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The Great Gatsby Introduction

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by

Peter Eliot

on 25 April 2016

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Transcript of The Great Gatsby Introduction

Widely recognized as one of the greatest American novels ever written,
The

Great Gatsby
takes place in Long Island, New York, where the villages of West Egg and East Egg are home to the wealthiest members of society.
And East Egg is home to "old money": money that comes from generations of wealth.
The novel is set in 1922, just after World War I, and during the height of "The Roaring 20s": a time of economic prosperity, the Jazz age, and Prohibition.
Prohibition followed the 18th Amendment (1919), banning the sale of alcohol.
Many Americans were not pleased...
While Prohibition limited the legal sale of alcohol,
many entrepreneurs sold it illegally; they called these rebels "Bootleggers," and many made a great living out of it, making millions of dollars.
They wore very tasteful jewlery...

At the time Fitzgerald wrote the novel, 1925, he is experiencing the 1920s just as much as Jay Gatsby, the titular character of the novel.
1974 Gatsby
2012
Also, like Nick Carroway, the narrator, Fitzgerald became lured to the land of luxury and loved the idea of wealth.
Gatsby becomes consumed by the idea of amassing wealth and living in luxury, looking to impress a young woman named Daisy, just as Fitzgerald looked to woo a woman named Zelda. (No, really.)
1974 Nick
2012, Web-slinging Nick
Fitzgerald
Zelda
West Egg
Themes
Because of their superficialty and Gatsby's obsession with Daisy (who is married), the whole scene turns into an episode of The Real Housewives.
Members of "Old Money"
circles come from generations
of wealth.
While members of "New Money" circles
come with newly acquired (but equally vast amounts of) wealth.
In fact, Zelda wouldn't marry Fitzgerald until he became a successful writer and had enough money to support her expensive tastes.
The
Green
Light
Symbols:
The Valley of Ashes
Halfway between East/West Egg and Manhattan
Dr. Eckleburg's Eyes
An old advertisement for an optometrist
hangs over the Valley of Ashes,
Watching...Judging...
The
Rise
and

Fall

of
The

American Dream

Gatsby is a work of
modernist fiction
,
which aimed to discuss the average American citizen's vapidity after WWI. The idea of the American Dream--a life of freedom and independence-- became more corrupt and tended to focus solely on financial gain.
This light resonates at the end of the dock attached to Daisy's house. Gatsby digs it.
Social Class
Class is closely tied to the American Dream, and
Gatsby
showcases at least three different social classes:
old money, new money, and the poor. Our goal: what is Fitzgerald trying to tell us about our collective quest for money?
Literary Terms:
Aphorism
: a short saying or pointed statement, which, over time, can develop into a proverb.
(e.g. "Time is money.")
Modernism
: A literary movement characterized by a break from previous norms; i.e. a more modern approach ("modern" meaning late 19th and early 20th century). Especially after WWI, writers tried to deal with the atrocity that this war showed the world--a world that had never seen such terrible things. After, the "norms" of previous generations became inadequate.
Therefore, Fitzgerald writes with a sense of
disillusionment
:
the emotional aftermath of finding out that something is not nearly as good as one once thought.

This alludes to the book, but also to the ideals of American citizens after the war. While "The Roaring 20s" were economically propsperous, writers tried to instill this sense of disillusionment: maybe the world isn't as great as they thought.
Surrealism
: a cultural and literary movement whose "aim was to resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality." In other words, it juxtaposes reality and dreams and becomes surreal, unusual, disorienting, or even hallucinatory
Full transcript