The Great Gatsby
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

by

Sharon Fleming

Context

The story is in the American setting of the 1920s. It was an era characterized by the immense change in the culture and lifestyle of the country. The period can also be referred to as roaring twenties or the “Jazz Age.” Immediately the First World War ended, a sense of freedom started to have an effect on the county. The country’s economy began to grow fast as if a spirit. The United States had become had become the world’s most prosperous country, with high production of goods that stimulated consumers’ economy towards the end of the decade. Many Changes were witnessed in the United States, for instance, Women were allowed to vote and given a chance to participate in significant roles in the workforce, there was widespread use of an automobile and home appliances became common. The United States witnessed a decrease in population in rural areas as result of rural to urban migration as many moved to urban areas to look for jobs and also enjoy living in the urban areas.

All these combined changes created an American society that was characterized by equality and freedom for all people, free time as there was no more slavery and citizen had access to disposable income compared to the previous periods. With so much growth, various invention and industrialization the society of the United States of America was divided into two classes which were the poor and the rich. These two classes were treated with respect because of their wealth. People who were regarded to be rich in the society were praised and awarded tax benefits.  The rich spend a lot on leisure activities while the poor and the middle class suffered due to their low income. The greatest desire of the middle class and the poor were to join the ranks of the wealthy and enjoy life like them. 

Technological advancement also led to high consumption among the elite for they were able to acquired luxuries like phones, radios, automobiles and other expensive items that ordinary Americans could not afford. The themes in the novel, The Great Gatsby examines societal influences that were widespread during the Jazz Age. The character of this novel portrays various classes, characters, values, culture, and ethics of that time. The heart of the book The Great Gatsby is the collision of the factors evident during the Jazz Age and the two social classes who are chasing the American dream

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born on 24th September 1886. He was named after The Star-Spangled Banner author who was his ancestor.  Fitzgerald grew up in St Paul area of Minnesota. He was an intelligent child but performed poorly in school, and the parents had to take him to a boarding school in New Jersey in 1911. Although he was a mediocre student, he managed to enroll to Princeton in the year 1913. He did not manage to graduate in college because of his academic challenges. He then decided to join the army towards the end of the First World War in 1917. While working in the army, Fitzgerald got the position of the second lieutenant and was stationed in Camp Sheridan, in Montgomery Alabama where he met the love of his life, Zelda Sayre. The lady agreed to marry him, but her desire for riches and enjoyment made him delay their wedding until when Fitzgerald could prove to be successful.

In 1920, after This Side of Paradise story was published, Fitzgerald became famous as the book was well received. Besides he made a lot of money from the sales of the book making it easy to convince his girlfriend to marry him. A lot of Fitzgerald’s early life events are featured in his The Great Gatsby story. Just like the author, Nick Carraway the main protagonist in the book is a young man from Minnesota who went to an Ivy League school in Yale and after the war relocates to New York. Jay Gatsby who is also similar to the author is a young man who was quick to respond to changes and had great admiration for riches and luxury. Gatsby also falls for a beautiful young woman just like Fitzgerald while working at a military camp which is stationed in the South.

Fitzgerald became a celebrity and adopted a reckless life full of partying and cultural decline as he tries to write and earn money to please his wife, Zelda. Correspondingly, Gatsby accumulates a lot of wealth at a young age and dedicates himself to obtaining assets and throwing parties as he believes those are the ways that will enable him to win Daisy’s love. In the late twenties, Fitzgerald’s wife suffered a nervous breakdown as he battled alcoholism which hindered him from writing. In 1934 he published Tender Is the Night then sold the stories to be able to maintain his expensive lifestyle. He moved to Hollywood in 1937 as a screenplay writer and died of heart attack in 1940 while working on The Love of the Last Tycoon novel when he was forty-four years.

Scott Fitzgerald was the most celebrated chronicler in America in the 1920’s. It is this area that he nicknames as the “Jazz Age.” The Great Gatsby which was written in 1929 is one of the greatest novels of the period, where the Economy of America rose resulting in an unequal measure of prosperity in the nation. Amendment of the constitution in 1919 which banned the sale and use of liquor led to the rise of millionaires from the sale of illegal liquor and many underground cultures that arose. The spread of private parties managed to call the attention of the police indirectly as the secret clubs which sold alcohol flourished. Events that occurred during the First World War such as the chaos and the violence left America’s in a condition of distress. Those who participated in the war started adopted extravagant lifestyle after they were compensated. Moral values and the American values could no longer be observed as people were more concerned with lavish lifestyle.

Similar to the main protagonist Nick in The Great Gatsby novel, Fitzgerald was excited by his new lifestyle and similar to Gatsby he had always worshiped rich people. He then found himself in an era where uncontrolled materialism was the way to go in the society more specifically in the large cities of the East. Just like Gatsby, Fitzgerald’s too was driven by his affection for a lady who denoted all he wanted even the lady led him towards everything he detested.

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