The Great Gatsby is a famous novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was first published in 1925, just in the middle of a crazy decade, known as the Roaring Twenties. This masterpiece is proved to be the most popular and glittering novel about the Jazz Age and the American Dream. Firstly unappreciated, The Great Gatsby shows all the drama and glamour of that age and even collisions between the aristocracy and self-made men. Nowadays, this is well-known as a brilliant example of a purely American worldview and one will to succeed.
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The Great Gatsby was the third novel by Francis Scott Fitzgerald, who was not very successful during his lifetime. Nowadays, he is regarded as one of the most valuable novelists of the 20th century. He started his career in 1920 with the novel This Side of Paradise and managed to create five more, one of which, The Last Tycoon, remained unfinished, and four short story collections during his lifetime. The Great Gatsby is proved to be the most significant Fitzgeralds' work, famous for its poetic prose. In the letter to Maxwell Perkins, his editor, Fitzgerald mentioned that I want to write something new something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned. After a while, something new became extraordinary and even more. This novel has become classic, and it is studied widely in colleges around the world as a literary work about strong personality and love. Some critics are audacious enough to claim that The Great Gatsby is a book about the Roaring Twenties since it gives an understanding of that decade, based on the bizarre lives of its characters.
Francis Scott Fitzgerald wanted to write something beautiful and simple, and these words could be applied to the plot of the novel. A narrator, Nick Carraway, has just moved to Long Island and he has a very spectacular neighbor: the protagonist of a novel who is known to the reader under the name of Jay Gatsby. This man is more than just successful since he has literally everything money, power, youth, and mind. Gatsby is nothing but a mystery, his personality is covered with legends and gossips. Every weekend, he holds splendid parties in his mansion but never becomes a participant, remaining only a spectator. Hundreds of people from all parts of New York come to visit these celebrations without any invitation, they even do not know how their host looks like. Nick Carraway manages to become Gatsby's only friend and discovers all the tragedies of this prosperous millionaire. His real name was James Gatz, so he had changed it at the age of seventeen and at the specific moment that witnessed the beginning of his career (Fitzgerald 51). With his new name, Jay Gatsby has become a rich and powerful man without any background.
Although Gatsby personifies all traits of the famous American Dream, nothing can make him satisfied. This man is deeply cheerless, the only thing he wants to possess is Carraways cousin Daisy Buchanan, with whom he is deeply in love. They met earlier; however, Gatsby could not marry her. The daughter of wealthy parents, Daisy was used to living in luxury, while Gatsby was only a young lieutenant. Over the years, he has made a fortune only to have Daisy again. Still, it is too late, as she is married and she feels secure with her husband Tom Buchanan, a cruel adulterer. The moment Jay Gatsby realizes this, his failure becomes crucial for him. When this peculiar person suddenly dies, almost no one comes to the funeral: "Why, my God! They used to go there (to Gatsby's house) by the hundreds" (Fitzgerald 96). As Gatsby was the American Dream personified, his death was its failure.
As the plot takes place in 1922, there is no surprise that many interesting details about the Jazz Age, or The Roaring Twenties, can be found in the book. That period was the age of changes and prosperity for Americans, as people, who were tired of the old traditions and the war, which had just ended, had changed their philosophy and living habits greatly. Thus, Moore claims that The Roaring Twenties was an age of iconic events and people, of talismanic names and episodes that have entered our consciousness more like myths or morality tales than historical occurrences (5). Economical prosperity and cultural changes were so dynamic that a mere decade of years had managed to become a unique epoch that would amaze future generations. Automobiles, telephones, and even planes became more and more usual for the people of that time. Art Deco with its strange forms and jazz music was at its peak of development. Scandalous flappers with their modern views and unconventional style became iconic. Fitzgerald was a keen observer of the cultural marketplace (Prigozy 5), so there is no surprise that all the special features of that time can be found in his works.
Influence of the Epoch on the Novel
Changes in Social Life
The first and one of the most significant points of the Roaring Twenties and the novel is social classes. The classification of the rich and the poor had lost its importance since the beginning of the 20th century. By 1922, when the events of the novel unfolded, this classification had changed greatly. Excellent examples are Jay Gatsby himself and his antagonist Tom Buchanan, the husband of his mistress. Both characters are rich as they can afford huge mansions, luxurious cars, and other sumptuous goods. However, Tom Buchanan had always been wealthy, just like Jordan Baker or Daisy, his wife. People like them did not have to earn a living since all their fortunes had been inherited. They mostly relaxed and entertained themselves, rarely thinking about money. Jay Gatsby was another case since from a poor child he had managed to become a filthy rich man because of everyday hard work. Self-made people like him are the personification of capitalism and the phenomenon of the American Dream as they run a serious business and make huge money. Therefore, if one is born in the 20th century, no inheritance is needed to become wealthy since one's financial status depends only on one strong will, hard work, and ambitions.
At the same time, the poor had also transformed. As wealth was accessible to everyone who could work, some people wanted to achieve it easier to seem more valuable both for themselves and others. Earning some money and moving up the social ladder was a major goal for Myrtle Wilson, Toms's mistress. While her husband tries to earn a living running business in his small garage, she woman meets wealthy Buchanan and enjoys his costly presents.
Money became the most important idea of living not only for Myrtle Wilson personally but also for the millions of Americans, an entire generation. Not surprising that Malcolm Cowley proved The Great Gatsby as a "romance of money". People of that age and the book's characters had changed their morality into money. The material and the spiritual have become inextricably confused (Mizener 125), that is why James Gatz wanted to buy Daisy's love and that is why Tom Buchanan had managed to love Myrtle Wilson.
Perception of Morality
Another feature of the Roaring Twenties was moral freedom, which led to immorality. Tom Buchanan not only had a mistress beside his wife, but he was also impudent enough to introduce her to the narrator, Nick Carraway. At the same time, Toms's wife Daisy is still in love with Jay Gatsby, and few romantic episodes between them also occur. Moreover, Gatsby asked Mrs. Buchanan to leave her husband, but while divorces had become more common in the 1920s, they remained a huge scandal (Moore 5). Fitzgerald wrote I've been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library (24) about the owl? eyed man's weekend in Gatsby's mansion. Parties included plenty of alcohol and other immoral things that people used for their relaxation. Since a part of the social elite still did not work, this was their typical entertainment. Not a single character of The Great Gatsby is free of sin. In fact, the majority of sins are shown in the novel, and the reader can observe them.
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Women's behavior in the novel is also the product of its epoch. The Roaring Twenties was the age of flappers women who wore short haircuts, short skirts, rode cars, and made many other things, inappropriate for women in traditional etiquette. In Fitzgeralds' novel, female characters are independent and they have the same level of authority as males do. They make decisions by themselves, ride cars by themselves, and even kill people in accidents, like Daisy. A perfect example of the modern 20th-century woman in this novel is Jordan Baker. She is a successful sportswoman and independent enough to do what she truly wants. She lives by herself and she does not show any desire to be married since she can manage all her problems by herself. Jordan attends fashionable parties, drives a car, communicates with men without any caution, and simply does not follow all old strict rules of etiquette. Similar things are noticed in the behavior of other females as they are much freer as compared to earlier epochs.
The Great Gatsby was F. Scott Fitzgeralds' third novel, but it became his most famous work. This splendid novel, written in a very special decade, is characterized by a prosperity of age of everything (Bertrand 1), widely known as the Roaring Twenties, or the Jazz Age. The Great Gatsby covers such essential topics as love, social life, morality, and, of course, money. Written in 1925 and unappreciated firstly, this novel eventually became the classic and the most popular work on life in the Jazz Age. The Great Gatsby can be perceived as a novel about the American Dream or its decadence. This masterpiece was written during the Roaring Twenties about the Roaring Twenties. Thus, the huge impact of that epoch on this piece of writing is clearly evident since it shows all sins and the luxury of the society of that time, all their ups and downs.
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