Why The Great Gatsby Is The Best American Novel

This material is available in my book, The Gatsby Reader. It is available on Amazon and Kindle.

gatsby reader

I can’t wait to read the comments for this post. I’m sure there are some who like me enjoy reading Fitzgerald, but I’m further convinced there are others who will strongly disagree.

The Great Gatsby is my favorite American novel. I have read it over fifty times (to tell the truth, I’ve lost count by now). But when I say that The Great Gatsby is the greatest American novel I mean more than it is the best novel writer by an American author. I mean it is the most advanced book on the subject of America itself. Jay Gatsby is not just an American by his national citizenship, but he exists in the clearest way of what it means to be an American. He is an American Everyman.

He Is We And We Are He

Nick wonders at Gatsby’s capacity for hope. Fitzgerald ties this into the American ideal in his close to the novel. Before Nick leaves West Egg, he looks around and thinks about the wonder that Dutch sailors must have felt when they first saw this New World. This sense of wonder is also expressed as their dreams in this verdant and green world.

Fitzgerald moves then to the green light at the end of the dock of the Buchannan house across the courtesy bay over in East Egg. Remember that the first time Nick sees Gatsby, the playboy is standing on the beach staring at the green light. Fitzgerald ties the Dutch wonder of dreams regarding this new, green republic to Gatsby’s hope when he then tells us that “Gatsby always believed in the green light.”

In his closing words, Fitzgerald associates all of this with you and I with the personal pronoun “we.” The sailors’ dreams and Gatsby’s belief symbolize American hope. Jut like Gatsby, someday we will reach out further and we will run faster.

We Hopeful Americans

This hope of Gatsby’s didn’t quite work out like he would have liked it. In fact, his hope started after his failure had begun; and still, he hoped. Like the dreamful Gatsby, we beat on, even though our boats run against the current. This is because of what has already been locked in by our past. And yet, we continue to hope.

Americans are indeed the inheritors of these Dutch sailors and all who came to this New World looking for a better life. Scholar comment on how The Great Gatsby addresses the failure of the American Dream, and yet, we as Americans still dream. Bunker Hill didn’t kill the revolution, it fueled it. The dread of 9/11 did not compel us to give up, but pull together a rebuild. We don’t throw in the towel very easily, eve when it seems there is every reason to.

The Challenge To Writers

What makes Gatsby so Great is what makes Americans Great. His capacity for hope and belief in the green light mirrors our national stick-to-it-iveness. For all of the collapses and failures, tragedies and melodramas, I feel better about things every time I finish reading The Great Gatsby.

It makes me think of the possibility of whether or not I could ever write anything so ennobling. Fitzgerald set the bar quite high for all of us authors. I believe that The Great Gatsby is the greatest American novel because it is the greatest account of what it means to live as a hopeful American. If any of us could ever write anything that inspires such hope, then it would be an accomplishment indeed. That is something I would like to read, maybe fifty times or more.

Agree or disagree, I would love to read your ideas. Let me know in the Comments section below, and thanks for reading!

Here are some more articles regarding The Great Gatsby you can find here on A Word Fitly Spoken:

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14 responses to “Why The Great Gatsby Is The Best American Novel

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