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Introduction to the Great Gatsby
An influential novel
The great Gatsby is a novel about a working class man who goes to great
lengths to become rich and win back the woman he loves. She eventually rejects
him in favour of someone in her own class and he dies alone.
Gatsby's failure suggests that people can't reinvent themselves or break away
from their social class.
This challenged the American dream at a time when people were already
starting to question it. The novel reflected society's concerns so became very
The novel captures the `jazz age' of the 1920's so clearly that the novel and the
era are inseparable for most people.
September 1896 Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota
1913 Goes to Princeton University
November 1917 Leaves Princeton to enlist in the army
July 1918 Meets Zelda Sayre, a wealthy socialite
November 1918 WWI ends without Fitzgerald seeing active duty.
February 1919 Fitzgerald is discharged from the army and gets engaged to
June 1919 Zelda breaks off the engagement
1920 His first book `This side of paradise' is published in March. Zelda and
Fitzgerald get married in April.
October 1921 Zelda gives birth to a daughter, Frances Scott
April 1925 `The Great Gatsby' is published
1925 1940 Fitzgerald continues to write short stories and novels.
December 1940 Dies aged 44
Drawing on his own experiences
Fitzgerald was born into an uppermiddle class family but his father's failure in business
made their social position precarious. Fitzgerald compared his father to the wealthy
men around him which made him both admire and resent the rich.
Nick is uppermiddle class but like Fitzgerald, Nick has to make his own living. He's
attracted by the lifestyle of his rich neighbours but appalled too.
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Fitzgerald fell in love with Zelda but she refused to marry him until he could comfortably
Gatsby falls in love with Daisy, a materialistic girl who marries a rich man instead.
Fitzgerald lived in Great Neck, the inspiration for West Egg from 1922 to 1924. He
comprised his artistic integrity by writing short stories to fund the luxurious life Zelda
Gatsby compromises his integrity by bootlegging in order to get enough money to
please Daisy.…read more
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The American dream is the idea that America is a land of opportunity where a
determined and able individual can achieve anything, regardless of their social
After the war, many people, including Fitzgerald began to challenge this idea and
wonder if it was really possible. Fitzgerald was part of a group of authors who thought
the American dream had been reduced to the pursuit of wealth. They wrote about their
concerns about the widespread materialism of the 1920's.…read more