Summary and Context of The Great Gatsby

‘The Great Gatsby’, by F.Scott Fitzgerald, is a text that represents the vanity and decadence of 1920’s America.  It is acclaimed by many critics as the ‘Great American Novel’, a representation of the American Dream and the wealth of the period.

Summary of The Great Gatsby

It begins with Nick Carraway, a war veteran and bond salesman, who rents a house next to the mansion of Jay Gatsby. He is the second cousin of socialite Daisy Buchanan, and becomes entwined in the affairs of both her and her husband. He is eventually invited to meet Gatsby, a wealthy yet aloof man who throws lavish parties. He befriends Nick, and in doing so asks to be reintroduced to Daisy, who happens to be his lost love. After arranging a meeting, Daisy indeed falls for Gatsby again, an affair her husband Tom uncovers. Daisy, asked to choose, chooses neither. She kills Tom’s lover in an accidental hit and run, for which Gatsby chooses to take the blame. Tom and Daisy leave town, Tom telling the husband of his mistress that Gatsby was responsible for her death. The man takes revenge, killing Gatsby and himself. Nick, arranges the funeral, at which only three people attend. He becomes fed up with East Coast life, and proceeds to head back West.

Contexts of 1920’s America

Time of great prosperity in the United States, which ended with the Great Depression in 1929. Home appliances and mass production items such as the car transformed the American household and lifestyle. After World War One – a period where prosperity was matched by the desire of young people to drink, dance and move away from a more conservative past. A time of ‘prohibition’ where gangsters and organised crime were rampant.

Value of the Text

The Great Gatsby is a text which embodies the American Dream – to have fame, fortune and everything money can (and can’t) buy. The text didn’t achieve its full notoriety until after WW2, when unsold copies where distributed to American servicemen. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that The Great Gatsby was recognised as it is today. It also is a text which is an apt representation of the 1920’s in America – and reflects the evolution of materialism and opulence at the time.

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