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F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, now regarded as the spokesman for the “Lost Generation” of the 1920 s, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1896 He is a distant relative of the Francis Scott Key. . Upon his grandmother’s death, Fitzgerald and the family received a rather handsome inheritance, yet Scott seemed always to be cast into a society where others enjoyed more affluence than he. However, unlike Gatsby, a self-made man, Fitzgerald inherited family money
Thanks to another relative’s money, Fitzgerald was able to enroll in Princeton in 1913. He never graduated from the Ivy League school; in fact, he failed several courses during his undergraduate years. However, he wrote for the Triangle Club, Princeton’s musical comedy group, and “donned swishy, satiny dresses to romp onstage” alongside attractive chorus girls. Today, Princeton houses his memoirs, including letters from Ernest Hemingway, motion picture scripts, scrapbooks, and other mementos
He withdrew from Princeton and entered the war in 1917, commissioned a second lieutenant in the army. While in Officers Candidate School in Alabama, he met and fell in love with Zelda Sayre, a relationship which was also like Jay Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy and her fascination with a military man. Despite Zelda’s breaking their engagement due to his small income, they became reengaged that fall not long after his first book was accepted for publication. In 1919 his earnings totaled $879; the following year, following the publication of This Side of Paradise, an instant success, his earnings increased to $18, 000.
By 1924 it was clear that Fitzgerald needed a change. He, Zelda, and daughter Scottie moved to Europe, near the French Riviera, where he first met Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Edith Wharton. To increase earnings he wrote some 160 short stories for magazines, works which, by his own admission, lacked luster. After Zelda’s alcoholism had several times forced her commitment to an institution, Scott went to Hollywood to write screenplays, and struggled unsuccessfully to complete a final novel, The Last Tycoon. He died in December of 1940 after a lifelong battle with alcohol and a series of heart attacks. Zelda died in a fire at the institution in which she was living in 1946.
Introduction to The Great Gatsby:
In 1925, The Great Gatsby was published and hailed as an artistic and material success for its young author, F. Scott Fitzgerald. In nine chapters, Fitzgerald presents the rise and fall of Jay Gatsby, as related in a first-person narrative by Nick Carraway reveals the story of a farmer's son-turned racketeer, named Jay Gatz. His ill-gotten wealth is acquired solely to gain acceptance into the sophisticated, moneyed world of the woman he loves, Daisy Fay Buchanan. His romantic illusions about the power of money to buy respectability and the love of Daisy—the "golden girl" of his dreams—are skillfully and ironically interwoven with episodes that depict what Fitzgerald viewed as the callousness (unfeeling)and moral irresponsibility of the affluent (wealthy)American society of the 1920 s.
America at this time experienced a cultural and lifestyle revolution. In the economic arena, the stock market boomed, the rich spent money on fabulous parties and expensive acquisitions, the automobile became a symbol of glamour and wealth, and profits were made, both legally and illegally. The whirlwind pace of this post-World War I era is captured in Fitzgerald's Gatsby, whose tragic quest foretell the collapse of that era and the onset of disillusionment with the American dream.
The contrast and gap between Gatsby's dream vision and reality is a prominent theme in this book. Other motifs in the book include: Gatsby's quest for the American Dream; Class conflict (the Wilsons vs. the Buchanans and the underworld lowbrows vs. Gatsby); The cultural rift between East and West; The contrast between innocence and experience in the narrator's life.
The American Dream and The Great Gatsby: The American Dream is the idea held by many in the United States of America that through hard work, courage, and determination one can achieve financial and personal success. These were values held by many early European settlers, and have been passed down to subsequent generations. What the American dream has become is a question under constant discussion, and some believe that it has led to an emphasis on material wealth as a measure of success and/or happiness. The American dream is a concept in our culture that unities us all as Americans despite our racial, religious, and socio-economic diversity.
Settings in The Great Gatsby • West Egg- where Nick and Gatsby live, represents new money • East Egg- where Daisy lives, the more fashionable area, represents old money
Settings in The Great Gatsby • The City- New York City, where the characters escape to for work and play • The Valley of Ashes- between the City and West Egg, where Wilson’s gas station is
THEMES • While The Great Gatsby explores a number of themes, none is more important than that of the corruption of the American dream The society in which the novel takes place is one of excess of pleasure seeking and moral decay. Whether their money is inherited or earned, its inhabitant are immorally living life in quest of cheap thrills and with no real purpose to their lives.
The Great Gatsby: Major Symbols The Green Light and the Color Green The green light at the end of DAISY’S dock is the symbol of GATSBY’S hopes and dreams
Symbols in The Great Gatsby • The Eyes of Dr. T. J. Ekleburg- A decaying billboard in the Valley of Ashes with eyes advertising an optometrist. There are multiple proposed meanings, including the representation of God’s moral judgment on society.
The Valley of Ashes An area halfway between New York City and West Egg, the Valley of Ashes is an industrial wasteland covered in ash and soot. If New York City represents all the “mystery and beauty in the world, ” and West Egg represents the people who have gotten rich off the roaring economy of the Roaring Twenties, the Valley of Ashes stands for the dismal ruin of the people caught in between
Old Money Vs. New Money WEST EGG/ EAST EGG • Old Money • New Money: • Money from family • Someone who has wealth achieved the American • Born rich Dream • Not earned through • Not as respected in the work done by yourself 1920’s • Respected above all in the 1920’s
Character List • Nick Carraway: Nick is the first person narrator and protagonist of the novel; • every incident is filtered through and interpreted by him. Nick • represents the middle class. • Jay Gatsby (James Gatz): Gatsby is the supposed hero of the novel. He is a slipperycharacter; his language, home, books, cars, and attire all glimmer like gold, but no one really knows what goes on • inside of him or who he is. • Daisy Buchanan: Daisy is a Louisville, Kentucky, socialite born into tremendous wealth. She is an empty-headed character, as fake and airy as her voice. She is lovely, slight, and careless. She lacks any • substance.
Character List • Tom Buchanan: Tom is Daisy’s husband, a native Chicagoan from a hugely • wealthy family. He is rugged, gigantic, and brash, as well as • racist, arrogant, and adulterous. • Jordan Baker: Jordan is a golfer—young, taut, and tan—and a pseudo love • interest of Nick’s. Jordan, too, lacks substance. • Myrtle Wilson: Myrtle is a resident of the valley of ashes, wife of George • Wilson, mistress of Tom Buchanan. She is desperate to escape • her fate.
Character List • George Wilson: George is the sad proprietor of the gas station in the valley of ashes. He is the product of his economic hardship. George is Myrtle Wilson’s husband. • Doctor T. J. Eckleburg: T. J. Eckleburg is the doctor whose advertisement—a billboard featuring a pair of gigantic blue eyes behind enormous yellow spectacles— looks down upon the valley of ashes. George. Wilson calls those eyes the eyes of God.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Impact on Society • Fitzgerald named the 1920’s “The Jazz Age” • Wrote screenplays for Metro-Goldwyn. Mayer • Created the The Great Gatsby which is said to be the most accurate description of the 1920 s
The Jazz Age • Prohibition was in effect • Dances such as the Charleston were popular • Popular sayings included 23 Skidoo, Bee’s Knees • Economy was in a “Boom”
The Flappers • Flappers were women who rebelled against the fashion and social norms of the early 1900’s. • They married at a later age and drank and smoked in public • Flappers were known for their carefree lifestyles.
Flapper Fashion • Flappers dressed in shapeless dresses that came to the knee. • Dresses were made to look “boy-like” • Gender bending was common. Women would try to make themselves look more man-like.