How is the setting of The Great Gatsby influenced by Fitzgerald's life?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting of The Great Gatsby is informed by the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, for it was he who named the time period the Jazz Age. In addition, there is much that is autobiographical in the character of Jay Gatsby, who aspires to live with the rich, whom he feels hold magical qualities, just as did Fitzgerald himself. Certainly, the decadent lifestyle of those with whom Fitzgerald associated at times is illustrated in the parties given by Jay Gatsby and the irresponsible strangers who attend.

Further, the luxurious homes and cars and lifestyles of those in East Egg are created from the memory of Fitzgerald, who for a time lived in the East and, with his wife Zelda, associated with the wealthy as he pursued his American Dream.

Fitzgerald once wrote,

The idea that to make a man work you've got to hold gold in front of his eyes is a growth, not an axiom. We've done that for so long that we've forgotten there is any other way.

East Egg of The Great Gatsby is peopled with those who have forgotten that "there is any other way" to work and live. Indeed, Jay Gatsby believes that money is all he needs in order to win back his idealized Daisy and achieve his American Dream.

mbjohnse eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While it is always a bit tricky to assume what does or doesn't come from an author's life, there are many obvious similarities. For instance, as the author of the previous post points out, Fitzgerald was very much involved in the culture and wildness of the Jazz Age. Additionally, like Nick, Fitzgerald spent part of his childhood in the Midwest. He then moved East to attend Princeton. Here he would have encountered the same over-ripe, privileged society that Nick does. Maybe the shock Nick feels is inspired by a similar shock that Fitzgerald experienced when he encountered the super wealthy.

Like Gatsby, Fitzgerald joined the army, and also found himself enamored by a young socialite. Some scholars think this woman could be the inspiration for Daisy.

Daisy might also be inspired by Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda. Zelda also had some similarities to Daisy. She came from a wealthy Alabama family. At first she refused Fitzgerald. He had to prove his ability to provide for her  financially through the success of his first novel. The idea of Gatsby chasing wealth for Daisy's sake could potentially be inspired by Fitzgerald's relationship with Zelda.

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The Great Gatsby

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