What prompted Fitzgerald to write The Great Gatsby?I wanted to know if Fitzgerald had some sort of emotional connection for him to write this piece. I know that some of the stories and essays he...

What prompted Fitzgerald to write The Great Gatsby?

I wanted to know if Fitzgerald had some sort of emotional connection for him to write this piece. I know that some of the stories and essays he wrote were about his life as well and if this novel had any connection with it. I know that Nick Carraway was drawn to Gatsby's life of obsession and tragedy. Did Fitzgerald have some of that in his life as well?

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e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Throughout his writing career, F. Scott Fitzgerald blended elements of his own experiences into his novels. His early work dealt with the experiences of a student at an Ivy League university (Fitzgerald attended Princeton). Similarly, Gatsby explores an element of society with which the author was familiar. 

We can see some further, superficial similarities between fiction and life for Fitzgerald in 1925, the year this novel was published. 

The summer of 1925 for Fitzgerald was one of “1000 parties and no work.”

Fitzgerald certainly had connections to the life and the world he described in the novel. Yet, the book is not a work of autobiography. It is, in some significant ways, a satire with far reaching roots and considerable ambition. 

Originally, the title of the book was “Trimalchio,” based on an ancient satire of a man called Trimalchio who dresses up to be rich.

In his satire, Fitzgerald was making a commentary on the American Dream, on the rampant materialism that, in Nick Carraway's view, had supplanted the values of culture and refinement in American life. No longer seeking gratification through culture, the rich and wealthy were going wild, growing corrupt, and celebrating their lifestyles even while they ruined the lives of others. Fitzgerald's novel graphically depicts these dynamics in a society he knew well. 

The form of the book, again, was not intended to be a polemic attacking contemporary values. Fitzgerald harkened back to an old form of art, the satire.

Satire originated in the Roman times, and similarly criticized the rich thugs with no values, tapped into cultural pessimism, and gave readers a glimpse into chaos. The Great Gatsby is the tale of the irresponsible rich.

Using the form of satire, Fitzgerald gains some distance between himself and the story he is telling, also providing himself with a formal attitude through which he can position his narrator and make commentary on the world the narrator finds himself in. 

Critics and historians have written extensively about Fitzgerald's wild antics, his carousing and carrying on during the 1920s and 1930s. All of this can be seen in his great novel, as part of the satire, part of the story, and part of the character of the times, drawn from Fitzgerald's own experiences. 


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