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Old English (LING 150) Litcharts Great Gatsby

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The great gatsby Lit Chart

Yale University

Old English (LING 150)

AUTHOR BIO
Full Name: Francis Scott Fitzgerald
Date of Birth: 1896
Place of Birth: St. Paul, Minnesota
Date of Death: 1940
Brief Life Story: F. Scott Fitzgerald grew up in Minnesota,
attended a few private schools (where his performance was
mediocre), and went to Princeton University. In 1917,
Princeton put Fitzgerald on academic probation. He enlisted in
the Army. On base in Alabama in 1918, he met and fell in love
with Zelda Sayre, who refused to marry him unless he could
support her. He returned to New York to pursue fame and
fortune. The publication of his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in
1920, made Fitzgerald a literary star. He married Zelda one
week later. In 1924, the couple moved to Paris, where
Fitzgerald began work on The Great Gatsby. Though now
considered his masterpiece, the novel sold only modestly. The
Fitzgeralds returned to the United States in 1927. Fitzgerald
published several more novels, including Tender is the Night
(1933), but none matched the success of his first. Deep in debt
because of their ritzy lifestyle, the Fitzgeralds began to spiral
into alcoholism and mental illness. Fitzgerald died of a heart
attack on December 21, 1940. Zelda died eight years later in a
fire.
KEY FACTS
Full Title: The Great Gatsby
Genre: Novel
Setting: Long Island, Queens, and Manhattan, New York in the
summer of 1922
Climax: The showdown between Gatsby and Tom over Daisy
Protagonist: Jay Gatsby
Antagonists: Tom Buchanan
Narrator: Nick Carraway
Point of View: First person
HISTORICAL AND LITERARY CONTEXT
Where Written: Paris and the US, in 1924
When Published: 1925
Literary Period:Modernism
Related Literary Works:Modernist fiction attempted to
represent the sense of emptiness and disillusionment that
dominated Europe and the United States after World War I. In
this way, Gatsby can be considered as related to such
modernist works as James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) and Virginia
Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925). But The Great Gatsby and all of
Fitzgerald’s works are best compared to those written by other
Americans such as Ernest Hemingway, members of the “Lost
Generation” of American writers who moved to Europe after
World War I. All these writers depicted the reality, corruption,
and sadness of the human condition, but Fitzgerald most
effectively portrayed the American cultural moment he called
the “Jazz Age.”
Related Historical Events: Fitzgerald coined the term “Jazz
Age” to refer to the period more commonly known as the
Roaring Twenties. Jazz is an American style of music marked by
its complex and exuberant mix of rhythms and tonalities. The
Great Gatsby portrays a similarly complex mix of emotions and
themes that reflect the turbulence of the times. Fresh off the
nightmare of World War I, Americans were enjoying the fruits
of an economic boom and a renewed sense of possibility. But in
The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald’s stresses the darker side of the
Roaring Twenties, its undercurrent of corruption and its
desperate, empty decadence.
EXTRA CREDIT
Puttin’ on the Fitz. Fitzgerald spent most of his adult life in
debt, often relying on loans from his publisher, and even his
editor, Maxwell Perkins, in order to pay the bills. The money he
made from his novels could not support the high-flying
cosmopolitan life his wife desired, so Fitzgerald turned to more
lucrative short story writing for magazines like Esquire.
Fitzgerald spent his final three years writing screenplays in
Hollywood.
Another Failed Screenwriter. Fitzgerald was an alcoholic and
his wife Zelda suffered from serious mental illness. In the final
years of their marriage as their debts piled up, Zelda stayed in a
series of mental institutions on the East coast while Fitzgerald
tried, and largely failed, to make money writing movie scripts in
Hollywood.
In the summer of 1922, Nick Carraway moves from Minnesota
to work as a bond salesman in New York. Nick rents a house in
West Egg, a suburb of New York on Long Island full of the “new
rich” who have made their fortunes too recently to have built
strong social connections. Nick graduated from Yale and has

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Old English (LING 150) Litcharts Great Gatsby

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