F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)
- Written in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is often referred to as "The Great American Novel," and as the quintessential work which captures the mood of the "Jazz Age."
- Fitzgerald was born in 1896 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and educated at Princeton, although he dropped out to join the army before he completed his degree. Stationed near Montgomery, Alabama, he met and later married Zelda Sayre, a high-strung woman from a family more prominent than his own. His first novel, This Side of Paradise, published in 1920. was a tremendous critical and commercial success. Fitzgerald followed with The Beautiful and the Damned in 1922, The Great Gatsby in 1925, Tender is the Night (1934), and was working on The Last Tycoon (1941) when he died, in Hollywood, in 1940.
Questions to Think About:
- 1) Who do you think the characters in The Great Gatsby represent? Do they seem like real people? Which characters seem the most real to you?
- 2) What is the symbolism of the green light that appears throughout the novel (at the end of Daisy's pier, at intersections throughout the book)?
- 3) Fitzgerald returns several times to describe a decrepit optical products sign -- the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleberg -- that hovers over "the valley of ashes." What does that sign represent?
- 4) Fitzgerald describes the world as "a valley of ashes" but often contrasts Daisy and Jay Gatsby as being spotless. What does this say about his view of American culture and of both Jay and Daisy?
- 5) In what ways does Fitzgerald present a tension between Modernism and Victorianism in The Great Gatsby?
- 6) The Great Gatsby is often referred to as the quintessential novel of the "Jazz Age." Using examples from the book, explain what this term meant, and Fitzgerald's attitudes towards that characterization of the 1920s.
Further resources for studying F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby:
- University of South Carolina's F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary site (www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/index.html) has many links to follow, including one to a picture of his briefcase, and one to his (sadly all too-often used) flask.
- Wayne Crawford's Center of Interest in The Great Gatsby: A Reader's Companion Site" (www.wiu.edu/users/mfwc/wiu/fitzgerald.html).
- Hudson Gevaert's "THE GREAT GATSBY: A Beginner's Guide" (www.geocities.com/BourbonStreet/3844/)
- A description of, and e-text for, Professor Lavender's favorite Fitzgerald short story, "Bernice Bobs her Hair (1920)."
- Matthew J. Bruccoli, ed., F. Scott Fitzgerald on Authorship (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1996).
- Ronald Berman, The Great Gatsby and Modern Times (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994) and The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald's World of Ideas (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997).
- Scott Donaldson, ed., Critical Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1984).
- Ernest H. Lockridge, ed., Twentieth century interpretations of The Great Gatsby: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968).
Prepared by Professor Catherine Lavender courses in The Department of History, The College of Staten Island of The City University of New York. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Last modified: Thursday 14 June 2001.