The seminal novel, The Great Gatsby, returns to the consciousness of more than just high school juniors this year when it breaks back onto the big screen in its fourth remake directed by Baz Luhrmann.
This film will be just as groundbreaking as when Fitzgerald published the novel back in 1925 and it represented the considerations of a generation: loneliness, lack of fulfillment, existentialism. That generation had yet to express these new and complex experiences and The Great Gatsby gave them framework to do so.
Nick, who will be played by Tobey Maguire is the quintessential all-American boy: Midwestern Yale graduate who served his country in WWI. With the intent of entering the bonds business upon graduating, we see him making “smart” choices, always fulfilling his duties.
Out on East Egg we meet a cast of characters who do anything but. It soon becomes clear to Nick that not only are those around him not walking the same path, they do not even recognize him for his efforts to make an honest and fulfilling life for himself.
Though intriguing, everyone in his new community seems to fail his expectations. The more he learns about them, the more disappointing they become — Gatsby is a bootlegger, Daisy is a lacking mother, Tom is having an extramarital affair.
Many millennials today experience similar revelations of “adulthood.”. A modern day Nick would also discover that success is hard won; he would become as disillusioned as his literary progenitor. Modern-day Nick would also likely have this terrible economy to contend with and a boatload of student loans.
Modern-day Nick might even have a similar path — small-town boy who graduated from a top university and worked menial jobs throughout college who then moves East to break into the financial sector. He is losing the American dream just like Nick Carraway and just like Fitzgerald himself.
F. Scott Fitzgerald attained notoriety for The Great Gatsby during his lifetime but still had the misfortune of financial duress throughout his life. His opulent lifestyle, emotionally unstable wife, and rampant alcoholism drove him to an unhappy and untimely demise at the age of 44.
Furthermore, Gatsby symbolizes the morally bankrupt role model, which we see reflected in today’s depraved politicians. Gatsby leads a wealthy and generous lifestyle, however it has been built upon thievery and underhandedness. Today, Gatsby-like politicians and business leaders are even more visible with investigative journalism and social media.
Nick also becomes an invested observer in a love triangle, which leads him to further disillusionment. Gatsby spent his life becoming the man that he thought was worthy of Daisy. Once the romance is rekindled though, he realizes he was only in love with the idea of Daisy and not her true self.
Millennial-Nick knows a similar feeling. Many things seem better before you get them. Jobs, for example, are safer when you are college; options seem bountiful and endless. It is a classic “grass is greener” scenario, pervasive in the millennial culture.
The Great Gatsby will speak to our generation as it did to the generation that it was written for because nothing has really changed. Will it ever change, what do you think would it take?