So we just got back from party at Gatsby’s, it was fabulous. There was so much food, that party raged on to all hours of the morning. The who's who of West Egg Island was there I’m exhausted. But the one weird thing about it is, you never saw the host. I wonder what Jay Gatsby was doing. All I did was here rumours about him.
This is what it would have been like to attend a party at Jay Gatsby’s house in the great Gatsby. So to preview this great novel, let’s take some time to talk about the characters, the setting and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s purpose for writing the book.
So the 1920’s was a time of disillusionment and a time of indulgence. The parties rage but the American dream was quickly fading away. And F. Scott Fitzgerald in his book the great Gatsby, really strove to capture this era. And in fact, Great Gatsby is noted as one of the quintessential in poetic American novels.
A couple of things that we want to talk about, before we get into the mid of the book, is let’s kind of do a brief overview of the characters.
On the surface, this is a story about Jay Gatsby. He is a loveable character, originally from the midwest, gets whisked off to World War One and comes back in search of one thing that he wants to capture in his life which is love, and that manifests itself in Daisy Buchanan.
Daisy Buchanan however is now married to Tom Buchanan, and together they prove to be two of the most vapid characters in all of American literature. They have money, it’s awe, they live on the East Egg Island, which is notoriously one of the most wealthy places in their New York society.
They befriend a girl named Jordan Baker also, who kind of adds to their shallowness if you will. Jordan is a professional golfer, but as we read the book you’ll learn, that she may have attained her status through not so moral means.
Also in the book, we are going to meet Nick Carraway. Nick Carraway really plays an important role, because he is our narrator. And although he believes himself not to be the most reliable of people, we end up trusting him. He is a solid Mid Westerner, with mid western values who really tries as he claims not to lay any judgement on people.
Also we’ve got Myrtle and George Wilson and these characters are in direct contrast to the other characters we’ve talked about, simply because of their social standing in life. Myrtle and George live in an area called the Valley of Ashes, which is located between the East and the West Egg Island in New York City, and is pretty much how we describe it. It’s grey, it’s slow, it’s ashy. And these two characters are representatives of the working class of America, who work hard for their money and ultimately are heavily impacted by those more wealthy than them.
In this book we’ve got some very distinct settings. First of all, it’s important to know that the entire book takes place in a region of New York City. Which is crucial, because it’s one of the only places in the 1920’s that would have offered an opportunity for people from all sorts of different social classes to cross paths.
So keep in mind you got Tom and Daisy, who are from Old Money and live on East Egg Island. You’ve Jay Gatsby, who is from New Money, a little bit different of a social class than the Buchanan’s. He lives on West Egg island. You’ve got Nick Carraway who has a well to do family in the Mid West, but really doesn't have too much to back him up over on the East Coast. And then you’ve got George and Myrtle Wilson, who are living the working class life in America, in the Valley of Ashes.
So it’s important not only where they live along the spectrum, but the fact that they’re in New York city. And it’s going to take place for two months. So the book only spans two months during the summer of 1922.
And finally, one of the reasons that the great Gatsby is considered such a great work, and a quintessential novel that represents the error of the 1920’s, is because F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote it as a critic of its time. As I mentioned before, it was a time of indulgence, the 20s. It’s called the Jazz Age, people are going out, skirts are getting shorter, women are getting more rights, people are spending more money. We see people buying and investing more in stocks and credit. So the American public is developing more and more things.
However, what F. Scott Fitzgerald observed, is that their inners morals and their dreams, that quintessential American dream, was dwindling. So what he does is write this novel as a comment on what America is turning into. He is starting to look at America and see, that American dream that we used to believe in, where people could come to America, work as hard as they want for their goal, and they would earn it it’s not so much the reality. He is witnessing people who work really hard for their goals, who try, who focus and they just keep falling short.
In this episode, we talked about New York City as a fabulous setting for the book of the great Gatsby. We discussed the differences between East Egg Island and West Egg Island and the Valley of Ashes, and how New York is a perfect background for different social classes to come together. We also talked about some characters, that you going to want to make sure that you look for, as you read the book; Tom and Daisy Buchanan, Jay Gatsby, our narrator Nick Carraway, Jordan Baker and Myrtle and George Wilson.
Keep in mind also as you go through the book, that F. Scott Fitzgerald this as critic of the 1920’s and the dwindling idea of the American dream.