Boats against the current…Originality vs. Gatsby
Google search Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Once you’ve scrolled passed IMBD and Amazon, the photos of a rather dashing Leo DiCaprio and the mighty Wikipedia, you’ll come to an area of the internet known and loved by many a student. Starting with Sparknotes, you have come to essay territory – prime ground for feckless scholars crawling home at 4am, planning to start their midterm assignments due the next day.
There are hundreds of books on the subject of The Great Gatsby, from A-Level editions to Sarah Fitzgerald’s new book, Careless People. There are study guides, synopses, online downloads and free essays. All of which are available from novelguides, scribd, antiessay, dreamessays, 123helpme and a thousand blogs determined that there’s something new to say about F. Scott and his most favoured novel.
But what if they’re wrong? Is it possible that everything about The Great Gatsby has already been said?
Early this morning I received an email informing me that a recent study at Harvard University concluded that when discussing or writing about the themes and symbols of the great American novel, there is little to nothing original left to say. In fact, it’s almost impossible to hand in an essay on either subject without being flagged for plagiarism because of the plethora of articles and essays now existing on those exact topics. No longer can essayists wax lyrical on how the glimmering, green light at the end of Daisy’s East Egg dock transform into the whimsical symbol of the American Dream. Nor can they speculate freely on how Dr T.J Eckleburg and his fading gaze represent the death of Christian faith and a loss of moral certitude. It seems they might as well pluck an old article from the shelf and scratch out the words they dislike in order to create an almost new text to submit.
Ok… so maybe I’m rushing ahead of myself.
As it turned out, after reading about this study and raising the question of whether The Great Gatsby might finally be removed from curricula, I discovered that my source was the WishWashington Post. Not exactly The Washington Post as I mistakenly first thought. And perhaps this means we need not fear that Fitzgerald’s classic will be soon be retiring or that every time you mention ‘West Egg’ and the ‘Valley of Ashes’ you’ll be called up on charges of plagiarism.
But there is still a good question raised – how much can readers speculate before a novel is tired of interpretation? And where is the space for originality in an environment populated by readily available opinions on the exact same topics? I’m not sure that there’s one answer to this question – so I put it to you: what do you think?
Harriet Allner, currently doing work experience at A&B