In both times, easy money meant that many people could begin to dream of living out their days like Jay Gatsby, with life as just one grand party in a seersucker suit. But as that vision of easy luxury crashed and burned in both and , newfound hard times required a redefinition of the American Dream. And while Gatsby is a work of fiction, Fitzgerald's real life contains some suspicious similarities.
Narrator Nick Carraway is both mesmerized and disgusted by Gatsby's extravagant lifestyle, just as Fitzgerald claimed to feel about the "Jazz Age" excesses that he himself adopted. As an Ivy League educated, middle-class Midwesterner, Fitzgerald like Nick saw through the shallow materialism of the era. The Great Gatsby is swaddled in Fitzgerald's simultaneous embrace of and disdain for s luxury. Since Fitzgerald did indeed partake in the Jazz Age's decadent high life, it's not surprising that the details of the setting and characters make The Great Gatsby a sort of time capsule of the s.
Gatsby is taught all over the world partly because it's a history lesson and novel all rolled into one delicious wrap of intrigue. Shake over ice, add a twist of jazz, a spritz of adultery, and a little pink umbrella…and you've got yourself a 5 o'clock beverage that, given the s setting , you wouldn't be allowed to drink. The one thing all these shows and Gatsby have in common is the notion of the American Dream. The Dream has seen its ups and downs. But from immigration certainly not a modern concern, right?
Yet Gatsby reminds us that the dollars aren't always enough. As we learned from Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady , you can put on the dress, but you still aren't going to know which fork to use. Especially if you're bootlegging to make the money for the dress. Even when they have the cash, newly made millionaires are still knocking at the door for the accepted elite to let them in. If the concept of the nouveau riche the newly rich has gone by the wayside, the barriers to the upper echelon education, background certainly haven't.
So there you have it. There's more to the Gatsby cocktail than sex, lies, and organized crime. Although those are there, too, which, as far as reading the book goes, is kind of a motivation in itself. All rights reserved. Scott Fitzgerald. Cite This Page. Logging out…. Logging out I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler.
He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood. And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer. There was so much to read, for one thing, and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities, and they stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas knew.
And I had the high intention of reading many other books besides. It was a matter of chance that I should have rented a house in one of the strangest communities in North America. It was on that slender riotous island which extends itself due east of New York — and where there are, among other natural curiosities, two unusual formations of land.
Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most domesticated body of salt water in the Western hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound. They are not perfect ovals — like the egg in the Columbus story, they are both crushed flat at the contact end — but their physical resemblance must be a source of perpetual confusion to the gulls that fly overhead. To the wingless a more arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every particular except shape and size.
I lived at West Egg, the — well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. My house was at the very tip of the egg, only fifty yards from the Sound, and squeezed between two huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season. The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard — it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden.
Gatsby, it was a mansion inhabited by a gentleman of that name. Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans. And just after the war I spent two days with them in Chicago.
The Great Gatsby
Her husband, among various physical accomplishments, had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven — a national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax. It was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough to do that.
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They had spent a year in France for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together. And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I drove over to East Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all. Their house was even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion, overlooking the bay.
The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens — finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run. The front was broken by a line of French windows, glowing now with reflected gold and wide open to the warm windy afternoon, and Tom Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his legs apart on the front porch.
He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was a sturdy straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward.
Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body — he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing, and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage — a cruel body. His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked — and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts. Turning me around by one arm, he moved a broad flat hand along the front vista, including in its sweep a sunken Italian garden, a half acre of deep, pungent roses, and a snub-nosed motor-boat that bumped the tide offshore.
We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling, and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea.
The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house.
I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor. The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless, and with her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall.
If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it — indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in. The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise — she leaned slightly forward with a conscientious expression — then she laughed, an absurd, charming little laugh, and I laughed too and came forward into the room.
That was a way she had. She hinted in a murmur that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker. Again a sort of apology arose to my lips. Almost any exhibition of complete self-sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me. I looked back at my cousin, who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again.
I told her how I had stopped off in Chicago for a day on my way East, and how a dozen people had sent their love through me. Tom Buchanan, who had been hovering restlessly about the room, stopped and rested his hand on my shoulder. Evidently it surprised her as much as it did me, for she yawned and with a series of rapid, deft movements stood up into the room.
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She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage, which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet. Her gray sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming, discontented face. It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a picture of her, somewhere before. Before I could reply that he was my neighbor dinner was announced; wedging his tense arm imperatively under mine, Tom Buchanan compelled me from the room as though he were moving a checker to another square.
Slenderly, languidly, their hands set lightly on their hips, the two young women preceded us out onto a rosy-colored porch, open toward the sunset, where four candles flickered on the table in the diminished wind. She snapped them out with her fingers.
All That Jazz
I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it. Sometimes she and Miss Baker talked at once, unobtrusively and with a bantering inconsequence that was never quite chatter, that was as cool as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire. They were here, and they accepted Tom and me, making only a polite pleasant effort to entertain or to be entertained. They knew that presently dinner would be over and a little later the evening too would be over and casually put away.
It was sharply different from the West, where an evening was hurried from phase to phase toward its close, in a continually disappointed anticipation or else in sheer nervous dread of the moment itself. Do you see? There was something pathetic in his concentration, as if his complacency, more acute than of old, was not enough to him any more.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald : Chapter 1
When, almost immediately, the telephone rang inside and the butler left the porch Daisy seized upon the momentary interruption and leaned toward me. For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened — then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk. As if his absence quickened something within her, Daisy leaned forward again, her voice glowing and singing.
You remind me of a — of a rose, an absolute rose. This was untrue.
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I am not even faintly like a rose.