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Introduction to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

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1 Introduction to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

2 World War I Pre WWI Propaganda – everywhere, ingrained
America went into the war convinced that we would “make the world safe for democracy” America believed it was “the war to end all wars” because that’s what Woodrow Wilson said Soldiers get “over there” and it is hell Trench warfare – miles of deep trenches, frequently in water because of rain, soldiers develop “trenchfoot”, rats in trenches ate corpses and sleeping men, surrounded by human & animal waste Going “over the top” – out of trench into “no man’s land” where they are met with machine gun fire, barbwire, bombs, and mustard gas (1st time used in history) Allied forces deaths: almost 2 million Russians, over 1 million French, 900,000 British, 48,909 Americans died 10 million soldiers die and almost 10 million civilians die The war was NOT what we expected or what we were told it would be

3 End of World War I Came back on ships and there was the worst flu in human history (pandemic) 100 million people died More people died in 24 weeks than all the people who died in the 24 years that we’ve been fighting the AIDS virus, In Philadelphia during one week 1,000 people died every day = over 7,000 deaths in one city in one week; they literally could not bury all of the bodies

4 End of World War I After soldiers get home they:
Want to forget the horror They don’t want to sacrifice themselves for any cause People become very self centered. They go into WW I idealistic but come back so disillusioned to the capabilities of humanity and war. The world no longer makes sense to people, they don’t trust science, government, humanity, people begin to question God People think, “well we’re going to die anyways, we may as well have a good time.” Fitzgerald called the 1920s “the most expensive orgy in history.” It makes sense why so many people turned to alcohol, parties, and excess; they wanted to drown themselves.

5 Literature ~ Modernism
Modernism: was a direct response to the social and cultural changes post WW I Characters in modernist works are almost always alienated from “mass culture”, they are unresponsive, withdrawn, hurt, etc. Stream of consciousness writing style developed – meandering patterns of thought Fragmentation – no traditional beginnings or end (think Pulp Fiction), OR only getting bits and pieces of information but not the whole story

6 More on Modernism Modernist writers are as notable for “what they leave out of their writing as for what they put in” Themes are implied rather than overtly stated. The reader is left to figure out what is going on. This is much more demanding for readers – they must put the pieces together on their own. There are no CLEAR answers – just like there were no clear answers about life for people during this time period. All of their truths were destroyed during WW I.

7 1920-1929: Changing Times The 1920’s were a time of unprecedented
social and technological change in so many areas: An economy stimulated by WWI fueled a massive economic boom.

8 Enduring Associations
Fitzgerald has become identified with the extravagant living of the Jazz Age: “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.” --F. Scott Fitzgerald He felt that aspiration and idealism defined America and its people. His writing style is known for being clear, lyrical, and witty.

9 1920’s Cultural Points 1920: 19th Amendment granted women right to vote 1921: knee-length skirts became fashionable, 1st Miss America pageant 1922: 5,000 speakeasies in NYC 1923: 15 million cars registered in US 1925: Scopes Trial (evolution debate) 1926: 40 hour work week established; 1 in 6 Americans owns a car 1927: 30,000 speakeasies in NYC, 41 die in NYC New Year’s Eve due to poisoned booze 1929: Stock Market Crash

10 The Roaring Twenties The decade of the twenties is always referred to as the “ Jazz Age”. This has as much to do with the jazzy atmosphere of the time as with the music!

11 The Roaring Twenties Prohibition Speakeasies Bootlegging
Organized Crime Jazz Age Dancing Flappers Women’s Rights

12 Prohibition Introduction of Organized Crime Bootleggers Gangsters
Bought, Sold, and consumed alcohol Al Capone and a ‘gonnection’

13 Prohibition The Eighteenth Amendment (1919) to the Constitution forbade the manufacture, sale, import, or export of intoxicating liquors. The Twenty-first Amendment (1933) repealed the Eighteenth Amendment.

14 Women’s Rights Movement
Suffrage - the right to vote Nineteenth Amendment (1920) Changing attitudes and fashions help bring about the new woman (Jordan Baker – one of Fitzgerald’s characters in The Great Gatsby)

15 Lifestyles and fashions of the 1920’s
No more Victorian Values Flappers Independent women Fun, celebratory atmosphere Increasing wealth Social mobility Alcohol consumption

16 Jazzy Duds Flappers were typical young girls of the twenties, usually with bobbed hair, short skirts, rolled stockings, and powdered knees! They danced the night away doing the Charleston and the Black Bottom.

17 Music in Gatsby Many jazz musicians came north from New Orleans to Chicago and New York (big cities was where the action was at) This was Jazz and Ragtime Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington King Oliver

18 Jazzy Talk -Twenties Slang
Gee I wish a torpedo would bump off this flat tire All Wet - wrong Bee’s Knees - a superb person Big Cheese -an important person Bump Off - to murder Dumb Dora - a stupid girl Flat Tire - a dull, boring person Gam - a girls leg Hooch - bootleg liquor Hoofer - chorus girl Torpedo - a hired gunman Dumb Dora

19 Origins of the American Dream
European explorers and the Puritans—Doctrine of Predestination The Declaration of Independence—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness American Revolutionary War—promise of land ownership and investment Industrial Revolution—possibility of anyone achieving wealth & the nouveau riche Individualism and self-reliance Westward expansion and the Gold Rush Immigration

20 American Dream continued…
Prolific dime novel writer Horatio Alger, Jr. became famous for his novels that idealized the American Dream. His rags-to-riches stories glorified the notion of the down-and-out who were able to achieve wealth and success and helped entrench the Dream with the popular culture.

21 American Dream continued…
Near the 20th century, major industrialists became the new model of the American Dream, many beginning life very poor, but later controlling enormous corporations and fortunes. Perhaps the most notable were the great American capitalists Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. This acquisition of wealth demonstrated to many that if you had talent, intelligence, and a willingness to work hard, you were likely to be a success as a result.

22 F. Scott Fitzgerald Born in Minnesota in 1896
Descendent from “prominent” American stock Attended Princeton but left without graduating On academic probation, Fitzgerald joined the army as a 2nd lieutenant in 1917 Just missed WWI Published This Side of Paradise in 1920 at the age of 24: instant stardom Captured the emptiness and emotions of his times in his stories He wrote many stories for the Saturday Evening Post describing the free-thinking flappers of the 1920’s.

23 Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald
June 1918: While on assignment in Montgomery, AL he fell in love with Zelda Sayre, daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court judge. She broke off their engagement in 1919 because she was unwilling to live on Scott’s small salary, but went back to him in 1920 after This Side of Paradise was published. They were married one week later in 1920 since Fitzgerald was now rich and famous.

24 Extravagant Living He and Zelda were associated with high living of the Jazz Age -- a term Fitzgerald coined. Scott & Zelda begin to live as young celebrities, socializing and drinking heavily. They take their first trip to Europe in They eventually live in Paris, the Riviera, and have a mansion near Wilmington, Delaware. October 1921: Their first and only child, Frances Scott (Scottie) Fitzgerald is born. Wrote what is considered his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, in Europe in

25 Further Estrangement During the 1920’s, Scott and Zelda’s relationship continues to be strained due to his drinking and her mental instability. Zelda is eventually diagnosed with Schizophrenia and Institutionalized. Even though Fitzgerald earns about $4,000 per story (equal to about $40,000 today), he and Zelda continue to run into debt.

26 The Last Years Summer 1937: Fitzgerald goes to Hollywood with a screenwriting contract earning $1,000/ week. Despite earning $91,000 from MGM, he is unable to save any money. Zelda broke down, in and out of institutions. 1938: He falls in love with Sheila Graham, a movie columnist. Dec 21, 1940: Fitzgerald dies of a heart attack in Graham’s apartment. 1948: Zelda dies in a fire at Highland Hospital.

27 Fitzgerald’s Legacy Although Fitzgerald’s drinking gave him a reputation as an irresponsible writer, he was a painstaking reviser. While he endured a lot of criticism just after his death, his reputation grew in the 1960’s. Today, he is considered one of the great American novelists, and The Great Gatsby is considered his masterpiece.

28 The Great Gatsby Time period – early 1920’s
Settings – East Egg, West Egg, NYC Main Characters from three social classes: Nick Carraway (narrator) (upper-middle) Tom Buchanan (wealthy) Daisy Fay Buchanan (wealthy) Jordan Baker (wealthy) Jay Gatsby (wealthy, but rags to riches) George Wilson (working) Myrtle Wilson (working)

29 The Great American Novel
Fitzgerald’s life is successfully told in this novel. The main theme is the American Dream: the rise above poverty to wealth and the winning of a love.

30 Fitzgerald’s Delineating of Character
Naming Description of physical appearance, including clothing Association with objects, surroundings, possessions, or images Direct discussion and analysis of the character by the narrator Actions and behavior, whether described or represented: talk by the character, including talk as performance (lying, boasting, betraying, flattering) talk as self-defining via vocabulary, dialect, rhetoric Self-analysis by the character (“I am…”) whether accurate or not Talk about the character by others, accurate or not. Such talk both characterizes the talker and the character talked about

31 Setting

32 The Very Rich… “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald

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