Do You Party Like Jay Gatsby?

by CLAIRE CRISPIN '15

By this point in the year, most of Saint Ursula Academy’s student body is well acquainted with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary masterpiece The Great Gatsby. It is the story of Jay Gatsby—often pictured as dreamy Leonardo DiCaprio, thanks to the 2013 film adaptation—his shady accumulation of wealth, and the astonishing weekend-long parties he hosts in a futile attempt to seduce the woman he is so desperately in love with, Daisy Buchanan. Fitzgerald writes, “In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” Fitzgerald’s eloquent descriptive language is perhaps what makes this novel dazzle and, in turn, inspire its audience to emulate Gatsby’s grandiose celebrations.

It has been announced that this year, our very own winter formal takes its theme from The Great Gatsby. For one night we can live within Fitzgerald’s glimmering world of luxurious wealth and gaiety. I mean, what’s not to love? The roaring twenties was a time of social, cultural, and economic prosperity. Speakeasies sprang up all over the nation singing the sweet notes of jazz and swing. The flapper redefined the role of the modern woman, and industry boomed. But in glorifying this era through a school dance, are we perhaps misinterpreting the true meaning of this American classic?

It’s no secret that in his book, Fitzgerald sets out to criticize what we’ve come to know as the “American Dream.” It seems as if by recreating the extravagant parties described in The Great Gatsby, we are living out exactly what its author is condemning. Though the theme of a high school dance seems to be no big deal, it is perhaps an overlooking of the era’s alcoholism, irresponsibility, and foolish excess that F. Scott Fitzgerald tries to persuade his readers to avoid. We seem to have fallen under the same spell of decadence as the unsuspecting characters in Fitzgerald’s novel. As Quartz journalist Zachary M. Stewart puts it, “We are Gatsby, after all, and we are inescapably American.” As fun as sparkly drop waist dresses and feather headbands may be, it is important we do not abandon the lessons this book has taught us: beauty is only skin deep, money can’t buy you love, and moderation is of the utmost importance. For today just as prevalent is the American society’s hollow obsession with money, class, and social status. Our world presents us with our very own green light, a villain to our virtues glowing dangerously beneath a shimmering golden façade.