Nick Gillespie on The Great Gatsby's Enduring Relevance to America


As Baz Luhrmann's star-studded, 3D-enhanced version of The Great Gatsby hits theaters across the country, Nick Gillespie explores why F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel maintains a hold on the American imagination that is virtually unrivaled by any other novel of its time.

The reason that Gatsby (the novel, if not the character) still has plenty to say to us is that it captures the precise moment that modern America came into recognizable shape. It is about the move from countryside to metropolis, from unum to pluribus, from hierarchy to heterarchy in all aspects of cultural and economic life. It captures a world in which nothing is fixed in terms of status, fortune, and self-fashioning—and it narrates the anxieties by such freedom.

Gillespie argues that despite its continued popularity and critical acclaim, that Gatsby is widely misunderstood and that the real hero of the story is actually Meyer Wolfsheim, the Jewish gangster who "makes" Gatsby and is described in one of the most openly and virulently anti-Semitic passages in American literature.