The Great Gatsby is definitely a Modernist novel but what exactly does this mean? Is it in any way also crime fiction? Romantic fiction? A mystery story?
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Hmmm.... I suppose I would make the case that this is a romance, the primary feature of which is Gatsby's unrequited love for Daisy. Two men (and more, even, back in the day) vie for one woman's heart; the female protagonist loves two men; there are cheating and partying and secret trysts; readers feel a sympathy for the guy who is never going to get the girl despite his heroic efforts. The Great Gatsby is certainly not just a romance, but it certainly has many familiar elements of the romance genre.
One element of Modernism that is evident in this novel is the sense of alienation that many of the characters feel. Most notably, especially by the end of the novel, is Nick's alienation from the values and lifestyle that he was seeking at the start of the novel. Gatsby is alienated because he doesn't ever truly fit in with the upper class, old money, society of Daisy and Tom. Nick is alienated because he doesn't have any wealth to speak of. The Wilson's are alienated because of their social class. All of the characters are trying to achieve more or maintain what they have, and it is a struggle that ends up destroying many of the characters by the end of the novel. I agree with auntlori that the novel has its Romantic elements in terms of romantic entanglements, but it is not Romantic in regards to its picture of human beings. Romanticism suggests the inherent goodness of man, and that is not evident in any of the characters in this novel.
To a certain extent, the story is a mystery. This because much of the time we are not quite sure what is happening. It is more of a modernist novel, because it explores the impact of decadence. The story also uses heavy symbolism and that is really too advanced for mystery, romance or crime novels. They are more popular fiction than literature.
Is it not also a harsh and realistic documentary into the excesses of the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties, although in a literary form? I recently have finished teaching this novel and one of the activities I got my class to do was to write a newspaper article based on one of the social issues of the day using Chapter 3--Gatbsy's party--as the basis. They all said how realistic this party was in terms of the research they had carried out into Prohibition, fashion etc.
Some critics classify F. Scott Fitzgerald's work as a Modernist novel of manners, a genre that deals with the behavior, customs, values, and language of an age or a particular class of people. As a novel of manners, The Great Gatsby falls into the literary form of satire which many such novels were as Fitzgerald ridicules the nouveau riche and their behavior and amoral values. Yet, Gatsby's character is that of such a Romantic....It is this characteristic, prhaps, which endears him to the reader and makes him a tragic hero.
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