How does Fitzgerald function as a documentary novelist in The Great Gatsby? What are some examples of this?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is frequently cited as the first documentary novel, but Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby includes strong historical documentation.

In capturing the era of the Roaring Twenties, Fitzgerald was peerless. (It was he who coined the term "The Jazz Age." ) The Great Gatsby chronicles this time in American history in detail, including references to and descriptions of fashion, automobiles, music, dance, architecture, sports, finance, politics, social organizations, prohibition, crime, contemporary scandals, and shifting social mores. World War I also figures prominently.

Chapter III is especially replete with examples of Fitzgerald's historical and social documentation. In describing one of Gatsby's famous parties, Fitzgerald specifically references these: Rolls-Royce, Gilda Gray, "Follies," white flannels, "The Stoddard Lectures," Belasco, World War I military units, "Vladimir Tostoff's Jazz History of the World," and a French bob.

Before finishing the novel, the one has read of bootleggers, the Kaiser, the Plaza Hotel, the American Legion, "Beale Street Blues," the 1919 World Series, and the lyrics of "The Sheik of Araby" and "Ain't We Got Fun," to name only a few additional specifics.

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The Great Gatsby

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