I once heard someone say something as wise as ‘reading books when you’re older makes you see them in a completely different way‘. Ever since, I could not help but wonder how truthful that statement was. One of the truest examples for me was with “The Great Gatsby“. Not only had I just started University when I first read this masterpiece by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I was not open to all the shades it implies, the historical context, the deeper meaning behind the actions.
I didn’t, and never passed, the Anglo-American Literature course when I had to explain what the novel itself stood for: “what does the green light represent?” I was asked. I think I said “the American dream, the land of hope, shiny but distant” or something along those lines. The teacher wasn’t pleased: was it that she was not interested in her students’ personal interpretations or was I too vague? I still wonder. But I now think the green light was also a metaphor for his love for Daisy: almost unreal and difficult to match his idealistic love with the person she turned out to be. But that interpretation came afterwards and I tend to think it is due to me growing up. Had I written a paper on this novel, I would probably judge my views as naive or not deep enough.
I am also quite convinced that in ten years time I could go back to the books on my shelf and find out I see them in a different light. Metaphors are often very difficult to grasp, especially in very elaborated plots, which means one must go through a great deal of analysis and interpretations before being able to see what things possibly stand for. Cryptic works are often just created in order to keep people guessing over time, one of James Joyce‘s greatest devices which he implied in his obscure narrative of “Ulysses“.
Yet, it is no surprise that people might see things differently in time. Nobody really stays the same all the time. One might be sure not to have changed a thing over the years, but it cannot be true. We all change. In fact, when I first read “The Great Gatsby” I was not as enchanted as I am today. Now, I know more about the 1920s, about the society of that time, and I can go back to that novel knowing exactly what goes on. The interpretation of the characters, however, is an infinite experience. We will always tend to find details we didn’t notice, see things in a new light, hate what we first loved, love what we first hated.