|Author||F. Scott Fitzgerald|
|Cover artist||Francis Cugat|
|Published||April 10, 1925 (US)|
|Publisher||Charles Scribner's Sons (US)|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
|Pages||218 (Original US Edition)|
|Preceded by||The Beautiful and Damned (1922)|
|Followed by||Tender Is the Night (1934)|
The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel by American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set in the Jazz Age on Long Island, the novel depicts narrator Nick Carraway's interactions with mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and Gatsby's obsession to reunite with his former lover, Daisy Buchanan.
A youthful romance Fitzgerald had with socialite Ginevra King, and the riotous parties he attended on Long Island's North Shore in 1922 inspired the novel. Following a move to the French Riviera, he completed a rough draft in 1924. He submitted the draft to or Maxwell Perkins, who persuaded Fitzgerald to revise the work over the following winter. After his revisions, Fitzgerald was satisfied with the text, but remained ambivalent about the book's title and considered several alternatives. The final title he desired was Under the Red, White, and Blue. Painter Francis Cugat's final cover design impressed Fitzgerald who incorporated a visual element from the art into the novel.
After its publication by Scribner's in April 1925, The Great Gatsby received generally favorable reviews, although some literary critics believed it did not hold up to Fitzgerald's previous efforts and signaled the end of the author's literary achievements. Despite the warm critical reception, Gatsby was a commercial failure. The book sold fewer than 20,000 copies by October, and Fitzgerald's hopes of a monetary windfall from the novel were unrealized. When the author died in 1940, he believed himself to be a failure and his work forgotten. After his death, the novel faced a critical and scholarly re-examination amid World War II, and it soon became a core part of most American high school curricula and a focus of American popular culture. Numerous stage and film adaptations followed in the subsequent decades.
Gatsby continues to attract popular and scholarly attention. The novel was most recently adapted to film in 2013 by director Baz Luhrmann, while contemporary scholars emphasize the novel's treatment of social class, inherited wealth compared to those who are self-made, race, environmentalism, and its cynical attitude towards the American dream. As with other works by Fitzgerald, criticisms include allegations of antisemitism. The Great Gatsby is widely considered to be a literary masterwork and a contender for the title of the Great American Novel.
Set on the prosperous Long Island of 1922, The Great Gatsby provides a critical social history of Prohibition-era America during the Jazz Age.[a] Fitzgerald's fictional narrative fully renders that period—known for its jazz music, economic prosperity, flapper culture, libertine mores, rebellious youth, and ubiquitous speakeasies. Fitzgerald uses many of these 1920s societal developments to tell his story, from simple details like petting in automobiles to broader themes such as his discreet allusions to bootlegging as the source of Gatsby's fortune.
Fitzgerald educates his readers about the hedonistic society of the Jazz Age by placing a relatable plotline within the historical context of "the most raucous, gaudy era in U.S. history," which "raced along under its own power, served by great filling stations full of money". In Fitzgerald's eyes, the 1920s era represented a morally permissive time when Americans of all ages became disillusioned with prevailing social norms and had a monomaniacal obsession with self-gratification: "[The Jazz Age represented] a whole race going hedonistic, deciding on pleasure." Hence, The Great Gatsby represents Fitzgerald's attempt to communicate his ambivalent feelings regarding the Jazz Age, an era whose themes he would later regard as reflective of events in his own life.
The Great Gatsby reflects various events in Fitzgerald's youth. He was a young Midwesterner from Minnesota. Like the novel's narrator who went to Yale, he was educated at an Ivy League school, Princeton. There the 19-year-old Fitzgerald met Ginevra King, a 16-year-old socialite with whom he fell deeply in love. Ginevra's family discouraged his pursuit of their daughter because of his lower-class status, and her father purportedly told him that "poor boys shouldn't think of marrying rich girls".
Rejected by Ginevra as a suitor because of his lack of financial prospects, a suicidal Fitzgerald enlisted in the United States Army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. While awaiting deployment to the Western front, he was stationed at Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama, where he met Zelda Sayre, a vivacious 17-year-old Southern belle. Zelda agreed to marry him, but her parents ended their engagement until he could prove his financial success. Fitzgerald is thus similar to Jay Gatsby in that he fell in love while a military officer stationed far from home and then sought success to prove himself to the woman he desired.
After his success as a novelist and as a short-story writer, Fitzgerald married Zelda in New York City, and the newly wed couple soon relocated to Long Island. He found his new affluent lifestyle in the exclusive Long Island social milieu to be simultaneously both seductive and repulsive. Fitzgerald—like Gatsby—had always exalted the rich and was driven by his love for a woman who symbolized everything he desired, even as he was led towards a lifestyle that he loathed.
In Spring 1922, Nick Carraway—a Yale alumnus from the Midwest and a World War I veteran—journeys to New York City to obtain employment as a bond salesman. He rents a bungalow in the Long Island village of West Egg, next to a luxurious estate inhabited by Jay Gatsby, an enigmatic multi-millionaire who hosts dazzling soirées yet does not partake in them.
One evening, Nick dines with a distant relative, Daisy Buchanan, in the fashionable town of East Egg. Daisy is married to Tom Buchanan, formerly a Yale football star whom Nick knew during his college days. The couple has recently relocated from Chicago to a mansion directly across the bay from Gatsby's estate. There, Nick encounters Jordan Baker, an insolent flapper and golf champion who is a childhood friend of Daisy's. Jordan confides to Nick that Tom keeps a mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who brazenly telephones him at his home and who lives in the "valley of ashes," a sprawling refuse dump. That evening, Nick sees Gatsby standing alone on his lawn, staring at a green light across the bay.
Days later, Nick reluctantly accompanies a drunken and agitated Tom to New York City by train. En route, they stop at a garage inhabited by mechanic George Wilson and his wife Myrtle. Myrtle joins them, and the trio proceed to a small New York apartment that Tom has rented for trysts with her. Guests arrive, and a party ensues that ends with Tom slapping Myrtle and breaking her nose after she mentions Daisy.
One morning, Nick receives a formal invitation to a party at Gatsby's mansion. Once there, Nick is embarrassed that he recognizes no one and begins drinking heavily until he encounters Jordan. While chatting with her, he is approached by a man who introduces himself as Jay Gatsby and insists that both he and Nick served in the 3rd Infantry Division during the war. Gatsby attempts to ingratiate himself with Nick and when Nick leaves the party, he notices Gatsby watching him.
In late July, Nick and Gatsby have lunch at a speakeasy. Gatsby tries impressing Nick with tales of his war heroism and his Oxford days. Afterward, Nick meets Jordan at the Plaza Hotel. Jordan reveals that Gatsby and Daisy met around 1917 when Gatsby was an officer in the American Expionary Forces. They fell in love, but when Gatsby was deployed overseas, Daisy reluctantly married Tom. Gatsby hopes that his newfound wealth and dazzling parties will make Daisy reconsider. Gatsby uses Nick to stage a reunion with Daisy, and the two embark upon a sexual affair.
In September, Tom discovers the affair when Daisy carelessly addresses Gatsby with unabashed intimacy in front of him. Later, at a Plaza Hotel suite, Gatsby and Tom argue about the affair. Gatsby insists Daisy declare that she never loved Tom. Daisy claims she loves Tom and Gatsby, upsetting both. Tom reveals Gatsby is a swindler whose money comes from bootlegging alcohol. Upon hearing this, Daisy chooses to stay with Tom. Tom scornfully tells Gatsby to drive her home, knowing that Daisy will never leave him.
While returning to East Egg, Gatsby and Daisy drive by Wilson's garage and their car accidentally strikes Myrtle killing her instantly. Gatsby reveals to Nick that Daisy was driving the car, but that he intends to take the blame for the accident to protect her. Nick urges Gatsby to flee to avoid prosecution, but he refuses. After Tom tells George that Gatsby owns the car that struck Myrtle, a distraught George assumes the owner of the vehicle must be Myrtle's paramour. George fatally shoots Gatsby in his mansion's swimming pool, then commits suicide.
Several days after Gatsby's murder, his father Henry Gatz arrives for the sparsely attended funeral. After Gatsby's death, Nick comes to hate New York and decides that Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, and he were all Westerners unsuited to Eastern life. Nick encounters Tom and initially refuses to shake his hand. Tom admits he was the one who told George that Gatsby owned the vehicle that killed Myrtle. Before returning to the Midwest, Nick returns to Gatsby's mansion and stares across the bay at the green light emanating from the end of Daisy's dock.
Fitzgerald began outlining his third novel in June 1922. He wanted to produce, in his words, a work that was "new," "beautiful," and "intricately patterned". The troubled production of his stage play, The Vegetable throughout the late summer and early fall repeatedly interrupted his work. The play flopped, and Fitzgerald worked that winter on magazine stories struggling to pay debts incurred by its production. He viewed these stories to be "all trash," although included among them was "Winter Dreams," which Fitzgerald later described as "a sort of first draft of the Gatsby idea".
In October 1922, after the birth of their only child, Frances Scott "Scottie" Fitzgerald, the Fitzgeralds moved to Great Neck, New York, on Long Island. Fitzgerald's neighbors in Great Neck included such prominent and newly wealthy New Yorkers as writer Ring Lardner, actor Lew Fields and comedian Ed Wynn. These figures were all considered to be nouveau riche (new rich), unlike those who came from Manhasset Neck or Cow Neck Peninsula, which sat across the bay from Great Neck—places that were home to many of New York's wealthiest established families.
This real-life juxtaposition gave Fitzgerald his idea for "West Egg" and "East Egg". In the novel, Great Neck (Kings Point) became the "new money" peninsula of West Egg and Port Washington (Sands Point) became the "old money" East Egg. Several mansions in the area served as inspiration for Gatsby's home, like Oheka Castle, and the since-demolished Beacon Towers. Another possible inspiration was Land's End, a Gold Coast Mansion where Fitzgerald may have attended a party.
While the Fitzgeralds were living in New York, the daily newspapers sensationalized the Hall–Mills murder case over many months, and the highly publicized case likely influenced the plot of Fitzgerald's novel. The case involved the double-murder of a man and his lover, which occurred on September 14, 1922, mere weeks before Fitzgerald and his wife arrived in Great Neck. Scholars have speculated that Fitzgerald based certain aspects of the ending of The Great Gatsby and various characterizations on this factual incident.
By mid-1923, Fitzgerald had written 18,000 words for his novel but discarded most of his new story as a false start. Some of it resurfaced in the 1924 short story "Absolution". Work on The Great Gatsby began in earnest in April 1924. Fitzgerald wrote in his private ledger: "Out of woods at last and starting novel." He decided to depart from the writing process of his previous novels and told Perkins the novel was to be a "consciously artistic achievement". He wished to fashion a "purely creative work—not trashy imaginings as in my stories but the sustained imagination of a sincere and yet radiant world". Soon after this burst of inspiration, work slowed while the Fitzgeralds moved to the French Riviera, where a marital crisis[c] soon developed.
By August, Fitzgerald was hard at work and had completed a near-final version of the manuscript in October, sending the book to his or, Maxwell Perkins, on October 27. The Fitzgeralds then moved to Rome for the winter. Fitzgerald made revisions through the winter after Perkins had informed him in a November letter that Gatsby himself was too vague as a character and that his wealth and business, respectively, needed a convincing explanation. Fitzgerald thanked Perkins for his detailed criticisms and stated, "With the aid you've given me I can make Gatsby perfect."
Content after a few rounds of revision, Fitzgerald submitted the revised proofs in February 1925. Fitzgerald's alterations included extensive revisions of the sixth and eighth chapters. He declined an offer of $10,000 for the serial rights to the book so that it could be published sooner. He received a $3,939 advance in 1923 and would receive $1,981.25 upon publication.
Fitzgerald had difficulty choosing a title for his novel and entertained many choices before reluctantly deciding on The Great Gatsby, a title inspired by Alain-Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes. Previously he had shifted between Among Ash Heaps and Millionaires, Trimalchio, Trimalchio in West Egg, On the Road to West Egg, Under the Red, White, and Blue, The Gold-Hatted Gatsby, and The High-Bouncing Lover. The titles The Gold-Hatted Gatsby and The High-Bouncing Lover came from Fitzgerald's epigraph for the novel, one which he wrote himself under the pen name of Thomas Parke D'Invilliers. He initially preferred titles referencing Trimalchio, the crude upstart in Petronius's Satyricon, and even refers to Gatsby as Trimalchio once in the novel: "It was when curiosity about Gatsby was at its highest that the lights in his house failed to go on one Saturday night—and, as obscurely as it had begun, his career as Trimalchio was over." Unlike Gatsby's spectacular parties, Trimalchio participated in the orgies he hosted but, according to Tony Tanner's introduction to the Penguin ion, there are subtle similarities between the two.
In November 1924, Fitzgerald wrote to Perkins that he had settled upon the title of Trimalchio in West Egg, but he was eventually persuaded that the reference was too obscure and that people would be unable to pronounce it. Zelda and Perkins both expressed their preference for The Great Gatsby, and the next month Fitzgerald agreed. A month before publication, after a final review of the proofs, he asked if it would be possible to re-title it Trimalchio or Gold-Hatted Gatsby, but Perkins advised against it. On March 19, 1925, Fitzgerald expressed enthusiasm for the title Under the Red, White, and Blue, but it was too late to change it at that stage. The Great Gatsby was published on April 10, 1925. Fitzgerald remarked "the title is only fair, rather bad than good".
Early drafts of the novel have been published under the title Trimalchio: An Early Version of The Great Gatsby. A difference between the Trimalchio draft and The Great Gatsby is a less complete failure of Gatsby's dream in Trimalchio. Another difference is that the argument between Tom Buchanan and Gatsby is more balanced, although Daisy still returns to Tom.
The cover of the first printing of The Great Gatsby is among the most celebrated pieces of art in American literature. It depicts disembodied eyes and a mouth over a blue skyline, with images of naked women reflected in the irises. A little-known Barcelonan painter named Francis Cugat was commissioned to illustrate the cover while Fitzgerald was writing the work.
The cover was completed before the novel, and Fitzgerald was so enamored with it he told Max Perkins that he had "written it into" the novel. Fitzgerald's remarks about incorporating the painting into the novel led to the interpretation that the eyes are reminiscent of those of fictional optometrist T. J. Eckleburg depicted on a faded commercial billboard near George Wilson's auto repair shop.
Author Ernest Hemingway supported this latter interpretation claiming in his memoir A Moveable Feast Fitzgerald had told him the cover referred to a billboard in the valley of the ashes. Although this passage has some resemblance to the painting, a closer explanation can be found in Fitzgerald's explicit description of Daisy Buchanan as the "girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs".
Charles Scribner's Sons published The Great Gatsby on April 10, 1925. Fitzgerald cabled Perkins the day after publication to monitor reviews: "Any news?" "Sales situation doubtful," read a telegram from Perkins on April 20 "[but] excellent reviews". Fitzgerald responded on April 24, saying the cable dispirited him, closing the letter with "Yours in great depression". Fitzgerald had hoped the novel would be a commercial success, perhaps selling as many as 75,000 copies, but by October the book had sold fewer than 20,000 copies after its original release. Fitzgerald received letters from contemporaries Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, and poet T. S. Eliot praising the novel. Yet such correspondence was merely private opinion, and Fitzgerald sought public acclaim from professional critics.
The Great Gatsby received generally favorable reviews from literary critics of the day. The most laudatory review was by Edwin Clark of The New York Times, who felt the novel was "a mystical, glamorous story of today". Similarly, Lillian C. Ford of the Los Angeles Times hailed the novel as "a work of art" and "a revelation of life" that "leaves the reader in a mood of chastened wonder". The New York Post described Fitzgerald's prose style as scintillating and genuinely brilliant. The New York Herald Tribune was less impressed, referring to The Great Gatsby as "a literary lemon meringue" that nonetheless "contains some of the nicest little touches of contemporary observation you could imagine—so light, so delicate, so sharp". In The Chicago Daily Tribune, H. L. Mencken judged the work to be "no more than a glorified anecdote, and not too probable at that," while praising the "charm and beauty of the writing" and the "careful and brilliant finish".
The thing that chiefly interests the basic Fitzgerald is still the florid show of modern American life—and especially the devil's dance and that goes on at the top. He is unconcerned about the sweating and suffering of the nether herd; what engrosses him is the high carnival of those who have too much money to spend and too much time for the spending of it. Their idiotic pursuit of sensation, their almost incredible stupidity and triviality, their glittering swinishness—these are the things that go into his notebook.
Several reviewers felt the novel left much to be desired following Fitzgerald's previous works and criticized him accordingly. Harvey Eagleton of The Dallas Morning News predicted the novel signaled the end of Fitzgerald's artistic success: "One finishes Great Gatsby with a feeling of regret, not for the fate of the people in the book, but for Mr. Fitzgerald." John McClure of The Times-Picayune insisted the plot was unconvincing and that, "even in conception and construction, The Great Gatsby seems a little raw". Ralph Coghlan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch dismissed the work as "a minor performance" by a once-promising author who had grown bored and cynical. Ruth Snyder of New York Evening World eviscerated the book's style as "painfully forced" and declared the ors of her newspaper were "quite convinced after reading The Great Gatsby that Mr. Fitzgerald is not one of the great American writers of today". These reviews struck Fitzgerald as completely missing the point, and he concluded many reviewers misunderstood the novel.
To Fitzgerald's great disappointment, Gatsby did not have the commercial success of his previous novels, This Side of Paradise (1920) and The Beautiful and Damned (1922). Although the novel went through two initial printings, many copies remained unsold years later. Fitzgerald attributed the poor sales to the fact that women tended to be the primary audience for novels during this time, and Gatsby did not contain an admirable female character. According to his ledger, he earned only $2,000 from the book. Although 1926 brought Owen Davis' stage adaptation and the Paramount-issued silent film version, both of which brought in money for the author, Fitzgerald still felt the novel fell short of the recognition he had hoped for and would not propel him to becoming a serious novelist in the public eye. For several years afterward, the public believed The Great Gatsby to be nothing more than a nostalgic period piece. By the time Fitzgerald died in 1940, the novel had fallen into near obscurity.
In 1940, Fitzgerald suffered a third and fatal heart attack and died believing his work forgotten. His obituary in The New York Times hailed him as a "brilliant novelist" and cited Gatsby as Fitzgerald "at his best". In the wake of Fitzgerald's death, a strong appreciation for the book gradually developed in writers' circles. Future authors Budd Schulberg and Edward Newhouse were deeply affected by it, and John O'Hara acknowledged its influence on his work. By the time that Gatsby was republished in Edmund Wilson's ion of The Last Tycoon in 1941, the prevailing opinion in writers' circles deemed the novel to be an enduring work of fiction.
In the spring of 1942, mere months after the United States' entrance into World War II, an association of publishing executives created the Council on Books in Wartime with the stated purpose of distributing paperback Armed Services Editions books to combat troops. The Great Gatsby was one of them. Within the next several years, 155,000 copies of Gatsby were distributed to U.S. soldiers overseas, and the book proved popular among beleaguered soldiers, according to the Saturday Evening Post's contemporary report.
By 1944, a full-scale Fitzgerald revival had suddenly occurred. Full-length scholarly articles on Fitzgerald's works were being published in periodicals and, by the following year, the earlier consensus among professional critics that The Great Gatsby was merely a sensational story or a nostalgic period piece had effectively vanished. The tireless promotional efforts of literary critic Edmund Wilson, who was Fitzgerald's Princeton classmate and his close friend, led this belated Fitzgerald revival. In 1951, three years after Zelda's death in a hospital fire, Professor Arthur Mizener of Cornell University published The Far Side of Paradise, the first biography of Fitzgerald. Mizener's best-selling biography emphasized The Great Gatsby's positive reception by literary critics which may have further influenced public opinion and renewed interest in it.
By 1960—thirty-five years after the novel's original publication—the book was steadily selling 50,000 copies per year. Renewed interest in it led The New York Times orialist Mizener to proclaim the novel was a masterwork of 20th-century American literature. By 1974, The Great Gatsby had attained its status as a literary masterwork and was deemed a contender for the title of the "Great American Novel." By the mid-2000s, many literary critics considered The Great Gatsby to be one of the greatest novels ever written, and the work was part of the assigned curricula in the near majority of U.S. high schools. As of early 2020, The Great Gatsby had sold almost 30 million copies worldwide and continues to sell an additional 500,000 copies annually. The work is Scribner's most popular title; in 2013, the e-book alone sold 185,000 copies. The novel's U.S. copyright expired on January 1, 2021, when all works published in 1925 entered the public domain in the United States.
Following the novel's revival, later critical writings on The Great Gatsby focused on Fitzgerald's disillusionment with the American dream in the hedonistic Jazz Age,[a] a name for the era which Fitzgerald claimed to have coined. In 1970, scholar Roger L. Pearson asserted that Fitzgerald's work—more so than other twentieth century novels—is especially linked with this conceptualization of the American dream. Pearson traced the literary origins of this dream to Colonial America. The dream "is the belief that every man, whatever his origins, may pursue and attain his chosen goals, be they political, monetary, or social. It is the literary expression of the concept of America: The land of opportunity."
However, Pearson noted that Fitzgerald's particular treatment of this theme is devoid of the discernible optimism in the writings of earlier American authors. He suggests Gatsby serves as a false prophet of the American dream, and pursuing the dream only results in dissatisfaction for those who chase it, owing to its unattainability. In this analytical context, the green light emanating across the Long Island Sound from Gatsby's house is frequently interpreted as a symbol of Gatsby's unrealizable goal to win Daisy and, consequently, to achieve the American dream.
Scholars and writers commonly ascribe Gatsby's inability to achieve the American dream to entrenched class disparities in American society. The novel underscores the limits of the American lower class to transcend their station of birth. Scholar Sarah Churchwell contends that Fitzgerald's novel is a tale of class warfare in a status-obsessed country that refuses to acknowledge publicly it even has a class system.
Although scholars posit different explanations for the continuation of class differences in the United States, there is a consensus regarding the novel's message in conveying its underlying permanence. Although Gatsby's fundamental conflict occurs between entrenched sources of socio-economic power and upstarts like Gatsby who threaten their interests, Fitzgerald's novel shows that a class permanence persists despite the country's capitalist economy that prizes innovation and adaptability. Dianne Bechtel argues Fitzgerald plotted the novel to illustrate that class transcends wealth in America. Even if the poorer Americans become rich, they remain inferior to those Americans with "old money". Consequently, Gatsby and other characters in the novel are trapped in a rigid American class system.
Besides exploring the difficulties of achieving the American dream, The Great Gatsby explores societal gender expectations during the Jazz Age. The character of Daisy Buchanan has been identified specifically as personifying the emerging cultural archetype of the flapper. Flappers were typically young, modern women who bobbed their hair and wore short skirts. They also drank alcohol and had premarital sex.
Despite the newfound societal freedoms attained by flappers in the 1920s, Fitzgerald's work critically examines the continued limitations upon women's agency during this period. In this context, although early critics viewed the character of Daisy to be a "monster of bitchery," later scholars such as Leland S. Person, Jr. asserted that Daisy's character exemplifies the marginalization of women in the elite social milieu that Fitzgerald depicts. Writing in 1978, Person noted Daisy is more of a hapless victim than a manipulative victimizer. She is the target first of Tom's callous domination and next of Gatsby's dehumanizing adoration. She involuntarily becomes the holy grail at the center of Gatsby's unrealistic quest to be steadfast to a youthful concept of himself. The ensuing contest of wills between Tom and Gatsby reduces Daisy to a trophy wife whose sole existence is to augment her possessor's socio-economic success.
As an upper-class white woman living in East Egg during this time period, Daisy must adhere to societal expectations and gender norms such as actively fulfilling the roles of dutiful wife, nurturing mother, and charming socialite. Many of Daisy's choices—ultimately culminating in the tragedy of the ending and misery for all those involved—can be partly attributed to her prescribed role as a "beautiful little fool"[d] who is reliant on her husband for financial and societal security. Her decision to remain with her husband, despite her feelings for Gatsby, is because of the security that her marriage to Tom Buchanan provides.
Many scholars have analyzed the novel's treatment of race and displacement; in particular, the perceived threat posed by newer immigrants to older Americans, triggering concerns over a loss of socio-economic status. In one instance, Tom Buchanan—the novel's antagonist—claims that he, Nick, and Jordan are racially superior Nordics. Tom decries immigration and advocates white supremacy. A fictional book alluded to by Tom, Goddard's The Rise of the Colored Empires, is an intentional parody by Fitzgerald of Lothrop Stoddard's The Rising Tide of Color, a 1920s bestseller. Stoddard warned immigration would alter America's racial composition and destroy the country.
Analyzing these elements, literary theorist Walter Benn Michaels contends that Fitzgerald's novel reflects a historical period in American literature characterized by fears over the influx of Southern and Eastern European immigrants whose "otherness" challenged Americans' sense of national identity. Such anxieties were more salient in national discourse than the societal consequences of World War I, and the defining question of the period was who constituted "a real American".
In this context of immigration and displacement, Tom's hostility towards Gatsby, who is the embodiment of "latest America," has been interpreted as partly embodying status anxieties of the time involving anti-immigrant sentiment. Gatsby—whom Tom belittles as "Mr. Nobody from Nowhere"—functions as a cipher because of his obscure origins, his unclear religio-ethnic identity and his indeterminate class status. Although his ethnicity is vague, his last name Gatz and his father's adherence to the Lutheran religion indicate his family are recent German immigrants. This would preclude them from the coveted status of Old Stock Americans. Consequently, Gatsby's socio-economic ascent is deemed a threat not only due to his status as nouveau riche, but because he is perceived as an outsider.
Because of such themes, The Great Gatsby arguably captures the perennial American experience because it is a story about change and those who resist it, whether the change comes in the form of a new wave of immigrants, the nouveau riche, or successful minorities. As Americans living in the 1920s to the present are defined by their fluctuating economic and social circumstances, contemporary readers can relate to Gatsby, which has contributed to the novel's enduring popularity.
Technological and environmental criticisms of Gatsby seek to place the novel and its characters in a broader historical context. In 1964, Leo Marx argued in The Machine in the Garden that Fitzgerald's work evinces a tension between a complex pastoral ideal of a bygone America and the societal transformations caused by industrialization and machine technology. Specifically, the valley of the ashes represents a man-made wasteland which is a byproduct of the industrialization that has made Gatsby's booming lifestyle, including his automobile, possible. Marx argues that Fitzgerald, via Nick, expresses a pastoral longing typical of other 1920s American writers like William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway. Although such writers cherish the pastoral ideal, they accept technological progress has deprived this ideal of nearly all meaning. In this context, Nick's repudiation of the East represents a futile attempt to withdraw into nature. Yet, as Fitzgerald's work shows, any technological demarcation between East and West has vanished, and one cannot escape into a pastoral past.
In more recent years, scholars have argued that the voracious pursuit of wealth as criticized in Fitzgerald's novel offers a warning about the perils of environmental destruction in pursuit of self-interest. According to Kyle Keeler, Gatsby's quest for greater status manifests as self-centered, anthropocentric resource acquisition. This encompasses Gatsby's "inspiration via Dan Cody's mining practices to his involvement in intense deforestation during World War I to his bootlegging enterprise dependent on South American agriculture". Gatsby conveniently ignores the wasteful devastation of the valley of ashes to pursue a consumerist lifestyle and exacerbates the wealth gap that became increasingly salient in 1920s America. For these reasons, Keeler argues that—while Gatsby's socioeconomic ascent and self-transformation depend upon these very factors—each one is nonetheless partially responsible for the ongoing ecological crisis.
The Great Gatsby has been accused of displaying antisemitism through the use of Jewish stereotypes. The book describes Meyer Wolfsheim,[b] a character based on real-life Jewish gambler Arnold Rothstein, as "a small, flat-nosed Jew", with "tiny eyes" and "two fine growths of hair" in his nostrils. Fitzgerald describes his nose as "expressive", "tragic", and able to "flash... indignantly". A corrupt profiteer who assisted Gatsby's bootlegging operations and manipulated the World Series, Wolfsheim has been interpreted as representing the Jewish miser stereotype. Richard Levy, author of Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution, claims that Wolfsheim serves to link Jewishness with corruption.
In a 1947 article for Commentary, Milton Hindus, an assistant professor of humanities at the University of Chicago, stated that while he believed the book was "excellent" on balance, Wolfsheim was its most abrasive character, and the work reads akin to "an anti-Semitic document". However, Hindus argued the Jewish stereotypes displayed by Wolfsheim were typical of the time when the novel was written and set and that its antisemitism was of the "habitual, customary, 'harmless,' unpolitical variety".
A 2015 article by essayist Arthur Krystal agreed with Hindus' assessment that Fitzgerald's use of Jewish caricatures was not driven by malice and merely reflected commonly held beliefs of his time. He notes the accounts of Frances Kroll, a Jewish woman and secretary to Fitzgerald, who claimed that Fitzgerald was hurt by accusations of antisemitism and responded to critiques of Wolfsheim by claiming he merely "fulfilled a function in the story and had nothing to do with race or religion".
Gatsby has been adapted for the stage multiple times since its publication. The first known stage adaptation was by American dramatist Owen Davis, which subsequently became the 1926 film version. The play, directed by George Cukor, opened on Broadway on February 2, 1926, and had 112 curtain calls. A successful tour later in the year included performances in Chicago, August 1 through October 2. More recently, The New York Metropolitan Opera commissioned John Harbison to compose an operatic treatment of the novel to commemorate the 25th anniversary of James Levine's debut. The work, called The Great Gatsby, premiered on December 20, 1999. In July 2006, Simon Levy's stage adaptation, directed by David Esbjornson, premiered at the Guthrie Theater to commemorate the opening of its new theater. In 2010, critic Ben Brantley of The New York Times highly praised the debut of Gatz, an Off-Broadway production by Elevator Repair Service. The novel has been revised for ballet performances. In 2009, BalletMet premiered a version at the Capitol Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. In 2010, The Washington Ballet premiered a version at the Kennedy Center. The show received an encore run the following year.
The first movie version of the novel debuted in 1926. Itself a version of Owen Davis's Broadway play, it was directed by Herbert Brenon and starred Warner Baxter, Lois Wilson and William Powell. It is a famous example of a lost film. Reviews suggest it may have been the most faithful adaptation of the novel, but a trailer of the film at the National Archives is all that is known to exist. Reportedly, Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda loathed the silent version. Zelda wrote to an acquaintance that the film was "rotten." She and Scott left the cinema midway through the film.
Following the 1926 movie was 1949's The Great Gatsby, directed by Elliott Nugent and starring Alan Ladd, Betty Field and Macdonald Carey. Twenty-five years later in 1974, The Great Gatsby appeared onscreen again. It was directed by Jack Clayton and starred Robert Redford as Gatsby, Mia Farrow as Daisy, and Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway. Most recently, The Great Gatsby was directed by Baz Luhrmann in 2013 and starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy and Tobey Maguire as Nick.
Gatsby has been recast multiple times as a short-form television movie. The first was in 1955 as an NBC episode for Robert Montgomery Presents starring Robert Montgomery, Phyllis Kirk, and Lee Bowman. The episode was directed by Alvin Sapinsley. In 1958, CBS filmed another adaptation as an episode of Playhouse 90, also titled The Great Gatsby, which was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and starred Robert Ryan, Jeanne Crain and Rod Taylor. Most recently, the novel was adapted as an A&E movie in 2000. The Great Gatsby was directed by Robert Markowitz and starred Toby Stephens as Gatsby, Mira Sorvino as Daisy, and Paul Rudd as Nick.
The novel has been adapted for radio many times. The first was the 1950s hour-long adaptation for CBS' Family Hour of Stars starring Kirk Douglas as Gatsby. The novel was read aloud by the BBC World Service in ten parts in 2008. In a 2012 BBC Radio 4 broadcast, The Great Gatsby took the form of a Classic Serial dramatization. It was created by dramatist Robert Forrest. In 2010, Oberon Media released a casual hidden object game called Classic Adventures: The Great Gatsby, in 2011, developer Charlie Hoey and or Pete Smith created an 8-bit-style online game of The Great Gatsby called The Great Gatsby for NES, and in 2013, Slate released a short symbolic adaptation called The Great Gatsby: The Video Game.
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