The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby : overview. Fitzgerald’s Early Life Born in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 24, 1896 Scott was a distant relative of Francis Scott Key, the composer of our national anthem.
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The Great Gatsby: overview Fitzgerald’s Early Life Born in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 24, 1896 Scott was a distant relative of Francis Scott Key, the composer of our national anthem. His father, Edward Fitzgerald was a failure in business & the family lived on the mother’s money; Her name was McQuillen & she had inherited money from her father.
The Formative Years • Fitzgerald grew up, surrounded by wealth • Because of the his mother’s family money, he was able to attend private schools where he was painfully reminded that he was not quite as well off as his classmates. • He attended Princeton where he once again was in the company of young men who were much better situated in life. • Some speculate that this “tension” surfaced in some of his better known works, e.g. Gatsby
Zelda… • The Influence of Zelda Sayre… • Scott wanted to marry Zelda immediately, but she had reservations • She had many boy friends and Scott’s future was uncertain • Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald was the muse of the Jazz Age. She was the embodiment of all things modern and new, and once described herself as “without a thought for anyone else…I did not have a single feeling of inferiority, or shyness, or doubt, and no moral principles.” • Their marriage was quite the celebrity event…and very representative of the “unattainable other.”
…Just love this quote of Zelda’s when she first met F. Scott • "There seemed to be some heavenly support beneath his shoulder blades that lifted his feet from the ground in ecstatic suspension, as if he secretly enjoyed the ability to fly but was walking as a compromise to convention."[
Fitzgerald’s Literary Lineage • Fitzgerald’s Works • 1920 This Side of Paradise • 1925 The Great Gatsby • 1934 Tender is the Night • 1941 The Last Tycoon • Fitzgerald wrote over 160 short stories
Gatsby and the American Dream • The American Dream: the idea that in America one might hope to satisfy every material desire, & thereby achieve happiness. • Fitzgerald believed the American Dream to be deceptive: proposing the satisfaction of all desire as an attainable goal, and equating desire with material acquisitions only leads to dissatisfaction • One can end up with great wealth and “stuff” and be quite empty…
Gatsby Themes • Decline of the American Dream (1922) • Old $$ v. New $$ • Prosperity, Material Excess, Bootlegging v. • Discovery, Individualism, “Pursuit of Happiness” • Hollowness of the Upper Class • Lack of “Grounded” Values • Time • Notice the different approach to time from the perspectives of Gatsby and Carraway • Geography: East v. West
The Viewing Lens • To fully understand the Great Gatsby (& Fitzgerald) we must observe the novel through the lens of alcohol; • alcohol is the drug of possibility The theme of “time” is central to the novel; for Gatsby, time is non-existent; he believes he can repeat the past • The juxtaposition of East & West is an important part of the novel as well…those who have v. those who have not
Gatsby Symbolism • The Green Light (Buchanan’s Dock) • Positive and negative aspects of the color • Opportunity v. Greed • Valley of Ashes: The Wasteland • T.S. Eliot’s epic poem • Purgatory • Moral and Social Wasteland • Dr. Eckleburg’s Eyes • God views moral decay of America?
Geographic Influences • East Egg v. West Egg: Morals & Values • West Egg being the less fashionable of the two ‘In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.’ “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had.”
East v. West “When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform…and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction – Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn” (p.2).
Chapter 1… • Tom: Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward (p.7). • Daisy and Jordan: The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back after a short flight around the house (p.8). • Our first archetype
Racism surfaces… • Tom: Well, it’s a fine book (The Rise of the Colored Empires) and everybody ought to read it. The idea is that if we don’t look out, the white race will be – will be utterly submerged (12). • What do you feel this adds to the story line?
The Green Light • Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock…(p. 21). The Wasteland …the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic – their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose (p. 23).
The Wasteland and Myrtle… p. 24: The valley of ashes is bounded on one side by a small foul river, and when the drawbridge is up to let barges through, the passengers on waiting trains can stare at the dismal scene for as long as half an hour. • What significance does this imply? p. 25: She was in her middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can. Her face…contained no gleam of beauty, but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her…
The Lavish Gatsby p. 39: On the weekend his Rolls Royce became an omnibus… p. 41: I believe that on that night when I first went to Gatsby’s house, I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited…they went there. p. 49: Speculation on Gatsby’s origin… • Why didn’t anyone seem to know? Did anyone really care?
Nick’s Perception of Humanity p. 59: Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people I have ever known. The Four Cardinal Virtues: • Temperance: Moderation • Prudence: Wisdom • Justice: Fairness • Fortitude: Strength, endurance
Meyer…The Fixer! • (p. 73) “Meyer Wolfsheim? No, he’s a gambler…he’s the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919.” • “The idea staggered me…” • Backdrop: Chicago White Sox v. Cincinnati Reds, 1919 World Series • What is the significance of adding a “Fixer” to the storyline? • I am going to meet the greatest umpire of all -- and He knows I'm innocent. --"Shoeless" Joe Jackson
The Relationships… (p. 103): Tom and Daisy: Tom was evidently perturbed by Daisy’s running around… (p. 109): Daisy and Gatsby: One autumn night, 5 years before…they had been walking down the street when the leaves were falling… (p.124): Tom and Myrtle: He (Wilson) had discovered that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another world, and the shock made him physically sick…
Gatsby’s Origins…and character James Gatz – that was really, or at least legally, his name. He changed it at the age of seventeen and at the specific moment that witnessed the beginning of his career…(p.98). “I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before…” (p.110). • Gatsby becomes the “fixer” that Meyer Wolfsheim once was…
And again, those eyes… (p.124): Over the ash heaps, the giant eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg kept their vigil…In one of the windows over the garage, the curtains had been moved aside a little, and Myrtle Wilson was peering down at the car… (p. 125): There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind… • Who is the simple mind?
Tom and Gatsby’s Confrontation (p. 130): I want to know what Mr. Gatsby has to tell me… • It all begins to unravel… (p. 133): He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter… (p. 135) Human sympathy had its limits, and we were content to let all their tragic arguments fade with the city lights behind…
Myrtle’s Death…and Gatsby’s protection… (p. 137)…A moment later she rushed out in to the dusk, waving her hands and shouting – before he could move from his door the business was over. …The “death car” as the newspapers called it, didn’t stop…and then disappeared around the next bend… (p. 139): It was a yellow car…big yellow car. New. (p. 143): “Was Daisy driving?” “Yes,” he said after a moment, “but of course, I’ll say I was…”
A couple of “clue” questions • What is the significance of Myrtle’s death? • The manner in which she died? • Why does Gatsby try to “fix” the accident? • Significance?
Again, those eyes… (p. 159): …and I said ‘God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me, but you can’t fool God.!’ ‘Standing behind him, Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, which had just emerged, pale and enormous, from the dissolving night.’ “God sees everything,” repeated Wilson.
The price of death… (p.161): If that was true, he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid too high a price for living too long with a single dream… (p. 162): It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the gardener saw Wilson’s body a little way off in the grass…and the holocaust was complete.
Gatsby’s Focus and Drive (p. 173) “It just shows you…Jimmy was bound to get ahead. He always had some resolves like this or something… • Focus v. Myopia
Tom’s confession… (p. 178): “I told him the truth,” he said. “He came to the door while we were getting ready to leave, and when I sent down word that we weren’t in…he ran over Myrtle like you’d run over a dog and never even stopped his car.” (p. 179): They were careless people, Tom and Daisy…
The Close…and final fix And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us… So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past…