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The Great Gatsby. The Jazz Age. The Roots of Modern America. Around the World in 80 Gardens: “USA” Monticello, Charlottesville, VA (22:50 – 29:30) Kansas Prairies. Jay Gatsby and the Myth of American Origins

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The great gatsby

The Great Gatsby

The Jazz Age

The roots of modern america
The Roots of Modern America

  • Around the World in 80 Gardens: “USA”

    • Monticello, Charlottesville, VA (22:50 – 29:30)

    • Kansas Prairies

The great gatsby

  • Jay Gatsby and the Myth of American Origins

    • A lecture by Leo Marx, Kenan Professor (Emeritus) of American Cultural History Program in Science, Technology, and Society, MIT

    • 15min (5:00 – 20:00) = novel’s mythic background

    • 25min (23:15 – 50:55) = the novel’s ending

    • 51:38

The telephone the automobile
The telephone & the automobile

  • as motifs – the mobile phones & iPODS of the 1920s

    • How often have telephones appeared in the novel so far? What role do they generally play in the narrative?

    • What do most references to automobiles in Chapter III have in common?

The jordan playboy automobile
The Jordan Playboy automobile

“Somewhere west of Laramie there's a bronco-busting, steer-roping girl who knows what I am talking about. She can tell what a sassy pony that's a cross between greased lightning and the place where it hits, can do with eleven hundred pounds of steel and action when he's going high, wide and handsome.

The Truth is – the Playboy was built for her.

Built for the lass whose face is brown with the sun when the day is done of revel and romp and race.

She loves the cross of the wild and the tame.

There’s a savor of links about that car – of laughter and lilt and light – a hint of old loves – and saddle and quirt. It’s a brawny thing – yet a graceful thing for the sweep o’ the Avenue.

Step into the Playboy when the hour grows dull with things gone dead and stale.

Then start for the land of real living with the spirit of the lass who rides, lean and rangy, into the red horizon of a Wyoming twilight.”

Danae by gustav klimt 1907
Danae by Gustav Klimt (1907)

  • Painted erotically with thighs drawn up and a gold and silver seminal flow pouring between her legs. An oracle warned her father Acrisius that Danae's son would someday kill him, so Acrisius shut Danae in a bronze room, away from all male company. However, Zeus conceived a passion for Danae, and came to her through the roof, in the form of a shower of gold that poured down into her lap, which is depicted here; as a result she had a son, Perseus.

Daisy princess in a golden tower
Daisy – princess in a golden tower

“She's got an indiscreet voice,” I remarked. “It's full of – ” I hesitated.

“Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.

That was it. I'd never understood it before. It was full of money – that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it… High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl…

Danae, in the bronze room of her father’s tower, painted by Jan Grossaert in 1527.

Dan daniel boone cody

Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers Through the Cumberland Gap, 1851-52

Dan ‘Daniel Boone’ Cody

  • More than any other man, Daniel Boone was responsible for the exploration and settlement of Kentucky.

  • His grandfather came from England to America in 1717. His father was a weaver and blacksmith, and he raised livestock in the country near Reading, Pennsylvania, where Daniel was born in 1734.

Dan daniel boone cody1
Dan ‘Daniel Boone’ Cody 1851-52

  • If Daniel Boone was destined to become a man of the wild, an explorer of unmapped spaces, his boyhood was the perfect preparation.

Dan buffalo bill cody
Dan ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody 1851-52

  • Buffalo Bill the character was first a fiction created to symbolize the "wild west”. It was William F. Cody who, in his autobiography, placed Buffalo Bill in the company of Daniel Boone, Kit Carson, and Davy Crockett. Just as the Wild West Show reduced a vast region with an infinite number of complex racial, cultural, economic, geographic, and ecological issues to a common archetypal myth, Cody's life as a showman reduced him to the legendary character of Buffalo Bill.

Dan buffalo bill cody1
Dan ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody 1851-52

  • Nevertheless, the complexities of the west remained unsettled, and Cody's life outside the show encompassed ambitions and failures not apparent in Cody the showman. Part of this mystery derives from Cody's relentless desire to become Buffalo Bill. This same blending spilled over into Cody's personal life as his real identity became confused with the character of Buffalo Bill, who represented the quintessential American through his embodiment of frontier values and all the raw independence, freedom, and self-sufficiency included in wild west virtues.

Dan cody as model for jay gatsby
Dan Cody as model for Jay Gatsby 1851-52

  • On the day that he saved Dan Cody's yacht, he must have seen an embodiment of everything he wanted. In a strange sort of way Gatsby never believed that he was just James Gatz. He had an idea of what he wanted to be. And just as Plato believed that our material bodies are not our real selves, but only physical images of our ideal or perfect selves. Gatsby had an image of himself, to which he gave the name Gatsby.

Dan cody as model for jay gatsby1
Dan Cody as model for Jay Gatsby 1851-52

  • From the day that he met Dan Cody he decided to dedicate his life to the development of the idea of himself that existed in his head. And just as Jesus left his family to be about his heavenly Father's business, so Gatsby left his earthly parents to enter the service of his God- a "vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty"- in this case symbolised by millionaire Dan Cody. Gatsby wanted of course not only to serve Cody but to be Dan Cody- one of those remarkable self-made men to come along in America between the 1890s and the years before World War I.

Ch iv death of the jazz age
Ch. IV – Death of the Jazz Age 1851-52

  • In his essay “Echoes of the Jazz Age,” Fitzgerald dates the death of the Jazz Age as the summer of 1922, when, Fitzgerald imagines, the authentic Jazz moment of youthful rebellion and futuristic, expressive modernity has been co-opted by the mainstream power elites

Ch iv death of the jazz age1
Ch. IV – Death of the Jazz Age 1851-52

  • July 5, 1922 [chapter 4:p.65] is the only precise date named in The Great Gatsby

    • It is introduced near the middle of the novel, when Nick begins to document (on the back of a commuter train schedule) who came to Gatsby's parties, along with how and why…

Ch iv death of the jazz age2
Ch. IV – Death of the Jazz Age 1851-52

  • The ‘after-party’: Nick’s mock-heroic account of Gatsby’s further greatness becomes Fitzgerald’s sardonic lament for the death of Jazz Age

    • The decadent old money crowds of East Egg and the over-40 new rich from West Egg who come to Gatsby’s house to indulge in the new hedonism of the Jazz Age do so with no real idealistic vitality (symbolised by Gatsby and potentially Daisy), or no more knowing irony (Nick and potentially Jordan).

Ch iv death of the jazz age3
Ch. IV – Death of the Jazz Age 1851-52

  • Seldom do literary reputation, social history, and popular culture coalesce so completely as with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Firmly enshrined as one of this nation's greatest authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald still embodies, in the popular consciousness, the decade known as the Jazz Age. Even the term is usually attributed to him, who expressed, along with his beautiful and talented wife, the youth, creativity, exuberance, and reckless abandon of their generation. Writing after the Great Depression had permanently laid the Jazz Age to rest, Fitzgerald caught the sense of emotional displacement of those who had lived through that period.

    Edward J. Rielly, Saint Joseph's College (Maine), from a review of Scottie: The Daughter of ...: The Life of Frances Scott Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith 1997

Ch iv death of the jazz age4
Ch. IV – Death of the Jazz Age 1851-52

  • In a 1931 essay, "Echoes of the Jazz Age," he wrote: ‘Now once more the belt is tight and we summon the proper expression of horror as we look back at our wasted youth. Sometimes, though, there is a ghostly rumble among the drums, an asthmatic whisper in the trombones that swings me back into the early twenties when we drank wood alcohol and every day in every way grew better and better, and there was a first abortive shortening of the skirts ... and it all seems so rosy and romantic to us who were young then, because we will never feel quite so intensely about our surroundings any more.’

    Edward J. Rielly, Saint Joseph's College (Maine), from a review of Scottie: The Daughter of ...: The Life of Frances Scott Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith 1997

Form and structure

  • First three chapters establish the novel’s setting and characters in the summer of 1922

    Chapter I Daisy's house in East Egg

    Chapter II  the valley of ashes and New York

    Chapter III  Gatsby's house in West Egg

Form and structure1

  • Remaining chapters narrate main events of the summer of 1922’s story while gradually revealing the story of Gatsby's past

    Ch.IV 1922 – [G’s 1st love (1917)] – 1922

    Ch.V  1922

    Ch.VI  1922 – [G’s career] – 1922 – [G’s 1st love] – 1922

    Ch.VII  1922 (this chapter joins all of the major characters and locations of the novel together in a final catastrophe)

    Ch.VIII 1922 – [G’s 1st love] – 1922 – [G’s youth] – 1922 – [G’s youth]

Form and structure2

  • Past and present come together fully in the final chapter

    Ch. IX 1922– [G’s childhood] – 1922– [G’s recent past] – 1922

Symbols 1851-52

  • The Green Light

    • The infinite possibilities of life upon which Gatsby built his dreams – particularly Daisy (green = Go; Nature; newness of life)

  • The eyes of Dr T J Eckleburg

    • Ironic reference to God (Wilson in Ch.8) – a billboard for an absent oculist – & the theme of perception

Motifs 1851-52

  • Owl Eyes – the only one of Gatsby’s party guests who (a) truly sees him for what he is, a theatrical invention (Ch.3), & (b) attends his funeral

  • Telephones – bringers of discord & miscommunication: NB Nick & Jordan end their relationship over the phone (Ch.8, pp147-8)

  • Automobiles (especially Gatsby’s car) – speed, glamour and death; Jordan is associated by brand name & her metaphor for relationships needing only one careful driver)

Motifs 1851-52

  • The weather (and natural imagery in general) – Fitzgerald’s use of the pathetic fallacy reminds us that Gatsby’s dream is connected to the Pastoral myth of perfection on earth & makes him seem like a fertility god: NB his first reunion with Daisy (Ch.5) & his Christ-like death (Ch.8, pp153-4)

  • Time – following on from above, but always against Gatsby who believes he can ‘turn back the clock’, made literal with the almost smashed clock (Ch5, p84); related to seasonal references (Daisy’s ‘longest day of the year’, Ch.1) and embedded in the narrative structure