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How does The Great Gatsby portray an accurate reflection of the roaring 1920s?What part...

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flapjacksam | eNoter

Posted May 10, 2011 at 11:24 AM via web

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How does The Great Gatsby portray an accurate reflection of the roaring 1920s?

What part of the Great Gatsby is apart from the history of the 1920’s and is a product of Fitzgerald’s imagination?

 

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted May 17, 2011 at 1:41 PM (Answer #2)

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Oh my, I'm afraid I'm going to have to vehemently disagree with the final two sentences of the last post.  There certainly WAS (and still IS) an East Egg, West Egg and Valley of the Ashes.  No, they weren't called that, of course.  BUT there ARE two egg-shaped peninsulas of land on Long Island, New York.  These are the two "Eggs" to which Fitzgerald refers:

http://maps.yahoo.com/#mvt=m&lat=40.80072&lon=-73.728012&zoom=14&q1=great%20neck%2C%20long%20island%2C%20new%20york

Check out Great Neck which would be West Egg and Manhasset Neck which would be East Egg.  I have been to both.  Long Island Sound is in been them.  (There is even a "Gatsby Lane" at what would be "West Egg."  AND they are positioned according to the "green light going, red light returning" on the sound so that Daisy WOULD have had a green light at the end of her dock!) Granted, they truly are VERY ritzy parts of Long Island.  We were floored by the sheer materialism that still exists there!  I have photos I show my students of all of these places.

As for The Valley of the Ashes, that is simply the borough of Queens right near where Yankee Stadium is, actually.  If you look at the map link I included, simply scroll over to the west towards NYC.  Just as in the book, you MUST drive through Queens to get to the glitter of New York City from Great Neck.  I'm afraid that drive is still an ugly sight.  But at least T. J. Eckleburg isn't staring down at you.  Instead, it's the Yankees.  Ha!

Fitzgerald's imagination?  I think NOT!  : )

Noelle Thompson

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 17, 2011 at 1:53 PM (Answer #3)

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I would point out that the people at Gatsby's parties are hardly middle class.  The '20s were a time of conspicuous consumption by the rich.  This is well captured in the book.  The middle class was booming, but not to the extent that middle class people were throwing parties like Gatsby's.

Tom Buchanan's attitudes are also pretty indicative of the times.  This was a time when the KKK was very strong, even in the North.  It was also a time when there was strong anti-immigrant sentiment.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 17, 2011 at 2:18 PM (Answer #4)

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There seem to be two conflicting questions here.  The first one (in boldface) asks for what is realistic while the second requests artistic creation.

Certainly, the character of Jay Gatsby is an act of literary creation by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Here is a man who, realistically, has become rich through less than honest methods, and who pursues a woman outside of his social class.  However, that he would perceive Daisy Buchanan as his "grail" is highly unlikely, and that he would be so forthright and loyal towards her is dubious given his criminal proclivities with his association with Meyer Wolfscheim.  Somehow a mob man as an Arthurian knight really does seem rather incongruous. 

Nevertheless, with the great artistry of Fitzgerald, there is a suspension of disbelief in the delighted reader of his talented work of imaginative artistry.  Thus, set against the realistic tableaux of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald carries the reader through an artistic journey of imagery and romanticism.

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bigdreams1 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted May 20, 2011 at 10:03 AM (Answer #5)

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Oh my, I'm afraid I'm going to have to vehemently disagree with the final two sentences of the last post.  There certainly WAS (and still IS) an East Egg, West Egg and Valley of the Ashes.  No, they weren't called that, of course.  BUT there ARE two egg-shaped peninsulas of land on Long Island, New York.  These are the two "Eggs" to which Fitzgerald refers:

http://maps.yahoo.com/#mvt=m&lat=40.80072&lon=-73.728012&zoom=14&q1=great%20neck%2C%20long%20island%2C%20new%20york

Check out Great Neck which would be West Egg and Manhasset Neck which would be East Egg.  I have been to both.  Long Island Sound is in been them.  (There is even a "Gatsby Lane" at what would be "West Egg."  AND they are positioned according to the "green light going, red light returning" on the sound so that Daisy WOULD have had a green light at the end of her dock!) Granted, they truly are VERY ritzy parts of Long Island.  We were floored by the sheer materialism that still exists there!  I have photos I show my students of all of these places.

As for The Valley of the Ashes, that is simply the borough of Queens right near where Yankee Stadium is, actually.  If you look at the map link I included, simply scroll over to the west towards NYC.  Just as in the book, you MUST drive through Queens to get to the glitter of New York City from Great Neck.  I'm afraid that drive is still an ugly sight.  But at least T. J. Eckleburg isn't staring down at you.  Instead, it's the Yankees.  Ha!

Fitzgerald's imagination?  I think NOT!  : )

Having taught the novel for many years, I am well aware of the land masses to which you refer in your post above, and have used similar maps with my students for them to place the scenes of the book.

Perhaps my post was not clear, however I was not referring to the actual land masses that are present on the sound and in and around New York, just the names that Fizgerald applied to them.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 27, 2011 at 9:12 PM (Answer #6)

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I would say that whilst the conspicuous consumption of the rich is definitely accurate, what is lacking is more of a focus on the desperate poverty that the normal people faced in the 1920s. Certainly, this is represented through the Valley of Ashes and the Wilsons, but I think you could easily get the wrong impression of this period, as #3 highlights, by associating it as a time of decadent wealth for everyone, whereas the opposite is true.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 24, 2011 at 2:56 PM (Answer #7)

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I think Fitzgerald accurately captured the excesses of the upper crust during the Roaring Twenties. He portrays the romantic world of flashy cars and fast women, parties that go on for days and false friends. The book has become a symbol of the 20s, and of the effects of greed and class. I think that whether or not it is accurate, it is now quintessential in our culture and the first thing that comes to mind when many Americans consider the 20s.

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