Saturday, December 6, 2008

"The Great Gatsby" by F.Scott Fitzgerald

Year of publication: 1925
Setting and Time: Long Island and New York, The Roaring Twenties
Genre: novel, modernist novel
Themes: the spirit of the 1920s, the decadence of the American dream, hypocrisy and lack of moral values, naivety, love, greed, social inequalities, underworld and speculation

About the author: Francis Scott Fitzgerald was born in 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He managed to enrol to Princeton (even though he was not a brilliant student) and then got engaged to Zelda Sayre, the daughter of a Supreme Court Judge, but her overpowering desire for wealth, fun, and leisure led her to delay their wedding until he could prove a success. With the publication of This Side of Paradise in 1920, Fitzgerald became a literary sensation, earning enough money and fame to convince Zelda to marry him. Many of these events from Fitzgerald's early life appear in his most famous novel, The Great Gatsby, published in 1925.
Having become a celebrity, Fitzgerald fell into a wild, reckless life-style of parties and decadence, while desperately trying to please Zelda by writing to earn money. As the giddiness of the Roaring Twenties dissolved into the bleakness of the Great Depression, however, Zelda suffered a nervous breakdown and Fitzgerald battled alcoholism, which hampered his writing. He published Tender Is the Night in 1934, and sold his short stories to The Saturday Evening Post to support his lavish lifestyle. In 1937, he left for Hollywood to write screenplays, and in 1940, while working on his novel , The Love of the Last Tycoon, died of a heart attack at the age of forty-four.

Plot: Nick Carraway, a young man from Minnesota, moves to New York in the summer of 1922 to learn about the bond business. He rents a house in the West Egg district of Long Island, a wealthy but unfashionable area populated by the new rich, a group who have made their fortunes too recently to have established social connections and who are prone to garish displays of wealth. Nick's next-door neighbor in West Egg is a mysterious man named Jay Gatsby, who lives in a gigantic Gothic mansion and throws extravagant parties every Saturday night.

Some thoughts: This novel is a very good portrait of American society in the 1920s, an era when the ban on alcohol made millionaires out of bootleggers. Honestly, I expected more from such a classic of American literature, as I always do, but I wasn’t disappointed either. The Great Gatsby is a great depiction of the lack of morality in our society: the behaviour of Gatsby’s admirers after the news of his death is unbelievable and realistic at the same time. It is fascinating to learn how much the novel mirrors Fitzgerald’s real life: he was also in love with a girl who needed to be impressed and led a reckless life, throwing parties every week.
The opposition between the newly rich and the old aristocracy is evident in the novel. The newly rich, those who live in West Egg like Gatsby, are vulgar, gaudy and ostentatious. On the contrary, the old aristocracy, who lives in East Egg like Daisy and Tom, has taste, grace and elegance. However, they are cruel and they don’t care about people (i.e. they refuse to go to Gatsby’s funeral). Daisy and Tom move to a new house instead of dealing with Gatsby’s funeral, whereas Gatsby is loyal to his friends despite the fact that he earned his money through criminal activities. I think that this is a little bit simplistic, and that is one of the few things I didn’t like about the novel. The main characters, like Gatsby and Nick, are complex and well developed, but the minor characters sometimes are stereotyped (Daisy’s husband for example, who’s a little rough, racist and chauvinist).
The Great Gatsby is a New York Novel and I love when a city plays such an important role in a story (that’s why I like Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese). New York City is almost a character alongside Nick, Daisy and Gatsby.
What else can I say about this novel that hasn’t already been said a million times? Not much, I’m afraid. However, I quite enjoyed the novel, even though I'm not a fan of stories about "the famous and rich". A question to those who have read it: is it normal that I hated pretty much everyone in the novel?


  1. omg! it's too long since i read "The Great Gatsby", but i remember that i had the same impression of yours: i was not really disappointed, but i expected a lot more from such a "classic".
    maybe i should read it again (and in english this time...)!

    hugs & kisses


  2. I know, it sucks when you know you've read a classic, but it was so long ago that you don't remember most of it. And there are so many good books in the world that you can't keep on rereading the same stuff!