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THE GREAT GATSBY

Historical Connections
by

briemtash gurvalquat

on 1 November 2012

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Transcript of THE GREAT GATSBY

1 2 's HE REAT ATSBY His book, The Great Gatsby, depicts the limelight of the 1920's. One of the characters, Gatsby, portrays a man living this lavish lifestyle. He owns numerous, beautiful shirts: “shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel,” and "shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaid in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange"(92). Gatsby also throws over the top parties. People from all over know about his parties and come to them, but the "people [are] not invited-they [just go] there"(41). The Great Gatsby not only illustrates the partying during Fitzgerald's life, but also emphasizes the essential parts of the frivolous lifestyle of the roaring twenties. HISTORICAL connections Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby, not only had success, but he also had disappointment. In high school he tried out for the football team, but he did not make the cut. As a result, he perceived football as a negative aspect in society. His prejudice against football influenced him to characterize an arrogant bully in his story as a football player. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald does not want the audience to sympathize with Tom, who is "one of the most powerful ends that ever played football"(6). For example, Tom cheats on his wife multiple times and shows his arrogant side since he says, "now, don't think my opinion on these matters is final...just because I'm stronger and more of a man than you are"(7). Additionally, he is sexist towards women, for he does not believe women are as put together as men since "women get these notations in their heads"(120), as well as racist, for he compares the horribleness of his situation to the horribleness of throwing "everything overboard and [having] intermarriage between black[s] and white[s]"(130). These characterizes of Tom prove that Fitzgerald does not want the audience to sympathize with him, therefore, Fitzgerald associates being cut from the football team with Tom. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald displays the 1920's since he places cars in the book's setting, for he writes about a car crash and Gatsby suggesting, “shall we all go in my car?”(120) to go into town on a hot day. He also mentions, "occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track"(23). Since cars play such an important role in society, Fitzgerald uses cars as a symbol. One of the main characters, Gatsby, owns a yellow car, and yellow symbolizes money, gold, and wealth. Fitzgerald connects the color and use, killing Tom's mistress, of Gatsby's car to the atmosphere of the rich to prove the upper class is doing damage to society. Just like how cars were important in the 1920's, they are in important in The Great Gatsby. In the 1920's cars became a commodity. Henry Ford invented one of the most popular and affordable cars in the decade; it was called the Model T. It was so reasonably priced that more people started owning cars. In 1918 only one in thirteen families owned a car, but, by 1929, four out of five families owned one. Also, between that time, the number of cars on the road increased from eight million to twenty-three million. Accordingly, the car industry grew so fast that by 1925, over ten percent of jobs were involved with the production, sale, service, or fueling of automobiles; cars became mainstream during the 1920's. Jazz music heavily influenced society in the 1920's.  It developed from a unique African style and became so popular that the 1920’s was referred to as the jazz age. Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Fletcher Henderson became famous jazz musicians, and George Gershwin and Cole Porter brought jazz to Broadway and the concert hall. Jazz spread throughout America with the use of the radio; Americans were introduced to different styles of music without physically visiting a jazz club. However, in jazz clubs, many danced to the music, and women even shorten their dresses and skirts so they could dance. Additionally, “there was dancing” at Gatsby’s party when a “ contralto had sung in jazz”(46).  The setting of The Great Gatsby comes to life since Fitzgerald included the history of America during the 1920's into his book. Fitzgerald sprinkled snippets of the influence of jazz on society in his book. For example, Gatsby requests the band at his party to play “Mr.Vladimir Tostoff’s latest work, which attracted so much attention at Carnegie Hall”(49).  The music was so popular, party hosts even hired a band to play jazz music. During the roaring twenties, society was at its highest. People were throwing extravagant parties and buying luxurious clothing. They lived in a time of money where they enjoyed living excessive lives and getting the thrill of buying everything and anything. Fitzgerald lived threw the 1920's and attended many of the parties where he danced and drank. World War I, also known as the War to end all Wars, began in July of 1914 and ended in November 1918. This Great War was fought between The Allies, consisting of the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and Italy, and The Central Powers, which were Germany and Austria-Hungary. The United States joined the war in April 1917, which is when they declared war on Germany, hence joining The Allies. While the Olympics admitted women into them in 1912, many people in the 1920’s did not believe women could handle the stress of playing sports. However, women still managed to gain suffrage in 1919, and more opportunities to play sports presented themselves in the 1920’s. Women made headway with behavior and dress too, especially with the flappers changing the customs. During the Roaring 20’s, there were profound advancements for women. One way women gained more freedom was through sports. In The Great Gatsby, Jordan Baker is a competitive golf player. This is a big step for women even though Jordan had a cheating scandal before the book begins. Nick hears about her supposed scandal, but he does not fully recall it until he hangs out with her more. He remembers a “suggestion that she moved her ball from a bad lie in the semi-final round” (57). The 1920’s represented growth in the rights of women, and The Great Gatsby shows the rise of women’s sports. Some of the events that occur between Daisy and Gatsby are similar to those that happened between Fitzgerald and Zelda. Daisy’s early life is much like Zelda’s youth. She goes around with many guys before she meets Gatsby. Zelda was with many guys before she was with Fitzgerald, and she was with a few while they were married. Zelda also dumped Fitzgerald after he went to New York because he did not have enough money for the lifestyle she desired. Then, she took him back after his first book was a success. Daisy is not as shallow; she just does not want to wait years for Gatsby to return from the war. As a result, she instead marries Tom and they create an unhappy life together. After Gatsby and Fitzgerald both become rich, Daisy and Zelda go back to them. In fact, when Daisy gets drunk the night before her wedding, she says she has “changed her mind” (76) after reading the letter from Gatsby. So, she might have gone back to Gatsby before everything in the book happens if she had not been about to marry Tom. In any case, Gatsby and Fitzgerald both suffered heartbreak before they both made their fortunes. Gatsby and Fitzgerald both started their lives with few advantages, but they both managed to find ways to be successful and rich. Fitzgerald went to prep schools where he was surrounded by richer kids and he always felt like an outsider. But after he discovered his writing talent, he established himself and made money on his first book, The Sight of Paradise. His success even made his ex-fiancée, Zelda, come back to him, and the two married. On the other hand, Gatsby’s rise to wealth is a bit shadier. Cody left him some of his money, but Gatsby was mainly involved in shady deals with Wolfshiem that brought him a great fortune. Wolfshiem and Gatsby run some kind of illegal business. The readers know that Wolfshiem fixed the 1919 World Series and Nick wonders if Gatsby was in on it. Also, after Gatsby’s death, one of their other employees calls the house and when he finds out Gatsby is dead, there is an “exclamation… then a quick squawk as the connection was broken” (167). Therefore, the man is clearly worried about someone else finding out about their dealings. Overall, Gatsby and Fitzgerald similarly rose from middle-class or below and made themselves successful and rich. For most of his life, Fitzgerald felt like an outsider. Whether it was at elementary school, prep school, or in his adult life, he was often upset by it. He tried many different activities to gain popularity and success; he tried out for the football team in high school, but he was cut from the team. Luckily, his talent for writing got him attention from teachers and a piece in the school newspaper. It became his claim to fame in school, but later in life it was his source of income as well. Nick, like Fitzgerald, grew up in the mid-west, then came to Long Island to work. He is an outsider because he does not know people in Long Island. He says he “went out to the country alone” and he was “lonely for a day or so” (8). However, Nick manages to make friends quickly through Daisy and Jordan and because people feel comfortable around him since he has no judgements. Gatsby is an outsider too, with his mysterious past, and the fact that the people at his parties do not see him much or know much about him. When Nick goes to Gatsby’s first party, he hears many different rumors about Gatsby. Some think he “grew up…in Germany,” and “he killed a man” (44) and Jordan thinks he did not really go to Oxford. Gatsby, Fitzgerald, and Nick all feel like outsiders at times, but they all manage to make friends and feel welcome. In the book, The Great Gatsby, the characters Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby are veterans from World War I. When Gatsby meets Nick for the first time, he says, “your face is familiar...weren’t you in the Third Division during the War?” (47). The War greatly influences the characters in this book, for it is the means by which Nick and Gatsby meet and the reason Gatsby and Daisy can not be together. During their romance, Gatsby leaves to serve in the army, and when he returns, Daisy is married. In 1919, the 18th amendment was passed, which banned the manufacturing, sale, and transportation of alcohol. However, the consumption was not illegal. During this time period, the general public illegally obtained alcohol, held parties, and went to speakeasies where the owners served alcohol. Parties were one of the main pastimes in the 1920’s, and this love for alcohol is portrayed well in the book, The Great Gatsby. Gatsby holds many parties, which everyone shows up to, and only a few people are found not drinking. At one of Gatsby’s parties, Nick states that he is “slunk off in the direction of the cocktail table-the only place in the garden where a single man could linger without looking purposeless and alone”(42). Even though alcohol was prohibited, it was illegally purchased and served at the parties in The Great Gatsby. The 1900’s was a period of time of heavy immigration to America. Italians, Chinese, Jews, and other ethnic groups came to America in pursuit of freedom, work, or better living conditions. Immigration became such a big problem that the federal government passed the Immigration act of 1924, which limited the amount of foreigners who could immigrate. With the increase of foreigners, native-born whites began believing in the idea of white supremacy. Nativism became a big philosophy because the whites did not want foreigners to challenge their supremacy or out number them. Racism is very prominent in the book, the Great Gatsby, specifically when Tom mentions that the white race “who are the dominant race,” need to, as Daisy later says, “beat them down” (13). Tom and Daisy represent a typical white couple in America during this time, who were prejudiced against foreigners. They were supportive of the white race and did not want its supremacy to be challenged. 1920’s was a period of increased immigration and much racism, which figures evidently in this book. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of the book, The Great Gatsby, died suddenly at the age of 44 from a heart failure. At the time of his death, Fitzgerald had managed to alienate himself from the outside world, so not many people came to his funeral. This is similarly seen in Fitzgerald’s novel, as only Nick and Mr. Gatz attend Gatsby’s funeral. Nick mentions that at the service, he and the few others there wait a half hour for late-comers, “but it wasn’t any use. Nobody came” (174). Gatsby is only valued for his lavish parties and fancy house, which is apparent when many people say they will try to come, but they do not. Nick is the only one of Gatsby’s friends, who actually attends the service. However, this connection is purely coincidental, since Fitzgerald could not have planned to have Gatsby’s funeral resemble his.
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