The Great Gatsby Background Information

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The Great Gatsby Background Information
About F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

  • Fitzgerald wrote the best prose, drank the best wine, knew the best people, went to the best parties, and lived as though the money would never stop.

  • Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald - with financial help from relatives, he went to Princeton, but left during Senior year for WWI.

  • After his discharge from the military, he was determined to win Zelda and fame. One week after his first book was published, they were married.

  • Fitzgerald lived the life that he portrayed in his books; scandalous young men and women; he swam in public fountains, rode to parties on the hoods of taxis, fought with waiters, and danced on tables.

  • Fitzgerald completed The Great Gatsby in 1925. Honored by critics, but made no money. Zelda suffered a series of mental breakdowns. Fitzgerald had some difficult times. He stayed in Hollywood and went on frequent drinking binges. He died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940 at 44 years of age.

About GG:

  • Published in 1925

  • Definitive portrait of the 1920s – the “Jazz Age” and its materialistic nature

  • Scorned critically until after Fitzgerald’s death; now it is universally considered a classic

Novel Background: Characters
NOTE: only one character will change in the entire novel. (A changing character is known as a , whereas unchanging characters are considered .

  • Narrator

  • Comes from a wealthy family (old money), although he is middle class now

  • He is the only character to undergo a change in the novel, moving from moral non-involvement to maturity, assuming personal and moral responsibility.


  • Extremely wealthy – and possessed by a fascination with wealth.

  • He is trying to hang on to youth and beauty through money

  • Early in the novel, he seems to be searching for something to fill the void in his life. Like many others in the novel, he attempts to do this by acquiring things.

Daisy and Tom

  • Representatives of the new lost generation

  • Daisy is always associated with the color white, which is associated with purity, virtue…. Consider, as you read, whether or not Daisy lives up to this embodiment.

  • Tom has the values of the established wealthy (old money): self-centered, conceited, no conscience

What to read/annotate for:
As you read The Great Gatsby, be on the lookout for the following. Yes, this is a long list, but it’s also a reason why Fitzgerald’s work is so great – he expertly weaves in symbolism and poignant themes to depict American life in the Roaring Twenties.
Color symbolism: white, silver, grey, green, red, yellow, and gold in particular
Prevailing ideas:

  • Money

  • Friendship

  • Hypocrisy

  • Carelessness

  • Dishonesty

  • The American Dream

  • Bildungsroman

  • The quest

  • Parties (eight major parties in a nine chapter novel)

Social commentary – what does Fitzgerald have to say about the world around him?

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