The Great Gatsby Notes

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Information about The Great Gatsby Notes

Published on March 19, 2014

Author: aradcliffe19


F. Scott Fitzgerald

The setting of Gatsby is central to understanding the novel’s themes and events.

 Published in 1925, The Great Gatsby is set in New York City and Long Island during the Prohibition era ◦ Prohibition made alcohol illegal, but that actually increased its presence in society. ◦ Prohibition gave rise to the creation of speakeasies, bootleggers, and other “underground” businesses.

 The characters are living in the fictional town of West Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922  Fitzgerald was inspired by the parties he had attended while visiting Long Island's north shore

Gatsby’s themes are reflective of the time period. Especially as Fitzgerald associated the entire period of the 1920s with materialism ("I want things! Lots of things!") and immorality.

 The Great Gatsby explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess  It has been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream.

 Decadence ◦ moral or cultural decline as characterized by excessive indulgence in pleasure or luxury.  Synonyms: dissipation, degeneracy, debauchery, corruption, depravity, vice, sin, moral decay, immorality ◦ The word decadence, which at first meant simply "decline" in an abstract sense, is now most often used to refer to a perceived decay in standards, morals, dignity, religious faith, or skill at governing among the members of the elite of a very large social structure, such as an empire or nation state. ◦ By extension, it may refer to a decline in art or literature, or (very loosely) to self-indulgent behavior.

 Idealism ◦ the attitude of a person who believes that it is possible to live according to very high standards of behavior and honesty ◦ Consider: what is the difference among someone who is idealistic, someone who is pessimistic, someone who is optimistic, and someone who is realistic?

 Resistance to Change/ Social Upheaval ◦ The Great Gatsby captures the American experience because it is a story about change and those who resist it; whether the change comes in the form of a new wave of immigrants (Southern Europeans in the early 20th century, Latin Americans today), the nouveau riche, or successful minorities. ◦ Americans from the 1920s have plenty of experience with changing economic and social circumstances ◦ Gatsby's basic conflict is between established sources of economic and cultural power and upstarts in virtually all aspects of American society.

 In The Great Gatsby, the American Dream is supposed to stand for independence and the ability to make something of one's self with hard work, but it ends up being more about materialism and selfish pursuit of pleasure.  No amount of hard work can change where Gatsby came from, and old money knows it. Merit and hard work aren't enough, and so the American Dream collapses.

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