F. Scott Fitzgerald third work, The Great Gatsby, proves to be his supreme achievement in his long and illustrious writing career. As an exemplary piece of literature on the ‘Jazz Age era in American history, it portrays vividly through his various characters, but especially through Gatsby and the Lady Daisy Buchanan the excesses and decadence of this period in America’s history.
Through capturing the spirit of this generation, he was able to candidly express the high hopes, promises of a new beginning, greed, ambition, money and luxurious lifestyles that underlined the journey towards the American Dream.
F. Scott Fitzgerald as a Writer
As a writer, Fitzgerald is widely acclaimed for his various novels (fictional), as well as short stories or narratives. It resonates well with the irreconcilable nature and setting of the ‘American Dream’ of the 1920s, where the falsity of love in addition to the hypocrisy of the rich and the earthly transience nature of individuals. Through an illumination of different themes through his lyrical prose, he is still able to attract contemporary readers, towards a bygone era full of vibrancy and great social texture (Fitzgerald 22).
His birth is traceable to Minnesota, 1896 to a middle class family of Catholic religious inclination. This factor, in addition to, his initial childhood poor performance at school, is probable cause for his later schooling, at various Catholic schools. Ardent interest in literature and an unusual aptitude were qualities, which would later shape his life as a literal giant and play writer. This literary genius began early when he was 13 through the publication of the detective narrative, The Mystery of Raymond Mortgage.
This continued into higher-level education, his admittance into Princeton University providing the springboard needed to propel him to the fore, in literary and theatrical excellence. The variants of short stories aided his novel publication especially those he did for the University’s humor magazine (Tiger), in addition to script writing for the musical comedy society. The Romantic Egoist rejected was rejected as This Side of Paradise, but was published after three revisions.
As a writer, he went on to have published his other works such as the short stories Flappers and Philosophers (1920); Tales of the Jazz Age (1922), in addition to, novels such as – The Beautiful and the Damned (later to be adopted into Hollywood screens); The Diamond as Big as The Ritz, among others. However, it is during his fourth novel that, what is characteristically espoused in the main literary work of this assignment. The Great Gatsby the decadence and excesses of this age affected him too.
He led a lavish lifestyle that resulted in the necessity for him to economically enhance himself through commercial writing of short narratives. The aforementioned fourth book was to finally be published as Tender is the Night (1934). In addition, he worked on the commercial production of short scripts, plays and stories for Hollywood’s screen adaptation, augmenting his other financial gains. Unfortunately, an untimely death; this from a 2nd heart attack, brings to an end a somewhat illustrious career, as he dies while working on his 5th book, The Last Tycoon (Glenday 73).
Effects of First World War to His Life
The advent of the First World War affected his university life as he joined thousands of American men and women in their entry into Army service, in 1917. The war was to end soon after his recruitment, leading to his relocation to the city of New York. The 1920s proved to be his most influential era of life, as he married his wife Zelda (1920) and became a father to Frances Scott (daughter, 1922). His greatest work, The Great Gatsby, as aforementioned, was published 3 years later (Curnutt 32).
His travels included those to Paris, France, which resulted in his development of close relations with American living there. His friendship with Ernest Hemingway, an American journalist and author developed deeply, though, the latter never approved of Scott selling his novels and short stories (scripts) to the then rapidly developing and dynamic Hollywood movies arena. It is critical to note that a majority of his narratives were aligned to his overall reflection of his relationship with Zelda (wife), in the form of autobiographical literature.
The Great Gatsby
Through the famous and extraordinary character invention of Nick Carraway, the main narrator in ‘The Great Gatsby’, Fitzgerald is able to set the perfect pitch to the narrative. Through Carraway, we view an objective, charming, subtle yet distanced person who, though well mannered, and genuinely decent, is smitten by love towards the morally corrupt Jordan Baker. He provides a narration of the events, which bring about the re-uniting of former lovers, Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.
By weaving the above three character’s experiences, ideals, lifestyles, moral values and quest towards achievement of the ‘American Dream’, Fitzgerald is able to vividly articulate the American ‘Jazz age’ era. Daisy’s overall character play, partially based on Zelda, portrays a young beautiful woman, whose life is driven by the aspiration of wealth/ money and hence a comfortable lifestyle. This leads her to marrying Tom Buchanan who is from an aristocratic family and hence can both support her parents as well as provide for her a luxurious life despite promising to wait for Gatsby, her first love.
Aspirations of Americans
She is representative of the aspirations of many Americans, who aim at attaining an easy and luxurious lifestyle, which are provided for by wealth, the means of attaining such social status notwithstanding. This is exemplified by her choice of Tom over Gatsby among other amoral values she espoused. Family values are abandoned in the quest for material success, as is shown through her indifference towards her infant daughter (Bruccoli 56).
Aspirations of Young American Men
The character Jay Gatsby on the other hand espouses the aspirations of many young American men; this during the aforementioned era, who having risen from an impoverished childhood, would use all means possible towards the acquisition of wealth. This decade, characterized by the Post-War economic success of America in the global arena, witnessed increased levels of economic gains, which lead to the age of Suburbia. Motivation for riches then, was not rooted in the moral and positive socio-cultural impact on the wider community, rather it was based on personalized and mostly selfish wants and aspirations.
His wealth, lavish parties and acquisition of an ornate mansion are all part of his quest in winning back Daisy Buchanan. He surrounds himself with wealth, beautiful women and powerful men; this all aimed at convincing her that he can and is capable of supporting her luxurious lifestyle. A celebrity status; this in addition to much gossip, characterize his life, the source of his wealth being through dubious means. He is thus, representative of the corruption that emanates from wealth and the means towards, and goals of its attainment characterized by the 1920s crumble of the ‘American Dream’.
Representing America’s powerful sense of individualism, vitality and optimism, the American Dream was slowly becoming subordinated by the amoral pursuit of luxurious lifestyle and wealth. With Nick, his overall narrative aspect provides readers with a sense of historical experience; that is, a vivid resemblance to the American experience during the Post-war era. His portrayal of the mixed reaction towards life in general on the East Coast brings about powerful internal conflicts that are reminiscent with the era and in particular Fitzgerald’s life and experiences (Fitzgerald 56).
In summary, the Great Gatsby is an excellent piece of literature that shows the life of Americans the Jazz Age. In the sense of distortion or conflict, a majority of Americans, who in their quest towards achievement of the American Dream were divided as to the paths to chart / follow, experienced this in the era following the Second World War. On the one hand, the spectacular wealth enriched and provided for fast life by spectacular, while on the other, the ordinary life, was full of struggle. While those on the higher side of the social ladder possessed wealth, this did not symmetrically balance in the other aspects of social life, as was characterized by immorality, indifference/ lack of compassion, discrimination and a tendency towards criminality, alcohol and drug abuse.