set on the prosperous long island of 1922, the great gatsby provides a critical social history of america during the roaring twenties within its fictional narrative. that era, known for unprecedented economic prosperity, the evolution of jazz music flapper culture, new technologies in communication (motion pictures, broadcast radio, recorded music) forging a genuine mass culture; and bootlegging, along with other criminal activity, is plausibly depicted in fitzgerald's novel. fitzgerald uses many of these societal developments of the 1920s that were to build gatsby's stories from many of the simple details like automobiles to broader themes like fitzgerald's discreet allusions to the organized crime culture which was the source of gatsby's fortune.[5] fitzgerald depicts the garish society of the roaring twenties by placing the book's plotline within the historical context of the era.[6]

fitzgerald's visits to long island's north shore and his experience attending parties at mansions inspired the great gatsby's setting. today, there are a number of theories as to which mansion was the inspiration for the book. one possibility is land's end, a notable gold coast mansion where fitzgerald may have attended a party.[7] many of the events in fitzgerald's early life are reflected throughout the great gatsby. fitzgerald was a young man from minnesota, and like nick, he was educated at an ivy league school, princeton (in nick's case, yale). fitzgerald is also similar to jay gatsby, in that he fell in love while stationed far from home in the military and fell into a life of decadence trying to prove himself to the girl he loved. fitzgerald became a second lieutenant, and was stationed at camp sheridan, in montgomery, alabama. there he met and fell in love with a wild seventeen-year-old beauty named zelda sayre. zelda finally agreed to marry him, but her preference for wealth, fun, and leisure led her to delay their wedding until he could prove a success.[8] like nick in the great gatsby, fitzgerald found this new lifestyle seductive and exciting, and, like gatsby, he had always idolized the very rich.[8] in many ways, the great gatsby represents fitzgerald's attempt to confront his conflicting feelings about the jazz age. like gatsby, fitzgerald was driven by his love for a woman who symbolized everything he wanted, even as she led him toward everything he despised.[8]

in her book careless people: murder, mayhem and the invention of 'the great gatsby (2013), sarah churchwell speculates that parts of the ending of the great gatsby were based on the hall-mills case.[9] based on her forensic search for clues, she asserts that the two victims in the hall-mills murder case inspired the characters who were murdered in the great gatsby.[10]

the main events of the novel take place in the summer of 1922. nick carraway, a yale graduate and veteran of the great war from the midwest—who serves as the novel's narrator—takes a job in new york as a bond salesman. he rents a small house on long island, in the fictional village of west egg, next door to the lavish mansion of jay gatsby, a mysterious millionaire who holds extravagant parties but does not participate in them. nick drives around the bay to east egg for dinner at the home of his cousin, daisy fay buchanan, and her husband, tom, a college acquaintance of nick's. they introduce nick to jordan baker, an attractive, cynical young golfer with whom nick begins a romantic relationship. she reveals to nick that tom has a mistress, myrtle wilson, who lives in the "valley of ashes",[11] an industrial dumping ground between west egg and new york city. not long after this revelation, nick travels to new york city with tom and myrtle to an apartment tom keeps for his affairs with myrtle and others. at tom's new york apartment, a vulgar and bizarre party takes place. it ends with tom breaking myrtle's nose after she annoys him by saying daisy's name several times.

 

the

plaza hotel

in the early-1920

 

the

plaza hotel

in the early-1920

as the summer progresses, nick eventually receives an invitation to one of gatsby's parties. nick encounters jordan baker at the party, and they meet gatsby himself, an aloof and surprisingly young man who recognizes nick from their same division in the great war. through jordan, nick later learns that gatsby knew daisy through a purely chance meeting in 1917, when daisy and her friends were doing volunteer services' work with young officers headed to europe. from their brief meetings and casual encounters at that time, gatsby became (and still is) deeply in love with daisy. even more, he became obsessed with the idea of her, and the ideal of living in the world he saw her living in, as the fulfillment of all the possible dreams he could ever have.

jordan confides in nick that the only reason gatsby bought the mansion is because it was across the bay from tom and daisy's home, and that gatsby's extravagant lifestyle and wild parties were an attempt to impress daisy and raise her curiosity about her "anonymous" neighbor across the bay. gatsby had hoped that one day curiosity would have brought the unsuspecting daisy to appear at his doorstep, and thereby he'd be able to present himself as a "new man", now of wealth and position, and now able to join her at her side and within her world. that however never played out, and although tom had been invited (as a guest of jordan's) to a gatsby party and had attended more than one of them, both he and daisy had (for different reasons) never responded affirmatively to an rsvp to attend as the buchanans (mr. and mrs.). the deeper reasons behind this fact are expanded upon later in the story by daisy. his research of nick, who has so fortuitously rented the small cottage next door to gatsby's mansion, results in a wholly new approach to his problem of how to introduce daisy to the "new" j. gatsby.

the whole purpose of the "invitation" to nick to attend a gatsby party was to develop a relationship with him so that gatsby could later ask nick to arrange a reunion between himself and daisy. nick invites daisy to have tea at his house without telling her that gatsby will also be there. after an initially awkward reunion, gatsby and daisy reestablish their connection. they begin an affair and, after a short time, tom grows increasingly suspicious of his wife's relationship with gatsby. at a luncheon at the buchanans' house, daisy speaks to gatsby with such undisguised intimacy that tom realizes she is in love with gatsby. though tom is himself involved in an extramarital affair, he is outraged by his wife's infidelity. he forces the group to drive into new york city and confronts gatsby in a suite at the plaza hotel, asserting that he and daisy have a history that gatsby could never understand. in addition to that, he announces to his wife that gatsby is a criminal whose fortune comes from bootlegging alcohol and other illegal activities. daisy realizes that her allegiance is to tom, and tom contemptuously sends her back to west egg with gatsby, attempting to prove that gatsby cannot hurt him.

when nick, jordan, and tom drive through the valley of ashes on their way home, they discover that gatsby's car has struck and killed tom's mistress, myrtle. nick later learns from gatsby that daisy, not gatsby himself, was driving the car at the time of the accident but gatsby took the blame. myrtle's husband, george, falsely concludes that the driver of the yellow car is the secret lover he recently began suspecting she has, and sets out on foot to find him. after finding out the yellow car is gatsby's, he arrives at gatsby's mansion where he fatally shoots gatsby and then himself. nick stages an unsettlingly small funeral for gatsby in which none of gatsby's associates or partygoers attend. later, nick runs into tom in new york and finds out that tom had told george that gatsby was myrtle's secret lover and that gatsby had killed her, then gave gatsby's address to george. nick breaks up with jordan, and, disillusioned with the east, moves back to the midwest.

 

 


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