Understanding the Great Gatsby: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

By Dalton Gross; MaryJean Gross | Go to book overview

The Great Gatsby and F. Scott Fitzgerald: Intertwining of Life and Work

Much more than most writers, Fitzgerald was a public figure. The press of the 1920s was very aware of his lifestyle--a lifestyle that seemed daring and glamorously desirable to thousands of envious readers. Fitzgerald exploited this image in more than one way. popular magazines often published articles by and about him; and more than most writers, he based a good deal of his fiction on his own personal experiences. During his lifetime it was not always easy to tell when his life furnished material for his fiction and when his fiction furnished material for his life; now, more than fifty years after his death, it is more difficult than ever.

Because of this intertwining of his life and his work, biographical information contributes to an understanding of The Great Gatsby. But at this point it is well to be cautious. Although many writers have used biographical material in their fiction, it is unlikely that any major writer created fiction solely for the purpose of writing about his life. Almost any perceptive reader will see that Fitzgerald, either consciously or unconsciously, brought his internal conflicts into his fiction. But this is not to say that his fiction does not also have a meaning entirely independent of his personal life. The literary analysis of The Great Gatsby in Chapter 1 of this book, for example, is entirely free of biographical interpretation. In this

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