The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
(Full name Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald) American novelist, short story writer, essayist, screenwriter, and playwright.
The following entry provides criticism on Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925) from 1984 through 2001. See also, F. Scott Fitzgerald Criticism and "Babylon Revisited" Criticism.
Critics have generally agreed that The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, is the crowning achievement of Fitzgerald's literary career. It evokes not only the ambiance of the jazz-age search for the American dream of wealth and happiness, but also the larger questions of fading traditional values in the face of increasing materialism and cynicism.
Plot and Major Characters
Fitzgerald frames his plot as a story within a story, as the narrator, Nick Carraway, relates his version of Jay Gatsby's life. Nick, seeking freedom from his constricted Midwestern existence, takes a job in New York City and rents a bungalow in West Egg, Long Island, next door to the lavish mansion of the mysterious Jay Gatsby. Nick's wealthy cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her husband Tom, invite Nick to dinner with the attractive but flighty Jordan Baker at their luxurious home on the neighboring island of East Egg. Unsettled by the Buchanans' seemingly purposeless lives, Nick returns home and notices his neighbor Gatsby staring longingly at a green light across the bay coming from the Buchanans' property. Tom later persuades Nick to accompany him to a place he calls the Valley of Ashes and introduces him to his blowsy mistress, Myrtle Wilson. Tom, Myrtle, and Nick end up at an apartment in New York, where a wild party ensues, and in a violent outburst, Tom strikes Myrtle and breaks her nose. Later in the month, Gatsby sends Nick an invitation to come to a sumptuous party at his estate, where Nick meets his neighbor for the first time. This is the first of many parties Nick attends at the Gatsby mansion in the company of many of the rich and famous. When Gatsby later takes Nick to New York for lunch, he regales him with tales of his war medals and his Oxford education. The other guest at lunch is the notorious gangster Meyer Wolfsheim, who reportedly fixed the World Series in 1918. Nick, befuddled by Gatsby's questionable associations, is also taken aback when Jordan asks him on Gatsby's behalf to invite Daisy to lunch at Nick's bungalow. He does so even though he now knows that Daisy and Gatsby were in love prior to her marriage to Tom. The two ill-fated lovers meet, and Gatsby takes Daisy to his mansion and invites her to his next party. Daisy agrees, but when she disapproves of some of his guests, Gatsby stops entertaining altogether. He eventually tells Nick of his truly humble Midwest origins, noting that his name is really Gatz, that he did not graduate from Oxford, and that he has made his fortune in bootlegging and other nefarious ventures. One day Gatsby, the Buchanans, Jordan, and Nick drive to New York. On the way, they stop at the garage of George Wilson, husband of Myrtle, who tries to get money from Tom and announces that he and Myrtle are leaving town. At a hotel in New York, Tom accuses Gatsby of trying to steal his wife, and a fierce argument ensues. Daisy heads home with Gatsby, and shortly thereafter Tom and Jordan stop at Wilson's garage to find that Myrtle has been killed by a hit-and-run driver of a yellow car. Tom blames the death on Gatsby though the real driver at the time was Daisy, whom Gatsby seeks to protect. George Wilson, thinking Gatsby was the driver, goes to Gatsby's estate, shoots him, and then kills himself. Only Gatsby's father, who thinks his son was a great man, attends his funeral. Nick later learns that Tom had a part in Gatsby's death, having convinced Wilson that Myrtle and Gatsby were lovers. Disillusioned with the Buchanans and their ilk, Nick decides to return to the Midwest.
Echoes of the American Dream pervade the novel, which contrasts the supposed innocence and moral sense of the “Western” characters with the sophistication and materialism of the “Eastern” characters. Gatsby's lavish existence in the nouveau riche Long Island community of West Egg, moreover, cannot ever compensate for his lack of the more pedigreed wealth of East Egg. He remains an “innocent” in his single-minded pursuit of Daisy despite his association with underworld characters and ill-begotten money. The Valley of Ashes and the sign with the blank eyes of Dr. Eckleburg indicate a moral wasteland and an absent God—as well as the emptiness of the new commercial culture. Gatsby's pursuit of his dream takes on a mythic quality, mirroring the dream which led Americans to conquer the frontier. Gatsby's “frontier,” however, is an ill-advised pursuit of a vacuous young woman not worthy of his love. Initially, Nick, the Midwestern moral arbiter, disdains Gatsby's values, but he eventually comes to see something heroic in Gatsby's vision, which reflects America's own loss of innocence in the face of the crass materialism of the 1920s.
Early reviews of Gatsby were mixed, and relatively few copies actually had sold before Fitzgerald's death in 1940. Many critics, most notably Ernest Hemingway, were put off by the fact that Fitzgerald had been known as a writer of stories for popular magazines like The Saturday Evening Post. It was not until a revival of Fitzgerald's works in the 1950s that the novel began to attract serious criticism. For the five ensuing decades, Gatsby has continued to attract critical attention and reappraisal. Critics have praised Fitzgerald's tightly woven narrative, and many have focused on the position of the narrator, Nick Carraway, and the subjective limitations of his observations of Gatsby's saga. Although Gatsby was for many years called “a novel of the Jazz Age” (a term which Fitzgerald coined), critics have agreed that it has a much more universal meaning, not the least of which is a trenchant critique of materialist American society much like T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land. The appearance of at least four biographies in the 1990s and early 2000s is an indication that interest in Fitzgerald's novels remains unabated. Earlier critics of Gatsby emphasized biographical and cultural influences on the novel, and formalist approaches dealt with the novel's structure, point of view, symbols, use of language, and the like. By the 1980s through the early 2000s, a variety of approaches, both heavily theoretical and non-theoretical, have been evident in critics' commentaries. While many have continued to explore biographical influences or comparisons with other authors, or to use New Critical analyses, others have increasingly employed such techniques as deconstruction, feminist criticism, and discourse analysis to uncover hidden meanings in the text.
Flappers and Philosophers (short stories) 1920
This Side of Paradise (novel) 1920
The Beautiful and Damned (novel) 1922
Tales of the Jazz Age (short stories) 1922
The Vegetable; or, From President to Postman (play) 1923
The Great Gatsby (novel) 1925
All the Sad Young Men (short stories) 1926
Tender Is the Night (novel) 1934
Taps at Reveille (short stories) 1935
The Last Tycoon (unfinished novel) 1941
The Crack-Up (essays, notebooks, and letters) 1945
Afternoon of an Author (short stories and essays) 1957
The Pat Hobby Stories (short stories) 1962
The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald (letters) 1963
Dear Scott/Dear Max: The Fitzgerald-Perkins Correspondence (letters) 1971
As Ever, Scott Fitz: Letters Between F. Scott Fitzgerald and His Literary Agent Harold Ober, 1919-1940 (letters) 1972
The Basil and Josephine Stories (short stories) 1973
Bits of Paradise [with Zelda Fitzgerald] (short stories) 1973
The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald (notebooks) 1978
The Price Was High (short...
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SOURCE: Cartwright, Kent. “Nick Carraway as an Unreliable Narrator.” Papers on Language and Literature 20, no. 2 (spring 1984): 218-32.
[In the following essay, Cartwright discusses ways in which Nick Carraway is sometimes a confused or misleading narrator.]
While I have met individuals whom I might describe as more Gatsby than Carraway, I have seldom met a critic I would so describe. As critics, we seem to cherish our disillusionment. Indeed, serious interest in The Great Gatsby, according to Richard Foster, was launched by a generation of neoclassical and formalist critics who tended to believe in the final, tough truth of existence imaged in the thinning possibility and thinning joy of Nick's lugubrious moral retreat. As a consequence, traditional estimates of The Great Gatsby have grown up around the dual assumptions that Nick speaks for his author and that the novel's mission is an essentially straightforward criticism of the American Dream.1 Furthermore, because something about Nick's “midwesternism” seems deeply personal to Fitzgerald, critics have tended not to distinguish between either the narrator and his author or the narrator and his novel. Nick's vision, however, is not identical to Fitzgerald's, or at least to the novel's, for Nick is capable of being an unreliable narrator at moments that are crucial to the story's development. Indeed, in exactly the same...
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SOURCE: Eble, Kenneth E. “The Great Gatsby and the Great American Novel.” In New Essays on ‘The Great Gatsby,’ edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, pp. 79-100. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
[In the following essay, Eble places Gatsby in the tradition of the quest for an “American” literature.]
In length, the book barely qualifies as a full-sized novel. In subject, it is about an American bootlegger who nourishes an adolescent dream about a golden girl he can't have. Its plot does little more than tell us who the protagonist is and get him killed off in the end by the down-and-out husband of the blowsy mistress of the rich brute who has married the girl whom the hero wants but can't have. Its manner of telling is disjointed, albeit by the literary design of the author, and accompanied by some seemingly casual moralizing by an omnipresent narrator sounding suspiciously like the author and sort of occupying himself at other times by taking an interest in a woman golfer who cheats, the only other substantial character in the novel if we except a denizen of the underworld, the mistress's dog and friends, Gatsby's father, a bunch of assorted party goers, and one mourner.
From this perspective, the adulation The Great Gatsby has received may seem totally out of proportion. For half a century, it has held a high place...
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SOURCE: Mansell, Darrel. “The Jazz History of the World in The Great Gatsby.” English Language Notes 25 (December 1987): 57-62.
[In the following essay, Mansell suggests possible sources of and purposes for a reference to a jazz work in a scene of Gatsby.]
Fitzgerald said in retrospect that his first novel had actually been not one book but three, and his second novel two. He wanted his third novel to be more coherent: more spare, economical and “intricately patterned.” Indeed he wanted the new one to be “perfect.”1
The critical consensus has been that what he produced is close to perfect. In The Great Gatsby there seem almost no loose, unworking parts—no automobile wheels lying in the ditch like the one after a Gatsby party, “unconnected to the car by any physical bond” (Chapter III). The novel is said to have “perfection of form,” to be “compact,” “tightly structured,” to have a “tight inevitability of … construction,” to have a “formal completeness and integrity.”2
But there is at least one episode lying outside just about any conception of the formal integrity of the novel—one wheel lying loose in the ditch. That is the scene when the orchestra leader at the fateful party in Chapter III announces a musical work by a Mr. Vladimir Tostoff: the Jazz History of the World. Nick...
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SOURCE: Town, Caren J. “‘Uncommunicable Forever’: Nick's Dilemma in The Great Gatsby.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 31, no. 4 (winter 1989): 497-513.
[In the following essay, Town deconstructs the language used by Gatsby narrator Nick Carraway, noting disconnections between what he says and what he actually means.]
From the petal's edge a line starts that being of steel infinitely fine, infinitely rigid penetrates the Milky Way without contact—lifting from it—neither hanging nor pushing—
—William Carlos Williams, from “The Rose”
During their first meeting in The Great Gatsby, Daisy Fay Buchanan playfully calls her cousin (and the novel's narrator) Nick Carraway “an absolute rose.” He responds:
This was untrue. I am not even faintly like a rose. She was only extemporizing, but a stirring warmth flowed from her, as if her heart was trying to come out to you concealed in one of the breathless, thrilling words. Then suddenly she threw her napkin on the table and excused herself and went into the house.1
What matters to Nick here and throughout the novel, is not the veracity of what is being said, or even the words themselves, but the “heart” that is “concealed in one of the breathless, thrilling words.” Words may lack the power to...
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SOURCE: Lehan, Richard. “The Importance of the Work.” In The Great Gatsby: The Limits of Wonder, pp. 11-15. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.
[In the following essay, Lehan discusses the reasons why The Great Gatsby is still considered a literary classic.]
Any attempt to pinpoint the importance of a work involves a slightly circular argument. The criteria that one brings to the work establish its sense of importance, and the claim for importance then justifies the criteria. Such a necessary circularity need not, however, diminish the more obvious contexts used in establishing the worth of a literary text. Complexity and artistry, vision and technique are the values usually brought to the evaluative process. But even within these terms critics find room for disagreement. What is narratively complex and artistically accomplished to one may seem simplistic and awkward to another. So at the outset we must be aware that any discussion of the “greatness” of a work involves judgments that are both tentative and personal.
The problem of evaluation is complicated further by the fact that there are many modes of fiction: the early realism of Defoe, for example, functions differently from the comic realism of Dickens, which in turn functions differently from the romantic realism of Hugo, or the naturalism of Zola, or the mythic symbolism of Joyce. Fitzgerald began his career by...
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SOURCE: Wershoven, Carol. “Insatiable Girls.” In Child Brides and Intruders, pp. 92-9. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993.
[In the following essay, Wershoven notes that Daisy Buchanan is a prototypical “child bride” whose “purchase” is required by a society of commodity.]
Undine Spragg [in Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country] is only one in a series of girls whose appetite mirrors a nation's desire. In four novels that followed The Custom of the Country—The Great Gatsby, [Wharton's] Twilight Sleep [and Ellen Glasgow's], The Sheltered Life and In This Our Life—versions of the insatiable girl appear, and so, too, does a recognizable pattern. The desiring/desired girl stands at the center of a vortex. Around her swirl instances of failed marriages, blocked communications, social disorder and decay. Like The Custom of the Country, each of these four novels is set in a world of deception, where illusion and role-playing supersede reality and emotion. But a new element appears in the pattern: a crime. In these novels, there are two shootings and two car “accidents” (hit-and-run). In each case, the innocent heroine is either the culprit or is indirectly responsible, and, in each case, society helps to cover up the deed.
These conspiracies of evasion are the logical outcomes of the crimes,...
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SOURCE: Berman, Ronald. “Contexts.” In The Great Gatsby and Modern Times, pp. 15-37. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.
[In the following essay, Berman discusses ideas current in America in the early part of the decade just before Gatsby's publication.]
In “Echoes of the Jazz Age,” written in the early thirties, with a flourish Fitzgerald identified the crucial year of the preceding decade: “May one offer in exhibit the year 1922!”1 It is the turning-point year in which The Great Gatsby takes place. And in the novel he makes it a point to be specific about the dating of his story. In what particular ways does the novel use its moment? Let us look at certain ideas in circulation in the summer of 1922, and in the period around it: ideas that, like that of “civilization,” are referential in the text. For Tom Buchanan “civilization” is highly meaningful—and is opposed to his sense of “the modern world.” Does he echo a public debate? And, is his anxiety over ideas and social situations possibly derived?
One set of anxieties can probably be discarded. In a 1921 interview Fitzgerald stated that, “except for leaving its touch of destruction here and there, I do not think the war left any real lasting effect. Why, it is almost forgotten right now.”2 Possibly to our surprise there was substantial agreement with this....
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SOURCE: Washington, Bryan R. “The Daisy Chain: The Great Gatsby and Daisy Miller or the Politics of Privacy.” In The Politics of Exile: Ideology in Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Baldwin, pp. 35-54. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1995.
[In the following essay, Washington compares Henry James's Daisy Miller and Gatsby, emphasizing the themes of racism, white cultural conservatism, and repressed homosexuality.]
Beginning with the premise that The Great Gatsby revises Daisy Miller, the readings that I undertake in this chapter are concerned with various states of panic: sexual, racial, and social. Eve Sedgwick's theory of “homosexual panic,” in other words, points toward a dense interpretive terrain extending far beyond, although always implicating, desire. As I have indicated, a repressed homosexuality undergirds “Going to Meet the Man.” Moreover, it is associated with (or presented within the context of) racial discord. The idea that homosexuality and race are important for The Great Gatsby is hardly startling. Nick's fixation with Gatsby easily suggests flirtation, and his obsession with ethnic origins punctuates the text. But the notion that either homosexuality or race bears any relevance to James's novella may at first seem a critical anachronism.
Winterbourne, who frames the narrative, is a genteel...
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SOURCE: Callahan, John F. “F. Scott Fitzgerald's Evolving American Dream: The ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ in Gatsby, Tender Is the Night, and The Last Tycoon.” Twentieth Century Literature 42 (fall 1996): 374-95.
[In the following essay, Callahan examines various manifestations of the idea of the American dream as it evolved in three Fitzgerald novels.]
Since the first stirrings of the F. Scott Fitzgerald revival in the 1940s, readers have been fascinated by the oppositions in his work and character. Critics from several different generations have noted how Fitzgerald used his conflicts to explore the origins and fate of the American dream and the related idea of the nation.1 The contradictions he experienced and put into fiction heighten the implications of the dream for individual lives: the promise and possibilities, violations and corruptions of those ideals of nationhood and personality “dreamed into being,” as Ralph Ellison phrased it, “out of the chaos and darkness of the feudal past.”2 Fitzgerald embodied in his tissues and nervous system the fluid polarities of American experience: success and failure, illusion and disillusion, dream and nightmare.
“I did not care what it was all about,” Hemingway's Jake Barnes confessed in The Sun Also Rises. “All I wanted to know was how to live in it.”3...
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SOURCE: Giltrow, Janet, and David Stouck. “Style as Politics in The Great Gatsby.” Studies in the Novel 29, no. 4 (winter 1997): 476-90.
[In the following essay, Giltrow and Stouck use discourse analysis to show that the novel's linguistic subtleties mask ideas of social conservatism.]
The Great Gatsby is valued for the vividness with which it renders an historical era; perhaps more than by any other American novel written in the 1920s, we are convinced that we hear the voices of people speaking from that decade before the advent of talking motion pictures. As narrator, Nick is the medium by which those voices are heard and, as principal speaker in the text, he serves as a translator of the dreams and social ambitions of the people who surround him. But the dilemma for readers of the novel is how to interpret Nick's voice: is he genuinely critical of Gatsby's romantic imagination and the culture that informed it, or does his suave talk conceal an essentially conservative nature?
Major statements on the novel in the last twenty years identify important elements of cultural criticism in the text. Ross Posnock's Lukácsean reading, grounded in Marx's account of commodity fetishism, views Fitzgerald (and the story's narrator) as primarily a critic rather than an exponent of the American Dream; his assurance of the speaker's critical purpose is such that he can claim “the...
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SOURCE: Hart, Jeffrey. “Fitzgerald and Hemingway in 1925-1926.” Sewanee Review 105 (summer 1997): 369-80.
[In the following essay, Hart examines the rivalry between Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, with specific reference to The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises.]
My argument can be put briefly. Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises (1926) as a direct rejoinder to The Great Gatsby (1925): he created it as an aggressive defense of his own style against Fitzgerald's—and, derivatively, of his own view of reality. With The Sun Also Rises he declared almost open war against a rival whom he suddenly saw as formidable far beyond his expectations. Until Gatsby appeared, Hemingway had considered Fitzgerald merely a popular writer and, as a rival, a pushover.
The title The Sun Also Rises engages in a hostile way one of Fitzgerald's most prominent recurrent images in Gatsby, the romantic moon. Hemingway means to assert that the Sun, not the Moon, the earth, not the sky, constitute the essential truth of experience. This sun-moon argument includes the obvious idea that the sun stands at the center of the actual solar system while the moon merely reflects the sun—thus defining his relation to Fitzgerald. This is to say that the sun represents the major tradition in literature, the romantic moon merely reflects a subordinate one. In The Sun...
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SOURCE: Bender, Bert. “‘His Mind Aglow’: The Biological Undercurrent in Fitzgerald's Gatsby and Other Works.” Journal of American Studies 32, no. 3 (December 1998): 399-420.
[In the following essay, Bender discusses the influence of theories of evolutionary biology—including eugenics, ideas of accident and heredity, and Darwin's notions of sexual selection—on Gatsby and other Fitzgerald works.]
They talked until three, from biology to organized religion, and when Amory crept shivering into bed it was with his mind aglow …
(Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise)
Readers familiar with F. Scott Fitzgerald's early work might recall that in those years just before the Scopes trial he wrote of Victorians who “shuddered when they found what Mr. Darwin was about”; or that he joined in the fashionable comic attacks on people who could not accept their “most animal existence,” describing one such character as “a hairless ape with two dozen tricks.”1 But few would guess the extent to which his interest in evolutionary biology shaped his work. He was particularly concerned with three interrelated biological problems: (1) the question of eugenics as a possible solution to civilization's many ills, (2) the linked principles of accident and heredity (as he understood these through the lens of...
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SOURCE: Bloom, James D. “Out of Minnesota: Mythography and Generational Poetics in the Writings of Bob Dylan and F. Scott Fitzgerald.” American Studies 40, no. 1 (spring 1999): 5-21.
[In the following essay, Bloom draws parallels between Fitzgerald and singer Bob Dylan's life and works, arguing that both were anti-prophets who made myths of themselves and at the same time undermined those myths.]
“You've been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's books. You're very well read. It's well known.” So runs a memorable line in Bob Dylan's “Ballad of a Thin Man” on his 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited. Not only did this song provide “an instant catchphrase for the moral, generational, and racial divisions” that, in Greil Marcus' formulation, separated the cognoscenti from the “squares” (8-9); this album also marked Dylan's controversial introduction to LP buyers of his paradigm-shifting hybrid, “folk rock.” Brian Morton's 1991 novel, The Dylanist, describes the appeal of this watershed: “Dylan gave … hope: He showed that you could make your life a work of art” (91). Morton's protagonist “loved the way” Dylan “remained fluid, reinventing himself endlessly, refusing to be trapped by other people's expectations.” Reflecting the pervasiveness of this appeal, Fred Goodman's social history of rock-music business declared Dylan...
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SOURCE: Seguin, Robert. “Ressentiment and the Social Poetics of The Great Gatsby: Fitzgerald Reads Cather.” Modern Fiction Studies 46, no. 4 (winter 2000): 917-40.
[In the following essay, Seguin uses the theme of “ressentiment” (loosely, the envy of the lower toward the upper classes) to explore Fitzgerald's social sensibilities in Gatsby, also noting similarities between Fitzgerald's novel and Willa Cather's A Lost Lady.]
Following his bout of emotional exhaustion in the mid-1930s, F. Scott Fitzgerald came to describe what he called his “crack-up” in more than strictly personal terms. In his meditation on his depression, the crack-up expands outward in waves from Fitzgerald as individual, encompassing disparate social and cultural materials and achieving a certain allegorical intensity. At one point, the shape of Fitzgerald's psyche becomes expressive of the very curve of national history, from the bull-market twenties to the depressed thirties:
My own happiness in the past often approached such an ecstasy that I could not share it even with the person dearest to me but I had to walk it away in quiet streets and lanes with only fragments of it to distil into little lines in books—and I think that my happiness, or talent for self-delusion or what you will, was an exception. It was not the natural thing but the unnatural—unnatural...
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SOURCE: Breitwieser, Mitchell. “Jazz Fractures: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Epochal Representation.” American Literary History 12, no. 3 (fall 2000): 359-81.
[In the following essay, Breitwieser explores ways in which Fitzgerald used the phrases “the Jazz Age” and “The Last Tycoon” to define epochs in American literary history, prefiguring the discipline which would become American studies.]
An earlier version of this essay was presented at “History in the Making: The Future of American Literary Studies,” a conference held at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in late March 1999. At the beginning of my talk, I remarked that I had grown up in Monona, a small town about five miles from the campus, and that I earned my BA from UW-Madison in 1975. Preparing for the talk, I confessed, had stirred up memories, among them my first reading of The Great Gatsby (1925), which powerfully evoked what F. Scott Fitzgerald called the promise of life. My students, I noted, hearing again that elusive tune I had heard 25 years before, tend to dislike, affably, my middle-aged reading, for instance my claims concerning Nick Carraway's bad faith or my preference for the centrifugal disturbances of Tender is the Night (1933). In the difference between my reading and theirs I see that, though Fitzgerald still interests me deeply, he has changed, or rather, the center of his gravity has for me moved...
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SOURCE: Monteiro, George. “Carraway's Complaint.” Journal of Modern Literature 24, no. 1 (fall 2000): 161-71.
[In the following essay, Monteiro discusses possible sources for the last passage in Gatsby, in which Nick muses on how Long Island might have looked to the early explorers.]
In one of the most familiar passages in twentieth—century literature, Nick Carraway thinks back on the late Jay Gatsby, who had suffered so grievously from the hard malice of the Buchanans and their like in the inhospitable East. It begins as an elegy but turns into a lament for humankind's capacity for wonder and awe in the face of the hard truths of history. Disillusioned, sad, sentimental, this child of the Midwest looks out, through the mind's eye, across Long Island Sound and re-imagines the “old island” as it must have looked four centuries earlier to the Western sailors who were but the advance guard of the adventurers, immigrants, and settlers to come. Like the psalmist who sits by the rivers of Babylon, lamenting the lost Zion, he, too, weeps for what is past and will not return. It bears repeating.
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here...
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SOURCE: Sutton, Brian. “Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.” Explicator 59, no. 1 (fall 2000): 37-9.
[In the following essay, Sutton examines the significance of a recurring image of the framing of Tom and Daisy in a frame of artificial light in Gatsby.]
In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Gatsby goes to spectacular lengths to try to achieve what Nick Carraway calls “his incorruptible dream” (155): to recapture the past by regaining Daisy Buchanan's love and getting her to tell her husband, Tom, that she never loved him (111). For much of the novel, Gatsby seems likely to succeed, not only because his efforts are so extraordinary, but because Daisy's marriage seems so miserable and corrupt that she must surely be looking for the chance to escape. But Daisy herself proves to be corrupt and thus perfectly suited for marriage with Tom, with whom she shares membership in an exclusive society from which Gatsby is barred. Whenever Fitzgerald emphasizes the resilience of Tom and Daisy's corrupt marriage, he relies on a recurring image: He portrays Tom and Daisy together, side by side, framed by a square or rectangle of artificial light.1
The image first occurs late in the opening chapter. Although at this point Fitzgerald hasn't yet established the possibility that Daisy might leave Tom for Gatsby, he has clearly shown how miserable Daisy seems within her...
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SOURCE: Kumamoto, Chikako D. “Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.” Explicator 60, no. 1 (fall 2001): 37-41.
[In the following essay, Kumamoto explores Fitzgerald's use of the “egg and chicken” metaphors as part of Gatsby's structure.]
FITZGERALD'S THE GREAT GATSBY
Having moved to the suburbs of New York City, Nick Carraway makes the now-famous comparison between his neighborhood and its adjacent community: “Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy of bay, jut out into the most domesticated body of salt water in the Western Hemisphere, the great barnyard of Long Island Sound” (Fitzgerald 9).
One may inquire, however, whether Nick means the egg metaphor simply as a felicitous coincidence or as a surreptitious carrier of his narrative thesis. Among theme-clarifying studies of Fitzgerald's major images in the novel—studies by Lehan, Geismer, Johnson, Laying, Miller, and Sutton, for instance—only Kermit Moyer comments specifically on the egg-shaped setting as Fitzgerald's structural design shoring up the parallel between the novel's narrative circularity and the circular geography (45). In my essay I examine this and also investigate how Nick's seldom-critiqued “a pair of enormous eggs,” as well as other heretofore unnoticed egg-inspired images in the narrative, acts...
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Magistrale, Tony, and Mary Jane Dickerson. “The Language of Time in The Great Gatsby.” College Literature 16, 1 (spring 1989): 117-28.
Draws on theories of Mikhail Bakhtin to explain the juxtaposition of past and present in Gatsby.
Tyson, Lois. “The Romance of the Commodity: The Concellatation of Identity in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby” In Psychological Politics of the American Dream: The Commodification of Subjectivity in Twentieth-Century American Literature, pp. 40-62. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1994.
Argues that Gatsby is not a portrayal of an idealized yet corrupted American dream, but rather a false dream corrupted by a culture of commodity.
Weinstein, Arnold. “Fiction as Greatness: The Case of Gatsby.” Novel 19 (fall 1985): 22-38.
Attempts to define the “greatness” of The Great Gatsby in terms of its evocation of the power of a dream.
Additional coverage of Fitzgerald's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Thomson Gale: American Writers; American Writers: The Classics, Vol. 2; American Writers Retrospective Supplement, Vol. 1; Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 24; Authors in the News, Vol. 1; Beacham's Encyclopedia...
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