How do historical factors shape The Great Gatsby? 

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Historical factors help to shape Fitzgerald’s work in some distinct ways.  Gatsby’s war experience in World War I is a part of his own background that plays a large role in him seeking to win Daisy’s hand.  On one hand, the 1920s, as  a time period, is more than simply a part of the setting.  The essence of the time period helps to underscore so much of the lives in the work.  Gatsby makes his fortune as a bootlegger, a reflection of Prohibition in American History.  The parties and celebrations are reflective of the spirit of the 1920s, when Americans retreated into a world of isolationsist, self- indulgent joy.  At the same time, the flapper is so much a part of Fitzgerald’s work.  Daisy is the ultimate flapper, Jordan the ultimate example of the amoral 1920s woman.  The condition of women in the 1920s is reflected in Fitzgerald’s work.  It is more than just a backdrop.  Amidst this is the pursuit of the American Dream, a vision in which individuals can be whatever they wished to be.  The freedom that was such a part of the 1920s is evident in this aspect of the novel.  These historical elements become an active part of the narrative and become critical reasons as to why such factors play a defining role in shaping Fitzgerald’s work.

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The Great Gatsby

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