Why Are We Still Reading A Book Written In The 1920s

Why are we reading a book written in the 1920's? What gives a book its longevity? And which of its themes are eternal in the American psyche.

please anwer this question for me because its confusing

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several reasons to read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, a monumental satire depicting "the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired" (Ch.4) of what Fitzgerald named the Jazz Age. This novel is a tangible representation of an era and the lives of people of this time. Also, there is a lyricism to Fitzgerald's prose times that at times the reader can delight in it as one enjoys a song or a poem.

As Ray Bradbury wrote,"[T]he things you are looking for are in the world, but the only way the average person will ever see 99% of them is in a book." Similarly, Emily Dickinson wrote a poem that expresses this same idea:

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page . . . 
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll – 
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul

Books transport readers anywhere or into any period that they desire. The Great Gatsby takes readers to an age of excess and frivolity in American history, an age that led to a monumental financial crisis. There is also a pleasure to be found in the reading of Fitzgerald's chef-d'oeuvre, for in The Great Gatsby the reader learns not only some history, but he or she gains insight into the souls of those who lived in a unique era. For there is no question that reading books affords people an insight into other people as well as into oneself. Furthermore, the concept of the American Dream that Gatsby pursues is still a prevalent theme and a reality in America. And so, as Nick states, "we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past" (Ch.9). 

The narrative of The Great Gatsby is not so fictional that people cannot understand the pitfalls of materialism and the acquisition of wealth. The tragedy of an environment of dishonesty and fear where no values survive is to this day in the government, the workplace, institutions, and people's lives. Indeed, a reader can learn much by reading Fitzgerald's truly great novel that has as its themes the failure of the American Dream and the shallowness of the wealthy.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Great Gatsby", which was written over 80 years ago, continues to be popular for the same reason many books and plays written hundreds of years ago are still popular. Great literature is really about what it is like to be human. Despite technological and cultural changes, the human experience has not really changed in hundreds of years. These books tap into our quest for learning how to deal with life. Gatsby, for example, taps into the yearning for the "American Dream". That dream suggests that  if you work hard enough, you will be rewarded with riches and happiness. That's what Gatsby believes and that dream leads to his destruction. Today, with our economy is distress, many other people are finding that, despite their hard work, they are losing the very things they worked so hard to attain. Thus, Fitzgerald tapped into a theme that resonates with people, especially today or whenever people experience an economic downturn or emotional disappointment. Other themes in the novel also seem like they could have been written yesterday. For instance, the clash between rich and poor. Look at the public outrage recently over the bonuses issued to rich executives. People do not understand how some executives are not reaping the consequences of their behavior, but instead are being rewarded. However, Tom and Daisy literally get away from any consequences of their actions. So, "The Great Gatsby" touches on themes that are still in today's headlines and that is why we continue to read the novel.

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The Great Gatsby

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