The Great Gatsby

Table of contents

Introduction p. 2

The author p. 2

Background of the 1920s p. 3

List of characters p. 3

The story p. 4

Interpretation p. 5

Introduction

This novel is about the superficiality of rich people. The author also treats the conflict between upper-class and working-class people, and the sudden destruction of dreams. Francis Scott Fitzgerald conveys that rich people are not able to love, feelings are unimportant for their relationships. He shows the problems of young, talented, ambitious people in a fast-moving consumer society. Some parts of this dramatic novel are autobiographical.

The author

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota. His private life with his wife, Zelda, in both America and France became almost as famous as his novels. The dominant influences on Fitzgerald were aspiration, literature, his studies in Princeton, his family and alcohol.

In Princeton, he made his first success with texts, plays and musicals. His first novel This Side of Paradise was published in 1920. Some short-stories followed.

After his first journey to Europe from 1920 to 1921 he wrote another novel The Beautiful and Damned. In France Fitzgerald completed his brilliant novel The Great Gatsby. This novel was published in 1925.

The next decade of the Fitzgerald's lives was chaotic and unhappy. Fitzgerald's heavy drinking was the result of the worsening relationship with his mentally ill wife. His last novel, The Last Tycoon, was only half completed when Francis Scott Fitzgerald died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940, in Hollywood.

Background of the 1920s

Calvin Coolidge, the 30thpresident of the U.S. said: "The business of America is business".

The United States became a global economic power, they started to expand strengthening the military. The film industry in Hollywood provided the dreams for the new American society. The twenties were the time of prohibition, alcohol was declared illegal, therefore the black market was booming.

List of Characters

Nick Carraway

He is the main character and narrator of this novel. The Great Gatsby begins and ends with Nick. His cousin is Daisy.

Jay Gatsby

Nick's neighbour, who has climbed the social ladder after the war. But his problem is that he chose an illegal way to earn his fortune. He loves Daisy and wants her back.

Daisy Buchanan

Nick's cousin had an affair with Gatsby five years ago. As he went away, she could not marry him. She chose Tom instead.

Tom Buchanan

Daisy's husband is a rich sportsman. He becomes Gatsby's opponent because he does not want to lose his wife.

Myrtle Wilson

She is Tom's mistress and George Wilson's wife.

George Wilson

He is a car mechanic living in the neighbourhood.

The story

Nick Carraway comes from the Mid-West of the United States to New York to work as a bondsman. He meets Daisy, his cousin, and Tom, her husband, a rich sportsman. At the house of her cousin he gets acquainted with Jordan Baker, a young women. His neighbour on Long Island is Jay Gatsby who gives great parties.

One day he is invited to one of these. There he meets Gatsby the first time. They become friends. Gatsby tells Nick that he wants to meet Daisy, Nick's second cousin. Nick arranges a meeting between Gatsby and Daisy. Jordan reveals that Daisy and Gatsby had an affair five years ago. But Gatsby did not have enough money to marry and besides he had to go to war. Afterwards she married Tom. But now Gatsby has enough money and he wants Daisy back. They start over.

Gatsby wants Daisy to leave her husband. When Tom gets to know about their affair he tells Daisy about Gatsby's criminal past. She is frightened.

One evening a women, Myrtle Wilson, Tom's mistress, is run over by Gatsby's car. She dies, but she has thrown herself in front of the car. Daisy is the driver and she commits a hit-and-run offence. Jay Gatsby is willing to take the blame. George Wilson, the husband of Myrtle, wants to take revenge for the death of his wife. Tom tells the widower that Gatsby has driven the car. In the evening, Gatsby is killed, shot dead by George Wilson.

Nick prepares the funeral but only Gatsby's father and a former party guest show up. At the end Nick is tired of life in New York and decides to return to the Mid-West.

Interpretation

In principle, Gatsby is a symbol for the whole American experience. Two classes are portrayed in the novel The Great Gatsby. The rich people are represented by Jay Gatsby, Tom and Daisy Buchanan. The human relationships in this society are superficial, they do not feel anything for each other. They feel superior to the working-class, men feel superior to women. Real friendships are very rare. Nick and Gatsby are the exception of the rule. But Jay Gatsby is an impostor, because of his criminal past he becomes guilty. His parties have only one reason, to arrange a meeting with Daisy. His dream is a life with Daisy and his love for her. On the one hand Gatsby is heroic, but on the other he is trivial and common. The best example for this superficiality is Tom. Daisy's husband represents the brutality and moral carelessness of the established rich. He has no scruples.

The life of the working-class is shown by the Wilsons, Myrtle and George. In the novel the two classes get in contact because of the relationship between Myrtle and Tom. They are speaking a different kind of English. Their brutality is physical (George kills Gatsby), while the upper class uses psychological brutality (Tom hates Gatsby too, but he uses George to kill him).

Scott Fitzgerald:

The Great Gatsby (19261/ 1970), London.

Frauke Frausing:

Der Gro├če Gatsby (1996), Hollfeld.

Phillip Northman:

The Great Gatsby, Notes (19661/ 1996), Lincoln, Nebraska.

Tang Soo Ping:

Francis Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (19801/ 1994), Burnt Mill, Harlow.

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