How did F. Scott Fitzgerald create Jay Gatsby of "The Great Gatsby"? What are Jay Gatsby's character origins?I need critical assessments of Jay Gatsby's character origins, not who he is in the...

How did F. Scott Fitzgerald create Jay Gatsby of "The Great Gatsby"?

What are Jay Gatsby's character origins?

I need critical assessments of Jay Gatsby's character origins, not who he is in the book, but how Fitzgerlad invented Jay Gatsby.

Expert Answers
amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gatsby is probably a conglomeration of different people, not to mention the work of Fitzgerald's own creativity. Professor and Fitzgerald biographer Matthew Bruccoli actually hired a private investigator, Howard Comen, to track down the history of Max von Gerlach (or Max Stark Gerlach) whom he thought was the inspiration for Gatsby. Gerlach may have been a bootlegger and Comen found a newspaper clipping with a note from Gerlach to Fitzgerald, where Gerlach called Fitzgerald "Old Sport," something Gatsby says many times in the novel. In the end, Bruccoli concludes that so far, he can at best say that Gatsby was based on many sources and it will probably not be proven that Geralch was THE source for Gatsby.

I also read (in the second link) of speculation that Gatsby was based on Cushman Rice. Rice fought in WWI, was a famous Broadwayite (socialite), big game hunter, and the list goes on: an amazing guy who also happened to throw parties in NYC. But this is based on a letter which Fitzgerald vaguely describes a "type" of person whose image "perhaps" was "associated" with the character's creation. So, this is all very vague.

The third link is a story on CNN where a professor named Carlyle V. Thompson speculates that Gatsby was black, which would change the question about the character's inspiration.

So, take your pick. I'll bet there are more theories about Gatsby, but the character is likely a combination of different people, and moreso, the product of Fitzgerald's own creativity.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

So often there is much of the artist in his work; this is certainly true of F. Scott Fitzgerald's main character in "The Great Gatsby."  Like Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald was part of the Jazz Age, he and his friends had wild, careless parties, spending freely after having amassed fortunes.  Daisy is also not dissimilar to Zelda, Fitzgerald's wife, who was of the Southern aristocracy, pursued by the lower class man who desires her.

In Jay Gatsby there seems to be something of the great American Dream that so many have pursued only to be betrayed by the falseness of what they have worshipped as that dream. Yet, in this seeking of the false dream, there is clearly in Fitzgerald a resemblance to the "great Gatsby."

comen | Student

Hi, I worked with Bruccoli on the Max Gerlach matter.

E-mail me at comendetec@aol.com and I'll give you info.

 

Howie Comen

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