Posted by: yachtcrewsing | August 9, 2011

The Great Gatsby and Polo

Last week I began re-reading the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, being as it offers an appropriate social critique of life in the Hamptons. Despite it being written in an era where the complete extravagance of the wealthy starkly contrasted the prior necessary austerity of wartime, the age-old disparity between classes will never become obsolete. Thus, in rediscovering the book within the new mental framework of having experienced Long Island wealth (contrasting my initial reading as a 14 year old), I found it humorously relevant.

When Nick Carraway, the narrator of the novel, meets his young, upperclass friends Tom and Daisy, he narrates that: “why they came down [to Long Island] I don’t know. They had spent a year in France for no particular reasons, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together.”

I love that quote- it really exemplifies (from the constraints of my personal observations of Hamptons life) the somewhat transient attitude that permeates the area. I am not condemning this lifestyle- if one has the money to upkeep a veritable fleet of polo ponies, then I am confident that it would be a thrilling and active way to pass many an afternoon. For those who have never seen it played, it is a wildly fast-paced game wherein highly skilled riders gallop up and down the massive field, reins and whip in one hand and mallet in the other. The latter, used for whacking a tiny ball through a goal post, necessitates such precision and is performed at such a high speed that the game is truly awe inspiring. The horsemanship is such that talented players are deftly able to direct their horses with such agility that the rider and pony look to be the same entity. Every six minutes the horses are changed, meaning that in a single game each player requires six different ponies.

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. Despite the distinctly bourgeois connotations of the sport, I enjoy it. The endless traveling, polo-playing wealthy lifestyle espoused by many of the characters in the Great Gatsby sounds quite pleasant if one has the means…


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