‘”I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.”
“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”‘
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s crowning work, The Great Gatsby follows the viewpoint of narrator and newcomer Nick Carraway into the fictional town of West Egg, located in the edge of Long Island in the year of 1922. He writes of his ambitions to make something for himself in the ever expanding world of finance. During this period, both West Egg and its genuine counterpart were part of an age of many names were applicable: The Roaring Twenties, The Jazz Age, or even the “Crazy Years.” This was a time of innovation and productivity – more people were spending money, more products were produced, and it was a cycle of prosperity and consumerism. Within the events of The Great Gatsby, we begin to notice how true this is in both novel and real life.
When I first read this novel, I honestly put it down – this was during my A-levels, and I simply couldn’t get past Fitzgerald’s writing style. It was confounding and beautiful to read, I just couldn’t get into it. It was through Baz Luhrmann’s film interpretation with a friend of mine. I think it was then I was truly able to appreciate the magnitude of change that 1920s America was going through.
We follow Carraway’s account of an expanding America, but one man stands out above all within Carraway’s narrative: Jay Gatsby. A self-made man of sorts, Gatsby is shrouded in mystery. Rumours fly from one end of his lavish parties to another as men and women alike try to crack the enigma that is Jay Gatsby. Was he a mercenary? A relative to the Kaiser himself? No one knew, besides Gatsby and eventually Carraway himself.
Through Nick’s first person narrative we begin to handle the turbulent times of the Roaring Twenties, and how each and every moment was punctuated by hedonism and the need to cut loose. Sadly, Fitzgerald died before he could see the success of his novel, but after the events of the Second World War, Gatsby received huge favour, and promptly was noted as the “Great American Novel.” I would agree, as I know that it certainly left me with an amazing feeling after I finished it, as Fitzgerald encapsulated the wonder and madness of the Roaring Twenties.