This is a stylish and thought-provoking essay—on the whole, a strong finish to your study of Gatsby. Your prose, as always, is spirited and poised, and I find your central claim quite interesting: that Gatsby, even in the world of West Egg, may not actually exist. Nick Carraway, you suggest, may have invented Gatsby as a sort of moral flight simulator, a way for a wary Midwesterner to rehearse a few possible responses to 1920s “urban decadence.” According to this reading, the Buchanans and Wilsons are “real,” but everything else is not—not Gatsby, not the Louisville back-story, not Meyer Wolfsheim, not the death of Myrtle Wilson. It’s a refreshingly wild idea, and you develop it cleverly. You’re also careful—wisely—to temper your argument by stating that you aren’t really asserting this thesis; you’re merely wondering what would happen to our reading of the novel if we entertained the possibility that Nick is a writer of fiction.
But while the paper is definitely stimulating, it stops far short of supplying enough textual evidence to support its claims. In fact, your paper stands at some distance from the actual novel. You note the dream-like quality of Nick’s encounters with Gatsby, but you don’t provide any specific examples of it; you claim Gatsby faces “many of the same questions that plague” Nick, but you don't show us where in the text these questions arise. Even more troubling to me is that your memory of the text is sometimes deeply flawed. Nick does not, as you write, ever acknowledge a past ambition to become a writer. He is not an alcoholic (in fact he specifically tells us, while narrating a scene that even you admit is real, that he has been drunk only twice in his life). And what is the deal with all this stuff about Nick’s being in a sanitarium? Bryan, I understand that sophomore year is hard, but there’s really no excuse for mixing up Gatsby with the ending of The Catcher in the Rye.
Ultimately, this interpretation flounders—not only because it turns Gatsby into a sort of Prohibition-era Fight Club, but also because we can take away almost all of its power by replacing “Nick” with “Fitzgerald.” If, instead of claiming that Nick invented Gatsby, we argue that Fitzgerald did—well, you see my point. What your essay makes clear is that someone, a writer, was trying to make sense of 1920s decadence—and no one can argue with that.
Ouch. The lesson here? I should read the book. Also, Luhrmann’s adaptation is, at best, only 80-84 percent accurate. Kids, learn from my mistakes: Read the real deal, and don’t let some Hollywood director’s carnivalesque, hip-hop-infused, champagne-soaked siren call lead you astray. The film contains no warning light—green or otherwise—to save you from the shoals of intellectual mortification.