|Cover of the First Edition, 1925|
On April 10, 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous socially critical novel ‘The Great Gatsby‘ was published. The story takes place in 1922, during the Roaring Twenties, a time of prosperity in the United States after World War I. The book received critical acclaim and is generally considered Fitzgerald’s best work. It is also widely regarded as a “Great American Novel” and a literary classic, although it didn’t sell very well during Fitzgerald’s lifetime.
The Great Gatsby is the story of eccentric millionaire Jay Gatsby as told by Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner who lives on Long Island commuting to Manhattan to work. Gatsby’s enormous mansion is next to Carraway’s modest home, and Carraway becomes curious about his neighbor after being invited to one of his legendary parties. Nick soon realizes that Gatsby is in love Daisy Buchanan, Nick’s cousin and the wife of Tom Buchanan, an old acquaintance of Nick’s from Yale. When Buchanan takes Nick for a day in the city, he realizes that Buchanan has a kept a woman, Myrtle, the wife of a long island mechanic.
Gatsby plans to arrange via his new acquaintance Nick a “chance” meeting for himself with Daisy. Gatsby, previously known as Jay Gatz, had once been in love with Daisy, but Daisy married Tom while Gatsby was in Europe during the Great War. Back home from the war, Jay Gatz abandoned his old identity, becoming Jay Gatsby and accumulated a fortune with the help of notorious criminal Meyer Wolfsheim. When settling in Long Island, Gatsby chose the site of his house because it was across the bay from Daisy’s home, from which a green light could be seen at night.
I do not want to spoil your fun, when reading ‘The Great Gatsby’ by yourself. Therefore, I’ll stop with the synopsis of the novel at this point simply by telling you that it won’t come to a Hollywood like happy ending. The Great Gatsby received mostly positive reviews when it was first published in 1925 and many of Fitzgerald’s literary friends wrote him letters in praise of the novel. However, Fitzgerald’s goal was to produce a literary piece which would truly prove himself as a writer and Gatsby did not experience the commercial success of Fitzgerald’s previous two novels, This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned, and although the novel went through two initial printings, some of these copies remained unsold even years later. Fitzgerald himself accredits poor sales to the fact that women tended to be the main audience for novels during this time, but Gatsby did not contain an admirable female character. With time, critics acknowledged that perhaps Fitzgerald did not receive the public praise he hoped for because he was not writing about the American peasant, which, during the 1930s, would have been problematic given the increasingly desperate economic conditions of the Great Depression.
When Fitzgerald died in 1940, he had been largely forgotten. The Great Gatsby has been adapted numerous times, in various media including books, radio, television, movies, ballet and even opera. What strikes me most is the fact that there are even computer games based on the original novel: in 2010 a casual Hidden Object game called Classic Adventures: The Great Gatsby was released by Oberon Media and in 2012 The Great Gatsby was released for the iPad.
At yovisto you can learn more about the famous novel in the lecture of Professor Wai Chee Dimock from Yale University on ‘Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby‘.
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