages to highlight all the glitz and glamour of the Roaring 20s while highlighting the flip side of it being loneliness and despair. In the beginning of the book, the reader is caught in the fascination of Gatsby with his enormous home and lavish parties, but most of us empathize with Nick as this on-looker, not knowing the life of the rich and the possessions it brings, but can see its false security. By the end of the book, some of the life lessons, especially, "Money cannot buy happiness" starts to spring to mind and we can see Gatsby as an excellent example. Here was a man who developed an unhealthy obsession with the rich Daisy Buchanan and changed his own style of living to try and impress her, but in the end, she didn't even have the courtesy of attending his funeral and later stays with Tom. Nick had done the right thing by reflecting on whether staying in New York was a good idea or not and later chose to leave, realizing that he is not compatible with the environment.

Every good book is not without its criticisms. One thing that I felt could have used more elaboration was Gatsby's back story, such as, more insight into how he came to be this rich, as well as the back story for all of the other characters. While such background information may not have been discussed in the dialogue in the book, it still helps paints a portrait of who these characters are, which the reader could use to make judgment on which characters they can empathize with the best. In general, many of the details about each character was limited to the necessities for the duration of the story. Despite these two criticisms, I still very much enjoyed this book!

This Report is For a Leadership Course, So How Does it Connect to Leadership Topics?

To help with this, I will reference one of the books I have read for my course, titled, "Questions of Character" by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr. One of the questions that Badaracco poses is, "Do I have a good dream?" and, immediately, I can see that Gatsby does not have a good dream. Good dreams are not supposed to possess you in such a way that it becomes toxic or lead you down a road you should not be down under. Gatsby built his riches in order to impress Daisy, but at a cost of death in the end and very little amount of people attending his funeral. Another question of character that Badaracco poses that I think ties into Gatsby perfectly is, "What is sound reflection?" It does not seem that Gatsby at one point sat down, reflected on what exactly he was doing with his life and wondered if it was really worth it. Is it logical to build up this life of riches for just one person with whom you are obsessed about the past with? Perhaps if Gatsby was poor, would Daisy still wish to be with him? These are all questions that Gatsby did not ask himself and allowed himself to become more toxic with this obsession of Daisy.

In Conclusion:

Go and read this book! There's a reason that "The Great Gatsby" is so popular as it is a book that even someone who does not like to read (yours truly) wanted to keep reading and was sad when the end was reached. This is also a book that I prefer over the movie. Happy reading!

Works Cited

Badaracco, Joseph L. (2006). "Questions of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership Through Literature." Boston, MA. Harvard Business School Press.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott (1925). "The Great Gatsby." New York, NY. Scribner.

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