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The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald's Life

Comparing Fitzgerald's book, "The Great Gatsby" with his life.

Brian Pezzuti

on 6 October 2012

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Transcript of The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald's Life

The Great Gatsby By John DiStefano and Brian Pezzuti The 1920s proved to be a very progressive and revolutionary decade for women. In 1920, the 19th amendment to the Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote. Flappers also developed, demonstrating the development of a more rebellious, independent generation of women. One example of this independent, free depiction of women in "The Great Gatsby" is the character of Jordan Baker. Tom says, "[they] oughtn't to let her run around the country this way," (18) in regards to Jordan Baker. This remark demonstrates Jordan's independence, as unlike Daisy and most other women her age, she does not have a husband, nor does she exhibit any "need" or desire for one. The fact that she is a professional golfer also illustrates the development of women's rights. For Jordan Baker, or any women, to be a professional athlete was a revolutionary concept for these times. Another example of women growing more independent and free is Daisy. As the novel progresses, Daisy becomes more and more independent of Tom. Tom notices this, stating, "women run around too much these days to suit me. They meet all kinds of crazy fish," (104). Tom is referring primarily to Daisy, especially concerning how she meet Gatsby. Fitzgerald uses the character of Nick as a mirror to many of his own personal feelings and circumstances. This statement is especially true in terms of Nick's financial situation relative to Fitzgerald's. In his childhood, Fitzgerald was sent to prep school where he was taunted as the outsider; he was far poorer than all the other boys who came from well-off and affluent families. In "The Great Gatsby", Nick is also an outsider due to his wealth, or lack of wealth, in a town, and a country for that matter, where wealth was widespread and enjoyed by most. Nick's house is, "squeezed between two huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season...[his] own house was an eyesore...[it] had...the consoling proximity of millionaires - all for eighty dollars a month" (5). This demonstrates the way Fitzgerald relates his own alienation through Nick. Love World War One Sports in the 1920s From 1914 to 1918, the first world war took place. It was caused by alliances in Europe and Asia that caused all the allied countries to fight each other. Fitzgerald, a young man, joined the military hoping to find glory and fame, but before he was deployed, the war was over. In his novel, "The Great Gatsby", Nick Carraway joins the military as well as Gatsby. Gatsby is influenced by Fitzgerald's dream of glory; he has Gatsby "promoted to be major, and every Allied government [give him] a decoration" (66). Nick also "participated in that delayed Teutonic migration known as the Great War. [He] enjoyed the counter-raid so thoroughly that [he] came back restless" (3) , however, he was not glorified as Gatsby was. Nick represents what the normal soldiers did that were not glorified and is a way of Fitzgerald showing recognition to every soldier. He allude to the war often when Nick is having a conversation setting the post-war mood of the 1920s. Fitzgerald uses the Buchanans and Gatsby to mirror his experiences with love. Before the war, Fitzgerald fell in love with his 'golden girl', Ginevra King. She was a rich girl, and for Fitzgerald, being poor was a challenge for winning her heart. Ginevra and Fitzgerald had a brief relationship that ended right before the war. After the war, Ginevra wrote Fitzgerald, telling him of her engagement. She influenced the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby. Before Gatsby became the rich and powerful man known to Nick, he was a poor man with parents that "were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people" (98). Gatsby loved Diasy and when they were together, he "[did not] once [cease] looking at [her], and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes" (91). He did everything for her pleasure, but Daisy was a rich girl and when Gatsby went to war she married Tom. Fitzgerald met another women named Zelda Sayre. They were married after Fitzgerald's success as a writer and were happily married until Zelda cheated on him. This did not end their marriage, but Fitzgerald never forgave her. Her cheating can relate to Tom Buchanan's affair with Myrtle Wilson. Tom loved Daisy for her money and then started to have relations with other women, while Zelda married Fitzgerald after his success and then cheated on him. These two stories are similar and may demonstrate Fitzgerald's feelings towards Zelda's affair. Throughout "The Great Gatsby", the prominence of sports is apparent. The 1920s were a time of prosperity and leisure in America, contradictory of the Depression era that would follow it. Sports were emerging as a powerful characteristic of American culture. Newspapers, magizines, radio, and movies all played a role in boosting the promotion and publicity of sports. There are several references to this new sports culture throughout "The Great Gatsby". One allusion to this elevated sense of sport is that Jordan Baker is a professional golfer. Her involvement in sports shows that sports were emerging so largely and popularly that even women were becoming involved. Another reference to the rising American sports culture is, "the man who fixed the World's Series back in 1919," (73) Meyer Wolfsheim. A third character who has a tie to sports is Tom Buchanan, "a great, big, hulking," (12) man, and "one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven" (6). Fitzgerald alludes to sports numerous times throughout the novel, immersing the reader in the culture of the twenties. SPORTS Women's Rights In the 1920s football became more popular as the roaring era of American history progressed. Francis Scott Fitzgerald, as a student of Princeton, tried out for the football team. He was rejected, however, and seems to have held a grudge against football players due to his failure to make the team. In his novel, "The Great Gatsby", Fitzgerald expresses his hatred through Tom Buchanan. Tom is described as "one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterwards savours of anti-climax" (10). Tom is described as being dumb and big as he is referred to as a "brute of a man, a great, big, hulking physical specimen of a" (12) man, showing his physical, but not mental, strength. Additionally, Tom is shown to be a jerk, as he often cheats on his wife Daisy. "Once in a while [he goes] off on a spree and make[s] a fool of [himself]" (131) by cheating on Daisy. For most of the novel Tom is having an affair with "some women in New York" (15) who is known later by Myrtle Wilson. The poor traits and qualities of Tom are expressed because of Fitzgerald's distaste for football players. Football Flappers 19th Amendment American women in the 1920s Midwest Connection In addition to historical connections, there are also many connections to Fitzgerald's personal life throughout "The Great Gatsby". One major parallel to Fitzgerald's life and the novel is that Nick is a native of the Midwest, just like Fitzgerald was. After serving in World War I, "the Middle West now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe," (3) in Nick's eyes. So, he, "decided to go East and learn the bond business," (3) just as Fitzgerald left the Midwest for New York in search of a job. As the story progresses, it is also revealed that Gatsby is from the Midwest too. Gatsby's parents, "were unsuccessful farm people," (98) from North Dakota. Gatsby left the Midwest after, "beating his way along the south shore of Lake Superior," (98) for over a year, when Dan Cody's yacht dropped anchor and Gatsby climbed aboard and joined him on his travels, ultimately ending up in Long Island. In the early 1920s, organized crime drastically increased. Prohibition caused lots of people to illegally produce alcohol because there was a big demand for it. Al Capone was a big bootlegger in Chicago in the 1920s. He became rich very fast due to the high demand and low supply of alcohol. Many people became bootleggers and followed his example. In addition, jobs were scarce and many people devoted their life to crime. Crime was an easy way to make money and became very popular. In 1919 the World Series was fixed by a group of people trying to get money by betting. In Fitzgerald's novel "The Great Gatsby", Fitzgerald creates the character, Meyer Wolfsheim, "who fixed the World Series back in 1919" (73). Although the World Series fix is a real event, Fitzgerald incorporates this fictional character to be part of the story. Gatsby knows Wolfsheim and is in business with him throughout the novel. Gatsby is later known to have "sold grain alcohol over the counter" (133) which is part of his bootlegging business. Prohibition influenced a lot of illegal alcohol trafficking. This inspired many people to make money by illegally selling alcohol because the demand was so high. Wolfsheim and Gatsby's business is hinted at when Wolfsheim mistakes Nick Carraway for someone "looking for a business gonnegtion" (70), but to cover it up Gatsby quickly "answer[s] for [Nick]: 'Oh no...this isn't the man...This is just a friend. I told you we'd talk about that some other time.'" (71). He tries to keep his crime business a secret, he claims to "[own] some drug-stores, a lot of drug-stores" (108). He chooses a life of crime because he fell in love with the rich lifestyle after growing up with parents that "were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people" (98). Gatsby wanted to impress Daisy with his wealth, so he started his life of crime to get easy money, as did many people in the 1920s. Organized Crime Wealth Nick's house F. Scott Fitzgerald Nick Carraway
(from 1974 film) depiction of 1920s America World War One Organized Crime
in the 1920s Alcohol Bootlegging Gangsterism World Series Fix
1919 "The Great War" Zelda Sayre Ginevra King 1920s Football
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