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The Great Gatsby is a novel by the Americanmarker author F. Scott Fitzgerald. First published on April 10, 1925, it is set on Long Islandmarker's North Shore and in New York Citymarker during the summer of 1922 and is a critique of the American Dream.

The novel chronicles an era that Fitzgerald himself dubbed the "Jazz Age". Following the shock and chaos of World War I, American society enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity during the "roaring" 1920s as the economy soared. At the same time, Prohibition, the ban on the sale and manufacture of alcohol as mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment, made millionaires out of bootleggers and led to an increase in organized crime, for example the Jewish mafia. Although Fitzgerald, like Nick Carraway in his novel, idolized the riches and glamor of the age, he was uncomfortable with the unrestrained materialism and the lack of morality that went with it, a kind of decadence.

Although it was adapted into both a Broadwaymarker play and a Hollywood film within a year of publication, it was not popular upon initial printing, selling fewer than 25,000 copies during the remaining fifteen years of Fitzgerald's life. It was largely forgotten during the Great Depression and World War II. After its republishing in 1945 and 1953, it quickly found a wide readership and is today widely regarded as a paragon of the Great American Novel, and a literary classic. The Great Gatsby has become a standard text in high school and university course on American literature in countries around the world, and is ranked second in the Modern Library's list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century.

Writing and publication

With Gatsby, Fitzgerald made a conscious departure from the writing process of his previous novels. He started planning it in June 1922, after completing his play The Vegetable, and began composing it in 1923. He ended up discarding most of a false start, some of which would resurface in the story "Absolution". Unlike his previous works, Fitzgerald intended to edit and reshape Gatsby thoroughly, believing that it held the potential to launch him toward literary acclaim. He told his editor Max Perkins that the novel was a "consciously artistic achievement" and a "purely creative work — not trashy imaginings as in my stories but the sustained imagination of a sincere and yet radiant world". He added later, during the editing process, that he felt "an enormous power in me now, more than I've ever had".

After the birth of their child, the Fitzgeralds moved to Great Neckmarker, Long Islandmarker in October 1922, appropriating Great Neck as the setting for The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald's neighbors included such newly wealthy New Yorkers as writer Ring Lardner, actor Lew Fields and comedian Ed Wynn. Great Neck, on the shores of Long Island Soundmarker, sat across a bay from Manhasset Neck or Cow Neck Peninsula, which includes the communities of Port Washingtonmarker, Manorhavenmarker, Port Washington Northmarker and Sands Pointmarker, and was home to many of New York's wealthiest established families. In his novel, Great Neck became the new-money peninsula of "West Egg" and Manhasset Neck the old-money peninsula of "East Egg".

Progress on the novel was slow. In May 1923, the Fitzgeralds moved to the French Rivieramarker, where the novel would come to completion. In November, he sent the draft to his publisher Perkins and his agent Harold Ober. The Fitzgeralds again relocated, this time to Rome, for the winter. Fitzgerald made revisions through the winter after Perkins informed him that the novel was too vague and Gatsby's biographical section too long. Content after a few rounds of revision, Fitzgerald returned the final batch of revised galleys in the middle of February 1925.

Original cover art

The cover of The Great Gatsby is among the most celebrated pieces of jacket art in American literature. A little-known artist named Francis Cugat was commissioned to illustrate the book while Fitzgerald was in the midst of writing it. The cover was completed before the novel, with Fitzgerald so enamored of it that he told his publisher he had "written it into" the novel.

After several initial sketches of various completeness, Cugat produced the Art Deco-style gouache of a pair of eyes hovering over the bright lights of an amusement park. The woman has no nose but full and voluptuous lips. Descending from the right eye is a green tear. The irises depict a pair of reclining nudes.

Fitzgerald's remarks about incorporating the painting into the novel led to the interpretation that the eyes are reminiscent of those of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg (the novel's erstwhile proprietor of a faded commercial billboard near George Wilson's auto-repair shop) which Fitzgerald described as "blue and gigantic — their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose." Although this passage has some resemblance to the painting, a closer explanation can be found in the description of Daisy Buchanan as the "girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs".

Title

The last piece to fall into place was the title. Fitzgerald was always ambivalent about it, shifting between Gatsby; Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; Trimalchio; Trimalchio in West Egg; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; Gold-Hatted Gatsby; and The High-Bouncing Lover. Initially, he preferred Trimalchio, after the crude parvenu in Petronius's Satyricon. Unlike Fitzgerald's reticent agonist, Trimalchio actively participated in the audacious and libidinous orgies that he hosted. That Fitzgerald refers to Gatsby by the proposed title just once in the entire novel reinforces the view that it would have been a misnomer. As Tony Tanner observes, however, there are subtle similarities between the two.

On November 7, 1924, Fitzgerald wrote decisively to Perkins — "I have now decided to stick to the title I put on the book [...] Trimalchio in West Egg" — but was eventually persuaded that the reference was too obscure and that people would not be able to pronounce it. His wife and Perkins both expressed their preference for The Great Gatsby and, in December, Fitzgerald agreed. A month before publication, after a final review of the proofs, he asked if it would be possible to re-title it Trimalchio or Gold-Hatted Gatsby, but Perkins advised against it. On March 19, Fitzgerald asked if the book could be renamed Under the Red White and Blue, but it was at that stage too late to change. The Great Gatsby was published on April 10, 1925. Fitzgerald remarked that "the title is only fair, rather bad than good".

Plot

Nick Carraway, the narrator, is a young bachelor from a patrician Midwest family, who graduates from Yalemarker in 1915; after fighting in World War I and a return to the Midwest, he moves to New York City to "learn the bond business" in 1922.

Nick explains that in 1922 he rented a bungalow between two mansions in West Egg, a wealthy community on Long Island Soundmarker. Across the bay was East Egg, inhabited by the "old aristocracy," including Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Daisy is Nick's second cousin once removed and Nick knew of Tom, a football player at Yale. Nick describes the Buchanans in a visit to their East Egg mansion: although phenomenally wealthy, Tom's glory days are behind him; he is a dilettante and Daisy, although engaging and attractive, is pampered and superficial with a largely ignored two-year-old daughter. Daisy's friend Jordan Baker, a well-known female golfer, tells Nick that Tom has a mistress in New York City.

Tom offers Nick a lift and on the way they stop at a shabby garage owned by George Wilson, where Nick is introduced to the owner's wife, Myrtle (Tom's mistress). Nick accompanies Tom and Myrtle to their Manhattan love-nest, where Myrtle presides over a pretentious party that includes her sister and several others. Nick finds the evening increasingly unbearable but does not leave until Tom breaks Myrtle's nose in a spat.

Nick finds that his next-door neighbor, who throws lavish parties hosting hundreds of people, is the wealthy, mysterious Jay Gatsby. Nick receives an invitation one weekend and attends, finding the party wild and fun. However, he also discovers the guests do not know much about Gatsby, and that rumors about the man are contradictory. Nick runs into Jordan Baker, but they are separated while searching for Gatsby. A man strikes up a conversation with Nick, claiming to recognize him from the US Army's First Division during the Great War. Nick mentions his difficulty in finding the host, and the man reveals himself to be Gatsby. An odd, yet close, friendship between Nick and Gatsby begins.

One day, Gatsby drives Nick to New York City. Gatsby presents a clichéd description of his life as a wealthy dilettante and war hero to an incredulous Nick, but the latter is convinced when Gatsby displays a war medal. In New York, Gatsby introduces a bemused Nick to underworld figure Meyer Wolfshiem (based on Arnold Rothstein). Nick then sees Tom and tries to introduce Gatsby, but Gatsby disappears.

Jordan Baker later reveals to Nick that Gatsby had fallen in love with Daisy in 1917 while an Army Lieutenant stationed near Daisy's hometown, Louisvillemarker. After the war, Gatsby came east and bought his mansion near Daisy and Tom, where he hosts parties hoping she will visit. Jordan says Gatsby would like Nick to arrange a meeting with Daisy. Nick agrees, and invites Daisy and Gatsby to his house. The reunion is initially awkward, but Gatsby and Daisy begin a love affair. An affair also begins for Nick and Jordan, but Nick predicts their relationship will be superficial.

Daisy invites Gatsby and Nick to her mansion and, accompanied by Tom and Jordan, they depart for the Plaza Hotelmarker in Manhattan. Tom insists he and Gatsby switch cars; as he stops by Wilson's garage for gas he flaunts Gatsby's roadster. At the hotel, Tom notices Gatsby's love for Daisy and confronts him. Gatsby urges Daisy to say she never loved Tom; Daisy says that although she did love Tom "once," she loved Gatsby "too." Tom mockingly tells Gatsby nothing can happen between him and Daisy. Gatsby retorts that the reason Daisy married Tom was because he (Gatsby) was too poor to marry Daisy. Tom visibly loses composure and reveals that Gatsby is a bootlegger. Gatsby tries to defend himself to Daisy, but Nick and Tom observe that he fails and that Daisy is now beyond his reach. With situation between Tom and Gatsby tense, Daisy runs out of the hotel, with Gatsby following her, to Gatsby's car, where she insists on driving home as it will calm her nerves. Tom, believing he has bested Gatsby, leaves with Nick and Jordan.

George Wilson, also suspicious his wife is having an extramarital affair, argues with her. Myrtle runs outside as Gatsby's roadster approaches, only to be struck and killed by the car. Daisy and Gatsby speed away. Later, Tom, Jordan and Nick notice a commotion by Wilson's garage on their way to East Egg, and stop. While George mourns, moaning over his wife's body, a bystander tells of having seen a yellow car strike Myrtle. As George takes in this information, Tom, unfazed by the death of his mistress, tells George the car wasn't his, but George doesn't seem to listen and Tom, Jordan, and Nick leave.

Later that night Nick learns the truth of the accident from Gatsby — Daisy was driving when the car struck Myrtle. The next morning Nick finds Gatsby depressed, unsure whether Daisy still loves him, and awaits a call from her. Seeing himself Gatsby's closest friend, Nick advises Gatsby to leave for a week. "They're [Daisy, Tom, Jordan] a rotten crowd," Nick says, "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together."

Having tracked the owner of the roadster, George appears at Gatsby's mansion with a gun. George finds Gatsby floating in his pool and kills him before committing suicide.

Despite Nick's efforts, few people attend Gatsby's funeral. In the end, only Nick, Gatsby's father, a few servants, a postman and the "owl-eyed" man who admired the books in Gatsby's library show up at his funeral. Shady individuals appear at Gatsby's home, taking any belongings they feel they have ties to.

Nick severs connections with Jordan (who claims to be engaged to another man), and after a brief run-in with Tom, Nick returns permanently to the Midwest, reflecting on Gatsby's dreams and the sad and cyclical nature of the past.

Characters

Major characters

  • Nick Carraway (Narrator)—a 29-year-old (thirty by the end of the book) bond salesman from Minnesota, a Yalemarker graduate, a World War I veteran, and a resident of Long Islandmarker. Neighbor of Gatsby.
  • Jay Gatsby (originally James "Jimmy" Gatz)—a young, mysterious millionaire later revealed to be a bootlegger, originally from North Dakotamarker, with shady business connections and an obsessive love for Daisy Fay Buchanan, whom he had met when he was a young officer in World War I.
  • Daisy Buchanan née Fay—an attractive, effervescent young woman; Nick's second cousin, once removed; and the wife of Tom Buchanan. Daisy is believed to have been inspired by Fitzgerald's own youthful romance with Chicago heiress Ginevra King. Gatsby had courted but lost Daisy five years earlier due to their different social standing, the main reason Fitzgerald believed he had lost Ginevra.
  • Tom Buchanan—an arrogant "old money" millionaire who lives on East Egg, and the husband of Daisy. Buchanan had parallels to William Mitchell, the Chicagoan who married Ginevra King. Buchanan and Mitchell were both Chicagoans with an interest in polo. Like Ginevra's father, whom Fitzgerald resented, Buchanan attended Yalemarker.
  • Jordan Baker—She is Daisy Buchanan's long-time friend, a professional golf player with a slightly shady reputation. Fitzgerald told Maxwell Perkins that her character was based on the golfer Edith Cummings, a friend of Ginevra King.
  • George B. Wilson—a mechanic and owner of a garage located at the edge of the valley of ashes, the cuckolded husband of Myrtle and the one who determined Gatsby's fate.
  • Myrtle Wilson—George Wilson's wife and Tom Buchanan's mistress.
  • Meyer Wolfshiem—a Jewish man Gatsby describes as a gambler who had "fixed the World Series". Wolfshiem is a clear allusion to Arnold Rothstein, a New York crime kingpin who was notoriously blamed for the Black Sox Scandal which tainted the 1919 World Series.


Minor characters

  • Catherine—Myrtle Wilson's sister
  • Chester and Lucille McKee—Myrtle's New York friends
  • "Owl-eyes"—a drunken party-goer whom Nick meets in Gatsby's library and is one of the very few people to attend Gatsby's funeral.
  • Ewing Klipspringer—a sponger who virtually lives at Gatsby's mansion
  • Pammy Buchanan—the Buchanans' three-year-old daughter (The age of Pammy has been argued upon. Fitzgerald originally wrote that she was three years old. However, if examined chronologically, her age would only be two. Later publishers have "fixed" this, but Fitzgerald's reason for making Pammy three may not have had to do with actual time. It may have instead been to exemplify the number three's symbolic meaning of hopes and dreams. )
  • Henry C. Gatz—Gatsby's somewhat estranged father in North Dakota. He is one of the nine or ten people to show up at Gatsby's funeral.
  • Michaelis—George Wilson's neighbor
  • Dan Cody—an adventurer who was Gatsby's mentor as a youth.


Reception

The Great Gatsby received mostly positive reviews, but was not the commercial success of Fitzgerald's previous novels This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned. In essence, it failed compared to its predecessors. The book went through two printings. Years later, some of these copies were still unsold. Many of Fitzgerald's literary friends, however, wrote him letters praising the novel.

When Fitzgerald died in 1940, he had been largely forgotten. He believed himself to be a failure. Many of his obituaries mentioned Gatsby as evidence that he had great potential that he never reached. But people began to read his book again, aided in part by the Armed Services Editions giving away around 150,000 copies of Gatsby to the American military in World War II.

In 1951 Arthur Mizener published The Far Side of Paradise, the first biography of Fitzgerald, which sparked further interest in his life and writing, by scholars and the general public. By the 1960s the novel's reputation was established and it is frequently mentioned as one of the great American novels.

Film, television, theatrical and literary adaptations

Film and television

The Great Gatsby has been filmed four times:
  1. The Great Gatsby, in 1926 by Herbert Brenon – a silent movie of a stage adaptation, starring Warner Baxter, Lois Wilson, and William Powell. It is a famous example of a lost film. Reviews suggest that it may have been the most faithful adaptation of the novel, but a trailer of the film at National Archivesmarker is all that is known to exist;
  2. The Great Gatsby, in 1949 by Elliott Nugent – starring Alan Ladd, Betty Field, and Shelley Winters; for copyright reasons, this film is not readily available;
  3. The Great Gatsby, in 1974, by Jack Clayton – the most famous screen version, starring Robert Redford in the title role with Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan and Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway, with a script by Francis Ford Coppola;
  4. The Great Gatsby, in 2000 by Robert Markowitz – a made-for-TV movie starring Toby Stephens, Paul Rudd and Mira Sorvino.


American author Truman Capote was originally hired as the screenwriter for the 1974 film adaptation. In his screenplay, Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker were both written to be homosexual. After Capote was removed from the project, Coppola rewrote the screenplay.

The 1980 Egyptian film al Raghba (English title: Desire) by director Mohamed Khan is based on The Great Gatsby.

Australian film director and screenwriter Baz Luhrman announced that he will adapt the book into a movie, with principal photography scheduled to commence in 2010.

The 2000 Bollywood film Dhadkan starring Shilpa Shetty does not claim inspiration from Great Gatsby, but holds an uncanny similarity to the novel. Actress Shilpa Shetty can be compared to Daisy Buchanan, actor Sunil Shetty to Gatsby, and actor Akshay Kumar to Tom Buchanan. The film avoids the complex plot line and character developments that are seen in the novel and focuses on the love triangle.

The 2002 film G (released in 2005) by Christopher Scott Cherot claims inspiration from The Great Gatsby.

In the HBO television series Entourage, the character Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) is hired by Martin Scorsese for a film adaptation of the book, where he plays Nick.

Opera

An operatic treatment of the novel was commissioned by the New York Metropolitan Opera to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the debut of James Levine. The work, which is also called The Great Gatsby, premiered on December 20, 1999.

Books

  • Ernesto Quiñonez's Bodega Dreams adapted The Great Gatsby to Spanish Harlemmarker
  • The Great Gatsby, a graphic novel adaptation by Australian cartoonist Nicki Greenberg
  • The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian imagines the later years of Daisy and Tom Buchanan's marriage as a social worker in 2007 investigates the possibility that a deceased elderly homeless person is Daisy's son.


Radio

  • In October 2008, the BBC World Service commissioned and broadcast an abridged 10-part reading of the story, read from the view of Nick Carraway by Trevor White.


Notes

  1. Scribner, Charles III. " Celestial Eyes/ Scribner III Celestial Eyes—from Metamorphosis to Masterpiece". In . Originally published in 1991.
  2. Tanner's introduction to the Penguin edition (2000), p. vii-viii.
  3. BBC World Service programmes - The Great Gatsby


References

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External links

Sources

Movies

Miscellaneous


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