|Major Works Data Sheet
The Great Gatsby
By Catherine, Dimitri, Morta, and Ella
Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Date of Publication: 1925
Historical Information about the period of publication:
The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, takes place during the year 1922. This time period followed that of World War I’s recovery, where the roaring 20’s emerged. The roaring twenties brought about a prospering economy as well as the Prohibition. This acts as an appropriate setup for Fitzgerald’s novel, factually correlating with history.
Biographical information about the author:
Born Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald on September 24, 1896, Fitzgerald’s life story greatly contributed to his writing. Fitzgerald attended the Newman School 1911-1913, later becoming a member of the Princeton Class of 1917, where he neglected his studies for his literary ambitions. Fitzgerald joined the army after being put on academic probation and was then named a second lieutenant in the infantry. In June 1918 Fitzgerald fell in love with eighteen-year-old Zelda Sayre. Fitzgerald returned to New York in 1919 when the war ended, hoping to gain a fortune and marry Zelda, who was unwilling to wait for him to come about success and called off the engagement. Fitzgerald quit his job in July 1919 and returned to St. Paul to rewrite his novel as This Side of Paradise. Published on March 26, 1920, the novel made Fitzgerald famous instantaneously. This newfound fame caught the attention of Zelda, for they later married.
This particular piece of biographical information about Fitzgerald shows the inspiration his own life had on his writing. It may be inferred that Fitzgerald’s experiences were the inspiration for Gatsby, who similarly suffered heartbreak over his stature, later winning over the girl when reaching fame.
Characteristics of the genre:
This novel is classified as fiction, for although it resembles Fitzgerald’s lifestyle and parallels history, the plot itself is fabricated. A fiction novel, such as this one, is a narrative work that contains a character development, a problem, and a concluding solution.
The Great Gatsby is a novel that emphasizes the importance of the social strata during the 1920’s. Taking place during 1922, the novel centers on the life of New York’s elite. The rich are split up into two sections: the West Egg and the East Egg; or new money and old money, respectively. Nick Carraway resides in West Egg, but mingles with people from the East Egg. Nick’s cousin, Daisy, is married to Tom Buchanan, a fellow Yale alumnus with a secret lover, Myrtle Wilson. Nick’s neighbor, Jay Gatsby, catches his attention with the lavish parties he throws for the community, to which he later gains an invitation. At this party, Nick learns that Gatsby knows Daisy has desired her for a while. It becomes evident that all of Gatsby’s riches and luxuries were attempts to gain Daisy’s attention. Gatsby and Daisy reunite at Nick’s house, later beginning an affair. Tom later realizes that Gatsby is in love with Daisy and is angered by this concept. Tom hypocritically disapproves of the thought of unfaithfulness, even though he too has an ongoing affair. Tom later exposes Gatsby to be of illegal and new money, showing Daisy that she is not fit for him and her devotion belongs to Tom. Gatsby and Daisy, driving home from New York to Long Island in the same car, get into a car accident where Myrtle is killed. Tom and Daisy devise a plan to place the blame on Gatsby, although Daisy was driving. Myrtle’s husband, George, shoots Gatsby after hearing this lie, and then shoots himself. Nick closes the novel with his reflections of the society he belongs to and his newfound antipathy towards it.
Describe the author’s style:
Fitzgerald tells the story through the first person narrative using Nick Carraway as his medium. Nick tells the story in a variety of different ways: he gives his own firsthand accounts of what he sees, he gives the accounts of other people (sometimes even in their own words), and he creates using his imagination what he thinks happened in his absence.
Nick’s firsthand account: At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another.
Nick telling the story from someone else’s experiences: James Gatz — that was really, or at least legally, his name. He had changed it at the age of seventeen and at the specific moment that witnessed the beginning of his career — when he saw Dan Cody’s yacht drop anchor over the most insidious flat on Lake Superior. It was James Gatz who had been loafing along the beach that afternoon in a torn green jersey and a pair of canvas pants, but it was already Jay Gatsby who borrowed a rowboat, pulled out to the Tuolomee, and informed Cody that a wind might catch him and break him up in half an hour.
I suppose he’d had the name ready for a long time, even then. His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people — his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all.
Nick recreating a scene using his imagination: I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn’t believe it would come, and perhaps he no longer cared. If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about . . . like that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees.
“Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.”
-Nick Carraway says this in the first chapter of The Great Gatsby to describe himself and set the tone for the rest of the novel. This is significant because Nick tells the story mostly through his own eyes, so it is important to know that he reserves judgments on people, or at least he says he does. This affects how we view other characters that he introduces to us.
“I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
-This quote is said by Daisy Buchanan and is significant in a few different ways. First, it gives us insight into Daisy’s character and how she views society. We can tell that she has experienced sexism and disadvantages for being a woman, which is why she wants something different for her daughter. Next, it foreshadows other events in the novel by saying how foolish girls are better off than those who are bright and questioning.
“He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself.”
-This quote describes Gatsby and is significant because it is the first physical description we get of him. However, this is also significant because Nick is able to extract Gatsby’s character just from his smile, but even this judgment goes against what Nick said in Chapter 1 of the book regarding his reserving of judgment.
“I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn’t believe it would come, and perhaps he no longer cared. If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.”
-This quote is an example of Nick using his imagination to narrate what he thinks to be the truth. He is being more optimistic than not when describing how Gatsby would react to losing the one thing he has been chasing for years, Daisy Buchanan, by saying that he would actually accept the fact that Daisy was gone and out of his reach.
“They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”
-This quote is the last thing that Nick tells Gatsby before Gatsby’s death. This is significant because we see the bond that has grown between Nick and Gatsby, as well as Nick’s genuine opinion of Gatsby. It is also interesting to note that the last thing that Nick ever tells Gatsby is a compliment.
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
-This quote is significant because it concludes the entire novel. Though the struggle is seen as optimistic, the goal in the end is nearly an impossible one, for the boats are against the current, summarizing and concluding Gatsby’s pursuit of Daisy.
The medium through which the reader finds out about Daisy and Gatsby’s past
One of the reasons why Daisy and Tom escape to Chicago and why her husband kills her suspected murderer, Gatsby
Shows a morally sound nature.
Is one of the few people that attend Gatsby’s funeral
Representative of the types of people that attended Gatsby’s parties
Helped to build Gatsby’s fortune through questionable means
Serves as a reminder of Gatsby’s roots and past.
Representative of the women of the time
Comforts George after Myrtle’s death
Shows Gatsby extravagance and the pursuit of dreams
Proof that Gatsby can’t erase the past
Golf player; Nick’s romantic interest
Myrtle’s husband, Gatsby’s murderer
An admirer of Gatsby’s library
A freeloader that took advantage of Gatsby
Gatsby’s business associate, gambler
Restaurant owner, George’s friend
Rich guy, Gatsby’s mentor
Tom and Daisy’s daughter
Through Nick’s eyes, the reader is able to see the true, shallow nature of the societal elites. The novel is told through his eyes and judgments.
Gatsby’s obstacle to get to Daisy, Daisy’s husband
Representative of the elite social class men of the time. With Daisy, Tom’s actions lead to Gatsby’s demise.
Representative of the elite social class women of the time. The object of Gatsby’s desire and obsession.
Gatsby’s love interest, Tom’s wife
The narrator of the novel. Helps to bring Daisy and Gatsby together.
The embodiment of the American dream and the proof that one cannot recapture the past or break into America’s “old money” society.
The protagonist; Newly wealthy but seeking acceptance among those with “old money.” The novel is centered on Gatsby’s quest to win back his lost love, Daisy Buchannan and his need to recapture the past.
Name Role in the Story Significance Adjectives
The Great Gatsby is set on Long Island, on what is called West Egg (Great Neck) and East Egg (Manhasset)– two peninsulas on the bay. They depict the social status of those who live there – West Egg represents “nouveau riche” whilst East Egg represents old money.
Significance of the opening scene-
In the opening scene, Nick talks about morals and values that he has gained from his father, and how he is quick to pass judgment on people based on that very same code. Nick depicts himself as tolerant, however he also believes he is morally privileged and allows himself to hold up everyone to the very same standards as himself; an oxymoron in the making. However, because of his high standards and judgmental ways, the opening scene allows to foreshadow the admiration and friendship that Nick develops for Jay Gatsby throughout the book, whilst gaining a clear distaste for the old money found on East Egg.
The Green Light – In Gatsby’s mind the green light is a symbol for Daisy, and in result a representation of his hopes, and dreams. He uses the light as a guide to reach Daisy, and consequently his goals. However, as he grows further and further away from Daisy and his idealistic view of her crumbles away, the light in result grows dimmer.
Valley of Ash – The Valley of Ash that lies between West Egg and New York City shows the crumbling morality of new money and the growing social hierarchy. Rather than focusing on the values that are prominent within the true American Dream they allow their greed and gluttony overcome them in their pursuit of riches.
Significance of the ending/closing scene -
In the final pages of The Great Gatsby Nick is lying on the beach behind Gatsby’s house, thinking about how the first explorers came to America and how all the islands looked without houses, and a promise land for the dreams of their forefathers. He views American as a place to fulfill dreams, whether it be to start an independent colony free from rule, or to gain riches and the girl of your dreams. Nick comes to the realization that people are generally motivated by the same desires and motives, and he views the dream as a boat that struggles against a current which inevitably takes it to failure, and the past.
Possible themes/topics of discussion -
The American Dream: Although The Great Gatsby appears to be a (failed) romance novel on the surface, Fitzgerald hits home with his depiction of America’s core values within the 1920’s. He portrays the main characters as status driven, and money hungry individuals who believe in Darwinism within the social hierarchy of the states. Because of their lust for the pleasures that life has to offer, Gatsby characterizes the protagonists as the reason for the corruption of the American dream – focusing on money rather than on morals and core values.
New Money V.S. Old Money: Fitzgerald describes West Egg/new money as ostentatious, ornate, and vulgar; flaunting what they have. East Egg/old money is portrayed as subtle, tasteful, more so humble and conservative than new money. Gatsby represents the nouveau riche whilst Tom and Daisy depict old money; the clear dispute between Tom and Gatsby is truly a battle of social status and how the two social classes have no right to mix (old money will always win).