Imagine for a moment
that the better part of your life was spent
chasing the idea of love rather than love itself.
This was, unfortunately, the spur and eventual demise of the protagonist in the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Great Gatsby”. Among the plethora of themes entrenched in the narration, the one that sticks out in all its unforgiving glory is the pursuit of an ideal that ceases to be ultimately an ideal and has no relevance to reality. Gatsby’s glorious Pursuit was the ‘idea’ of Daisy. The better half of his life was spent trying to achieve a lifestyle that can be held synonymous to that of Daisy’s by all means, particularly not lawful, necessary so that he may be the best man for her hand. Set during the roaring twenties in America, the inherent message seems to hold unanticipated relevance to today’s millennial culture with the same sort of intoxicating intensity it held for the ‘Flappers’ and ‘Bootleggers’ of the 1920’s and resounds with the globalised youth of today regardless of culture and upbringing.
Any casual observer will not fail but notice the parallels that the two cultures possess although there is almost a century separating them. Due to the relative economic and financially prosperity following World War II, the current generation is reaping the benefits. Due to this increase in standard of living and the glorification of personal pleasure, the millennials have the freedom to revel, or more precisely, celebrate excess much like that of Gatsby’s Parties. The most significant point of comparison between the Gatsby era and ours lies in the phenomenon of ‘casual relationships’.
Daisy, initially a bit shaken by not being able to marry Gatsby, just tosses her troubles off for a more practical relationship whereas Myrtle Wilson’s relationship with Tom albeit knowing that his leanings will forever be for Daisy are apt depictions of this. Tom, in the same vein, as alluded in the book, is notorious for his infidelities but as it turns out, after a brief ruckus, Daisy and Tom patch it up following each of his ‘slight’ misdemeanours. Although our fellow generation is not so severe in its manifestations, it is becoming incredibly apparent that orthodox measures of loyalty and long-term relationships are becoming less appealing with passing time and the indulgence in casual relationships have become more rampant. For better or worse, it has become the reality, as is in The Great Gatsby’s setting, that values and practices considered the epitome of societal niceties are becoming somewhat of a smidgen too much salt in the vast ocean of personal pleasure.
Another blaring similarity is the ever-changing rungs of the social ladder. One of Tom Buchanan’s conceited concern was the emergence of the newly rich and their general attitude in contrast to the established elite. This does echo with us for the number of High Net Worth Individuals under 35 years of age have skyrocketed in the recent past. In addition, this also has a significant effect on the current political makeup for the ideologies are heavily influenced by this melting pot of individuals from varying backgrounds. Moreover, most of the youth are not fueled by the need to provide financial stability as opposed to their previous generation but are more motivated by personal goals they set for themselves. It cannot be denied that such a mentality is a huge boost in terms of creative output as evidenced by the boisterous start-up culture.
However, there does exist a large majority whose ideals are fashioned on pop culture shenanigans and social media trends and they end up chasing these much like a dog’s pursuit of its own tail. This is very much a mirror of Gatsby’s melodramatic pursuit of the idea of Daisy.
And so it all boils down to this; the Gatsbys, Buchanans and Carraways are still alive in the many millennials of today each with their own esoteric pursuits. So there is, and trust me there will be, The Greatest of Gatsby tales being recounted by the masses of today in a way quite similar to my humble observations for all we know I might as well be the Nick Carraway of 2018.