Monday, May 27, 2013

Great Gatsby Week - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In honour of Baz Lurman's The Great Gatsby being released in cinemas on Thursday this week is Great Gatsby week on the blog.

We're kicking off this week with the book itself. The Great Gatsby was written in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is considered to be his best work. The book follows characters living in the fictional town of West Egg on Long Island in the summer of 1922. The main events of the novel take place in the summer of 1922, narrated by Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate and World War I veteran from the Midwest who takes a job in New York as a bond salesman. He rents a small house on Long Island, in the (fictional) village of West Egg, next door to the lavish mansion of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire who holds extravagant parties.

Nick drives across the bay to East Egg for dinner at the home of his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her husband, Tom, a college acquaintance of Nick's. They introduce Nick to Jordan Baker, an attractive, cynical young golfer with whom Nick begins a romantic relationship. Jordan reveals to Nick that Tom has a mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who lives in the "valley of ashes": an industrial dumping ground between West Egg and New York City. Not long after this revelation, Nick travels to New York City with Tom and Myrtle to an apartment they keep for their affair. At the apartment, a vulgar and bizarre party ends with Tom breaking Myrtle's nose after she taunts Tom about Daisy.

As the summer progresses, Nick eventually receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties. Nick encounters Jordan Baker at the party, and they meet Gatsby himself, an aloof and surprisingly young man who recognizes Nick from their same division in the war. Through Jordan, Nick later learns that Gatsby knew Daisy from a romantic encounter in 1917 and is deeply in love with her. He spends many nights staring at the green light at the end of her dock, across the bay from his mansion, hoping to one day rekindle their lost romance. Gatsby’s extravagant lifestyle and wild parties are an attempt to impress Daisy in the hopes that she will one day appear again at Gatsby's doorstep. Gatsby now wants Nick to arrange a reunion between himself and Daisy. Nick invites Daisy to have tea at his house, without telling her that Gatsby will also be there. After an initially awkward reunion, Gatsby and Daisy reestablish their connection. They begin an affair and, after a short time, Tom grows increasingly suspicious of his wife's relationship with Gatsby. At a luncheon at the Buchanans' house, Gatsby stares at Daisy with such undisguised passion that Tom realizes Gatsby is in love with her. Though Tom is himself involved in an extramarital affair, he is deeply outraged by his wife's infidelity. He forces the group to drive into New York City, where he confronts Gatsby in a suite at the Plaza Hotel. Tom asserts that he and Daisy have a history that Gatsby could never understand, and he announces to his wife that Gatsby is a criminal whose fortune comes from bootlegging alcohol and other illegal activities. Daisy realizes that her allegiance is to Tom, and Tom contemptuously sends her back to East Egg with Gatsby, attempting to prove that Gatsby cannot hurt him.

When Nick, Jordan, and Tom drive through the valley of ashes, however, they discover that Gatsby’s car has struck and killed Myrtle, Tom’s lover. They rush back to Long Island, where Nick learns from Gatsby that Daisy was driving the car at the time of the accident, but that Gatsby intends to take the blame. The next day, Tom tells Myrtle’s husband, George, that Gatsby was the driver of the car. George, who has leapt to the conclusion that the driver of the car that killed Myrtle must have been her lover, tracks Gatsby to his mansion and fatally shoots both Gatsby and himself. Nick stages what turns out to be a very small funeral for Gatsby, ends his relationship with Jordan, and moves back to the Midwest to escape the disgust he feels for the people surrounding Gatsby's life and for the moral decay and emptiness of the wealthy of the East Coast.

Fitzgerald was inspired to write the book after attending a host of parties at Long Island mansions. The book is a social comment on the times, creating a portrait of the Jazz Age that warns of the dangers of the American dream with its themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess.

First published by Scribner's in April 1925, The Great Gatsby received mixed reviews and sold poorly; in its first year, the book only sold 20,000 copies. Fitzgerald died in 1940, believing himself to be a failure and his work forgotten. His work, spearheaded by The Great Gatsby, experienced a revival during World War II, and the novel became a part of high school curriculum in the following decades. The book has remained popular since, leading to numerous stage and film adaptions. The Great Gatsby is widely considered to be a literary classic and a contender for the title "Great American Novel". The book is consistently ranked among the greatest works of American literature and of all-time.

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