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The Enduring Magic of 'The Great Gatsby'.

Updated on December 2, 2014

The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God.......So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.

— F. Scott Fitzgerald, 'The Great Gatsby'.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his younger years.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his younger years. | Source
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald.
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald. | Source

The Chronicler of the Jazz Age- F. Scott Fitzgerald.

F. Scott Fitzgerald has cemented a position for himself as being the most famous and definitive chronicler of the 1920s (which he famously dubbed the 'Jazz Age'). This position was established through his beautifully written novels and hard-partying lifestyle. Born on the 24th of September 1896, in St.Paul, Minnesota, he was officially named Francis Scott Fitzgerald. He was born the son of Edward Fitzgerald, the owner of a wicker furniture business, and Mary McQuillan. Fitzgerald went on to attend the St. Paul Academy, before graduating from the Newman School. During this period he showed great promise in literary pursuits, and was accepted into Princeton University, where he would further hone his craft. Unfortunately, Fitzgerald's grades were below average, and in 1917, he made the choice to drop out of University, and join the U.S. Army. Fitzgerald was sent to Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama, where he served as a second lieutenant. It was at Camp Sheridan that Fitzgerald met the wild, and beautiful 18-year old youth that was Zelda Sayre. They quickly fell in love, and Fitzgerald tried to convince the wayward young Zelda to marry him, however, Zelda's love of money and fun meant that she refused to marry Fitzgerald until he had proved a success. Fitzgerald then returned to his hometown of St. Paul to write one of his finest works; 'This Side of Paradise'. Published in 1920, 'This Side of Paradise' garnered much critical and commercial success, and had the effect of turning Fitzgerald into a veritable 1920s celebrity. Soon after, Fitzgerald and Sayre were married at a ceremony in New York. After his early success, Fitzgerald would embark on a decadent lifestyle that would include raucous parties and unlimited booze. In the years following, Fitzgerald would write many short stories to support his lavish lifestyle, some notable examples are 'The Diamond as Big as the Ritz' and 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'. He would also publish three other novels; 'The Beautiful and the Damned' in 1922, 'Tender is the Night' in 1934, and his most enduring success 'The Great Gatsby' in 1925. However, as the years passed, Fitzgerald's extravagant lifestyle would become the source of his demise, his wife Zelda, would suffer many mental breakdowns and would be admitted to mental institutes all around America. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald sunk into alcoholism and depression and died of a heart attack in 1940, while writing his last, unpublished novel 'The Love of the Last Tycoon', he was only 44-years old when he died. Fitzgerald described the Jazz Age as "it was an age of miracles"..."it was an age of art, it was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire".

The Plot-line.

Narrated by Nick Carraway, the story of 'The Great Gatsby' revolves around the life-changing events that occurred during the summer of 1922, in Long Island and New York City. When Nick moves to Long Island to pursue a career in the booming bond business in New York, he settles in West Egg, Long Island, the region for the 'nouveau riche' (newly rich), and becomes the next-door neighbor of the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby. Every weekend, Gatsby hosts lavish and wild parties at his colossal mansion. One afternoon, Nick travels across the Sound to East Egg, the area for established 'old money', where his cousin Daisy, and her husband Tom Buchanan live. As he dines with the Buchanan's, and Daisy's friend; Jordan Baker, Nick discovers that they have a far from perfect family life, despite their privileged lifestyles. Jordan informs Nick that Tom is having an affair with an unknown woman in New York, and that Daisy is bitterly bored with her life, and feels resentment towards Tom for his philandering. When Nick returns home later that evening he sees Gatsby standing on the end of his dock seemingly reaching out towards "a single green light, minute and faraway, that might have been the end of a dock". The next day, Nick attends a party with Tom and Myrtle, (Toms mistress) at the apartment which Tom reserves for their affair. The party ends when Tom violently breaks Myrtle's nose. Soon after, Nick is invited to his first of Gatsby's party's. Seemingly being one of the only people that were actually invited, as everybody else "just showed up, uninvited". At the party he meets up with Jordan, and finally meets the mysterious, but friendly Jay Gatsby. Afterwards, Jordan reveals that Gatsby is secretly in love with Daisy, who he met 5 years ago while stationed in Louisville. Nick then arranges a meeting between Gatsby and Daisy at his home. Initially Daisy and Gatsby's reunion is fraught with awkwardness, but in the space of a few hours, they rekindle their love for each other. Nick then escorts Daisy, as Gatsby takes them on a tour of his colossal mansion, impressing them with his seemingly unlimited wealth. However, at this point, Nick informs us that Gatsby is not as he seems, but that his whole persona is in fact, an illusion. He reveals that Gatsby was born a poor farm boy, but that he believed that he was a "son of God" and duly reinvented himself. Meanwhile, Gatsby and Daisy are having an affair, and Gatsby is preparing Daisy to leave Tom. Things finally come to a head, in a heated confrontation between Tom and Gatsby in a suite at the Plaza Hotel, in New York, attended by Nick, Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, and Jordan. During the confrontation, Gatsby declares that Daisy does not love Tom, but rather loves him instead. However, Tom's established position as 'old money', and the revelation of Gatsby's involvement in organised crime and bootlegging, means that Daisy ultimately chooses Tom over Gatsby. As a final act of contempt and self-assurance, Tom sends Daisy and Gatsby home in Gatsby's car. Later, as Tom, Nick, and Jordan are returning to Long Island, they are surprised to discover that there had been a car accident in the Valley of Ashes, at Wilson's Garage. On closer examination they learn that the victim of this horror scene is no other than Myrtle, Tom's mistress and Wilson's wife, and that she had been struck by Gatsby's car. When the three return to the Buchanan household, Nick opts to wait outside for his cab, now disgusted with all of his acquaintances. Nick then discovers Gatsby similarly waiting, but for a signal from Daisy, Nick condemns Gatsby for killing Myrtle and fleeing the scene. However, he learns from a reluctant Gatsby that Daisy was the one that was actually driving, but that Gatsby is planning to take responsibility for Daisy's atrocities. In the early morning, Nick goes to check on Gatsby, who has just returned from the Buchanan household, it is at this point that Gatsby reveals his personal history to Nick. Later in the morning, while Nick is at work, he learns that Gatsby has been shot dead by Wilson, who targeted Gatsby after being told by Tom that Gatsby was responsible for Myrtle's death, Wilson then kills himself. In the wake of Gatsby's death, Nick earnestly try's to piece together a decent funeral for Gatsby, but in the end the only people who attend Gatsby's funeral is Nick, Gatsby's father, and a few servants. Despite Nick's pleas, Gatsby is neglected by his work-partner Wolfsheim, the "sparkling hundreds" that attended his parties, and his only love; Daisy, who fled with Tom following Gatsby's death. Nick now feels completely and utterly disgusted by the careless, unfeeling nature of Daisy, Tom, and the novel's other characters. The novel concludes with Nick standing at the end of Gatsby's porch marveling on Gatsby's- and Americans in general-pursuit of the American dream, and how this dream, in the end is unworthy.

Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in the 1974 film version of 'The Great Gatsby'.
Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in the 1974 film version of 'The Great Gatsby'. | Source

Visual re imaginings of 'The Great Gatsby'.

One reason as to why 'The Great Gatsby' has such enduring relevance and scope in modern society, is due to the abundance of film adaptations that have been created over the years. The first film version of 'The Great Gatsby' was a silent film that was directed by Herbert Brenon in 1926, and starred Warner Baxter, Lois Wilson, and William Powell. However, the film itself is now lost. Hollywood's second attempt at 'The Great Gatsby' was in 1949, and is directed by Elliot Nugent, and stars Alan Ladd, Betty Field, and Shelley Winters. Previously, the most famous and easily accessible film adaptation of 'The Great Gatsby' was the 1974 version. This version starred Sam Waterson, Mia Farrow, and Robert Redford, and was directed by Jack Clayton. Afterwards, some minor adaptations of 'The Great Gatsby' followed, including the 2000 made-for-TV movie, which starred Toby Stephens, Paul Rudd, and Mira Sorvino, and was directed by Robert Markowitz. The latest visual re imagining of 'The Great Gatsby' has been the 2013 film, that is directed by Baz Luhrmann, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire.

'The Great Gatsby' 2013 film trailer.


The Enduring Magic of 'The Great Gatsby'

Written in the year 1925, 'The Great Gatsby' has enjoyed continued success ever since. This is partially thanks to the many movies that have been adapted from it, regularly keeping the story in peoples minds. But I believe that the primary reason that 'The Great Gatsby' has endured throughout the years, is because of the continued importance and relevance of the themes discussed in 'The Great Gatsby'. The themes of decay,wealth, gender, class, honesty, love, and the American Dream, are interwoven throughout the novel, and it is through these themes that readers can relate and understand the events of the novel. 'The Great Gatsby' is a classic story of 'love gone wrong', as we see with Gatsby pursuing Daisy with blinding determination. Many of us can relate to this, knowing that love can make us blind to our partners faults. Therefore, 'The Great Gatsby' serves as a warning to us all, to not love blindly, and be aware of peoples inevitable faults. The theme of the American Dream, is a prominent and important one, that Fitzgerald obviously wanted us to observe closely. Fitzgerald uses Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy as a metaphor for the American Dream. Through doing this, Fitzgerald drives the message home that just as Daisy was not worthy of Gatsby, that the American Dream was not worthy of those that pursued it. Eighty-nine years after its publication date, there has been five films made, and endless discussion about 'The Great Gatsby's' themes and characters. It is fair to say, that the magic of 'The Great Gatsby' has endured the test of time.

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