The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby
The decade following the First World War in America has become
popularly known as the Jazz Age. Jazz music set exalted standards
in terms of musicianship during the 1920s, especially in the soloing
of trumpeter Louis Armstrong (1901-71) and the compositions of
Duke Ellington (1899-1974), but affluent, young white Jazz Age
listeners tended to favour a diluted form of the music, danceable,
exuberant and carefree. The 1920s were also known at the time as the Golden
Twenties or the Roaring Twenties. F. Scott Fitzgerald played a major role
in characterising these years as a period of pleasure seeking, and
of reckless exuberance. Many of his short stories provide an
entertaining picture of youthful hedonism and especially the antics
of those liberated young women known as 'flappers', affronting
conventional values with their short skirts, short hair and make-up.
But in his more substantial fiction a far more gloomy and at times
sinister version of the age emerges.
Gertrude Stein, an American writer living in Paris, referred to the
Lost Generation of the post-First World War world. The novel
usually cited as capturing the essence of this Lost Generation is
The Sun Also Rises (1926), by F. Scott Fitzgerald's close friend,
Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway depicts a group of expatriate
Americans, wandering aimlessly through Europe, sensing that they
are powerless and that life is pointless in the aftermath of the Great
War. But the feeling of loss and emptiness had already been
identified by F. Scott Fitzgerald when, at the end of his first novel,
This Side of Paradise (1920), he wrote of a new generation ' grown
up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken'.
The Great Gatsby may also be seen to encapsulate this perception
of life without purpose, of restlessness, dissatisfaction and drifting.
It is this general ennui that makes Jay Gatsby's capacity for hope
appear such a rare quality. The novel was published in the middle of
the decade, and reveals a mindless quest for pleasure and a loss of
direction in life to be t w o sides of the same coin. As F. Scott
Fitzgerald shows so memorably, the indulgence of the 1920s in all
forms of excess was never far from a collapse into desperation.

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The Great Gatsby
The population of America more or less doubled in the half-century
before The Great Gatsby was published. The nation had to face the
problem of how to meet the basic requirements of this growing
population, and one solution came in the development of mass production
techniques in factories. In 1913, Henry Ford first used
an assembly line to produce his Model T automobile, but the
technique was already well established in the production of other
goods for the mass market.
F.…read more

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The Great Gatsby
mansion and the parties are strategies of marketing. He rises above
the marketplace of his time in the sense that he is creating a unique
product, intended not for mass consumption, but for Daisy Fay.
The term 'conspicuous consumption' was coined by a social
scientist named Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929). Born in the
American Midwest in 1857, he published a book in 1899 entitled
The Theory of the Leisure Class.…read more

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The Great Gatsby
but to a large extent it had the opposite effect. In practice it was
difficult to enforce and it was not difficult for drinkers to find
alcohol, as F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel makes very clear. In 1925 there
were apparently one hundred thousand speakeasies, as unlawful
drinking dens were called, in New York alone. Bootlegging, the
illicit production and provision of alcohol, became big business,
making fortunes for criminals such as the gangster Al Capone.…read more

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The Great Gatsby
due to immigration from southern and eastern Europe, and the
continuing flow of black Americans from the South, where their
families had formerly been held in slavery, caused rapid and highly
visible expansion of urban areas. The anonymity fostered by city
living, where a citizen is just one amongst many, coupled with the
increasing standardisation of production techniques, contributed
to the sense that America had entered a new phase in its history,
in which culture belonged to the masses.…read more

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The Great Gatsby
played a key part in cultivating contemporary America's fascination
with the glamorous image, encountered in newspapers, magazines
and advertisements.
Photography provides a recurrent motif in The Great Gatsby.
The thematic significance of the photograph is that it appears to
freeze time, and frames an experience which is preserved for later
contemplation. Gatsby has a photograph of Cody upon his wall,
and his father carries a picture of Gatsby's mansion.…read more

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The Great Gatsby
support for his own aspirations.
Joseph Conrad's preface opens with the assertion that any literary
work that claims the status of art should carry its justification in
every line; there should be no word or phrase that does not
contribute to the overall meaning of the work. This neatly
summarises the literary faith that informs F. Scott Fitzgerald's third
novel, and makes it such a dramatic advance on This Side of
Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned.
F.…read more

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The Great Gatsby
a combination of reticence and desire that leaves them
painfully inactive, wanting to make a move but unable to do
so. Nick, like Prufrock, panics at the prospect of growing old,
and they share the sense that they were not meant to be central
players upon lifes stage. Nick, however, has found in Gatsby a
surrogate self.…read more


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