“An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmaster of ever afterwards.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
The great American novel, The Great Gatsby turned 91 yesterday. Little did he know the success that his novel would see when F. Scott Fitzgerald published his novel in 1925. The novel sold only 21,000 copies, far less than Fitzgerald’s other two novels. Now more than 25 million copies of his novel have been sold worldwide since its original publication. It was not until the 1950s that Fitzgerald was recognized as one of the greatest writers of his time period. Fitzgerald never lived to see the full success and fame of the novel because he died of a heart attack in 1940. By the 1960s, The Great Gatsby had become a common text on many high school and university syllabi.
His masterpiece tells the story of Jay Gatsby, a man at the center of the Long Island social scene, lighting up the town with his style, elaborate parties, and outgoing personality. He is a mysterious and slightly sinister character. He seems to be living the “American Dream” and has everything in his lavish house. However the only thing Gatsby really desires is Daisy, an alluring woman who left him for another man.
Fitzgerald is a natural storyteller. His words, phrases, and sentences carry the reader’s interest and attention through the book from beginning to end. The novel deals with a variety of themes that readers can associate with and are gripping to read. The story deals with human aspirations to be successful, something every reader can relate to. The story also deals with how one handles change, something that is particularly relatable to the infamous Jazz Age and Great Depression, which followed the release of the novel. The story also deals with societal gender roles at the time, something of great interest in today’s world and widely discussed in classrooms today. Fitzgerald manages to maintain a style that is constantly literary as well as extremely entertaining.
The Great Gatsby now has five film adaptations, the first one a 1926 silent movie by Herbert Brennon. A well-received version starring Robert Redford was released in 1974. The most recent film was released in 2013, receiving lots of success. It was directed by Baz Luhrmann and starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan.
In 91 years, The Great Gatsby has become a cherished text in the American literary canon. Though the jazz age is long gone, Fitzgerald’s novel lives on.
Harris, Paul. “The Great Gatsby grips US again as a classic tale of decadence and decline”. The Guardian. November 2010.
Laura Ruttan is a Canadian pursuing an English degree at the University of Connecticut. She is the translations editor for the Long River Review.