The Great Gatsby

In this study guide we will help you analyse the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. You can also find detailed summaries of both the entire novel and its individual chapters, as well as inspiration for interpreting the text and putting it into perspective.This study guide is based on the Penguin Popular Classics edition of the novel.

Presentation of The Great Gatsby

Title: The Great Gatsby (1926)
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Genre: Novel

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was an American author who was part of the modernist movement in literature. He frequently travelled in Europe and met with many of the other famous modernist writers. For example, he was friends with Ernest Hemingway.

Fitzgerald was married to Zelda Sayre and the couple had an expensive lifestyle with plenty of parties, not unlike the situation depicted in The Great Gatsby. However, Fitzgerald’s career as an author was only periodically successful, so in practice he often ended up in debt to maintain their expensive lifestyle. This meant that Fitzgerald was often forced to delay his work with novels (his great passion), and instead focus on producing short stories of poorer quality, which could be sold quickly to various magazines and resulted in more money for less work.

Fitzgerald was an alcoholic for most of his life, and his alcohol problem only grew worse through the 1920s and 1930s. In 1940 he died of a heart attack, only 44 years old.

Reactions to The Great Gatsby were mixed when it was first published, but today it is Fitzgerald’s most famous and popular novel. It made second place in Modern Library’s top 100 of English-language novels from the 20th century (surpassed only by James Joyce’s Ulysses).

Extract

You can find a short extract from our study guide to the novel below:

Title

The title of the novel first of all makes it clear that the book will focus on Gatsby as a character.  The use of the adjective ‘great’ is interesting to consider and contains multiple layers of meaning in the context of the story, depending on how we interpret the character of Jay Gatsby.

At first, we may suspect that ‘great’ is meant in the traditional sense - Gatsby is a wealthy man who throws popular parties and seems to have made a name for himself. We also learn that he is a self-made man, which is often said to be the American ideal. At first he therefore seems like the perfect example of a great American.

However, it is later revealed that ‘great’ might instead be meant ironically, as it turns out Gatsby is not all he appears to be - for example, he is not part of a famous family and even though he is self-made, most of his wealth turns out to have come from highly questionable, criminal sources.

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The Great Gatsby

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