Jay Gatsby

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jay Gatsby
The Great Gatsby character
Warner Baxter as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby (1926) Retouched Cropped.jpg
Jay Gatsby as portrayed by Warner Baxter in The Great Gatsby (1926)
First appearanceThe Great Gatsby (1925)
Created byF. Scott Fitzgerald
Based onMax Gerlach[1]
Portrayed bySee list
In-universe information
Full nameJames Gatz (birth name)
AliasJay Gatsby
FamilyHenry C. Gatz (father)
Significant otherDaisy Buchanan
OriginNorth Dakota[4]

Jay Gatsby (originally named James Gatz) is the titular fictional character of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby. The character is an enigmatic nouveau riche millionaire who lives in a luxurious mansion on Long Island where he often hosts extravagant parties and who allegedly gained his vast fortune by illicit bootlegging during prohibition in the United States.[5] Fitzgerald based many details about the fictional character on Max Gerlach,[1] a mysterious neighbor and World War I veteran whom the author met while living in New York City during the raucous Jazz Age.[1] Like Gatsby, Gerlach threw lavish parties,[6] never wore the same shirt twice,[7] used the phrase "old sport",[8] claimed to be educated at Oxford University,[9] and fostered myths about himself, including that he was a relation of the German Kaiser.[10]

The character of Jay Gatsby has been analyzed by scholars for many decades and has given rise to a number of critical interpretations. Scholars have posited that Gatsby functions as a cipher because of his obscure origins, his unclear religio-ethnic identity and his indeterminate class status.[11] Accordingly, Gatsby's socio-economic ascent is deemed a threat by other characters in the novel not only due to his status as nouveau riche, but because he is perceived as a societal outsider.[12] The character's biographical details indicate his family are recent immigrants which precludes Gatsby from the status of an Old Stock American.[13] As the embodiment of "latest America",[14] Gatsby's rise triggers status anxieties typical of the 1920s era, involving xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment.[14]

Nearly a century after the novel's publication in April 1925, Gatsby has become a cultural touchstone in American culture and is often evoked in popular media in the context of the American dream—the belief that every individual, regardless of their origins, may seek and achieve their desired goals, "be they political, monetary, or social. It is the literary expression of the concept of America: The land of opportunity".[15] Gatsby has been described by literary scholars as a false prophet of the American dream as pursuing the dream often results in dissatisfaction for those who chase it, owing to its unattainability.[16]

The character has appeared in various media related to the novel, including stage plays, radio shows, video games, and feature films. Canadian-American actor James Rennie originated the role of Gatsby on the stage when he headlined the 1926 Broadway adaptation of Fitzgerald's novel at the Ambassador Theatre in New York City.[17] He repeated the role for 112 performances.[17] That same year, screen actor Warner Baxter played the role in the lost 1926 silent film adaptation.[18] During the subsequent decades, the role has been played by many actors including Alan Ladd, Kirk Douglas, Robert Ryan, Robert Redford, Leonardo DiCaprio, and others.

Character biography[edit]

Born circa 1890[c] to impoverished Lutheran farmers in rural North Dakota,[4][21] James Gatz was a poor Midwesterner who briefly attended St. Olaf College,[d] a small Lutheran institution in southern Minnesota.[22] He dropped out after two weeks as he disliked supporting himself by working as a lowly janitor.[23]

In 1907, a 17-year-old Gatz traveled to Lake Superior,[20] where he met copper tycoon Dan Cody whose yacht Tuolomee[e] was anchored in Little Girl Bay.[24] Introducing himself as Jay Gatsby,[25] the ragged young man saved Cody's yacht from destruction by warning him of weather hazards.[20] In gratitude, Cody invited him to join his yachting trip.[19] Now known as Gatsby, he served as Cody's protégé over the next five years and voyaged around the world.[26] When Cody died in 1912, he left Gatsby $25,000 in his will (equivalent to $701,983 in 2021), but Cody's mistress Ella Kaye cheated Gatsby out of the inheritance.[27]

In the novel, Jay Gatsby enlists in the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I and joins the U.S. 16th Infantry Regiment, pictured above in summer 1917 with French military interpreters.

In 1917, after the United States' entrance into World War I, Gatsby enlisted as a doughboy[a] in the American Expeditionary Forces.[29] During infantry training at Camp Taylor near Louisville, Kentucky, 27-year-old Gatsby met and fell deeply[f] in love with 18-year-old debutante Daisy Fay.[g][34] Dispatched to Europe, Gatsby attained the rank of Major in the U.S. 16th Infantry Regiment and garnered decorations for extraordinary valor during the Meuse–Argonne offensive in 1918.[35]

After the Allied Powers signed an armistice with Imperial Germany, Gatsby resided in the United Kingdom in 1919 where he briefly attended Trinity College, Oxford.[h][38][39] While there, he received a letter from Daisy,[i][42] informing him that she had married Thomas "Tom" Buchanan,[j] a wealthy Chicago businessman.[45] Gatsby hurriedly departed the United Kingdom and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to Louisville, but Daisy had already departed the city on her honeymoon.[46] Undaunted by Daisy's marriage to Tom, Gatsby decided to become a man of wealth and influence in order to win Daisy's affections.[47]

With dreams of amassing immense wealth, a penniless Gatsby settled in New York City as it underwent the birth pangs of the Jazz Age.[k] It is speculated—but never confirmed—that Gatsby took advantage of the newly enacted National Prohibition Act by making a fortune via bootlegging and built connections with organized crime figures such as Meyer Wolfsheim,[l] a Jewish gambler who purportedly fixed the World Series in 1919.[54][55]

In 1922,[56] Gatsby purchased an estate on Long Island in the nouveau riche area of West Egg,[m] a town on the opposite side of Manhasset Bay from "old money" East Egg, where Daisy, Tom, and their three-year-old daughter Pammy lived.[n] At his mansion, Gatsby hosted elaborate soirées with hot jazz music in an attempt to attract Daisy as a guest.[61][62] With the help of Daisy's cousin and bond salesman Nick Carraway,[61] Gatsby succeeded in seducing her.

Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction—Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life.... It was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No—Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams....

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chapter I, The Great Gatsby[63]

Soon after, Gatsby accompanied Daisy and her husband to Midtown Manhattan in New York City in the company of Carraway and Daisy's friend Jordan Baker.[o] Tom borrowed Gatsby's yellow Rolls-Royce to drive into the city. He detoured to a filling station in the "valley of ashes",[p] a sprawling refuse dump on Long Island.[71] The impoverished proprietor, George Wilson, voiced his concern that his wife Myrtle was having an affair with another man—unaware that Tom was the individual in question.[72]

At a hotel suite in the twenty-story Plaza Hotel, Tom confronted Gatsby over his ongoing affair with his wife in the presence of Daisy, Carraway, and Baker.[73] Gatsby urged Daisy to disavow her love for Tom and to declare that she had only married Tom for his money.[74] Daisy asserted that she loved both Tom and Gatsby.[75] Leaving the hotel, Daisy departed with Gatsby in his yellow Rolls-Royce while Tom departed in his car with Baker and Carraway.[76]

While driving Gatsby's car on the return trip to East Egg, Daisy struck and killed—either intentionally or unintentionally—her husband's mistress Myrtle standing in the highway.[77] At Daisy's house in East Egg, Gatsby assured Daisy he would take the blame if they were caught. The next day, Tom informed George that it was Gatsby's car that killed Myrtle.[78] Visiting Gatsby's mansion, George killed Gatsby with a revolver while he was relaxing in his swimming pool and then committed suicide by shooting himself with the revolver.[79]

Despite the many flappers and sheiks[q] who frequented Gatsby's lavish parties on a weekly basis, only one reveler referred to as "Owl-Eyes" attended Gatsby's funeral.[82] Also present at the funeral were bond salesman Nick Carraway and Gatsby's father Henry C. Gatz, who stated his pride in his son's achievement as a self-made millionaire.[83]

Creation and conception[edit]

A photograph of F. Scott Fitzgerald by Nickolas Muray. Fitzgerald is bent over a desk and is examining a sheaf of papers. He is wearing a light suit and a polka-dot tie. A white handkerchief is in his breast pocket.
A grainy surveillance photograph of Max Gerlach clandestinely taken by New York City police operatives. Gerlach appears blonde-haired and immaculately groomed. He is wearing a high starch collar and a large brown overcoat.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (left) partly based the character of Jay Gatsby on his wealthy neighbor Max Gerlach (right).[r] The character's obsession with Daisy Buchanan was based on Fitzgerald's romantic pursuit of Chicago heiress Ginevra King.[g]

After the publication and commercial success of his debut novel This Side of Paradise in 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda Sayre[s] relocated to a wealthy enclave on Long Island near New York City.[88] Despite enjoying the exclusive Long Island milieu, Fitzgerald disapproved of the extravagant parties,[89] and the wealthy persons he encountered often disappointed him.[90] While striving to emulate the rich, he found their privileged lifestyle to be morally disquieting, and he felt repulsed by their careless indifference to less wealthy persons.[91][92] Like Gatsby, Fitzgerald admired the rich, but he nonetheless harbored a deep resentment towards them.[92][93] This recurrent theme is ascribable to Fitzgerald's life experiences in which he was "a poor boy in a rich town; a poor boy in a rich boy's school; a poor boy in a rich man's club at Princeton."[94] He "sensed a corruption in the rich and mistrusted their might."[94] Consequently, he became a vocal critic of America's leisure class and his works satirized their lives.[95][96]

While living in a small cottage on Long Island in 1922, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald's enigmatic neighbor was Max Gerlach.[r][1][100] Purportedly born in America to a German immigrant family,[t] Gerlach had been an officer in the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I, and he later became a gentleman bootlegger who lived like a millionaire in New York.[5] Flaunting his new wealth, Gerlach threw lavish parties,[6] never wore the same shirt twice,[7] used the phrase "old sport",[8] claimed to be educated at Oxford University,[9] and fostered myths about himself, including that he was a relation of the German Kaiser.[10] These details about Gerlach inspired Fitzgerald in his creation of Jay Gatsby.[102] With the end of prohibition and the onset of the Great Depression, Gerlach lost his immense wealth.[103] Living in reduced circumstances, he attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head in 1939.[103] Blinded after his suicide attempt, he lived as a helpless invalid for many years before dying on October 18, 1958, at Bellevue Hospital, New York City.[104] He was buried in a pine casket at Long Island National Cemetery.[104]

"They're a rotten crowd," I shouted across the lawn. "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together."

I've always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chapter VIII, The Great Gatsby[105]

Mirroring Gerlach's background, Fitzgerald's fictional creation of James Gatz has a Germanic surname,[13] and the character's father adheres to Lutheranism.[3] These biographical details indicate Gatsby's family are recent German immigrants.[13] Such origins preclude them from the status of Old Stock Americans.[13] Consequently, scholars have posited that Gatsby's socio-economic ascent is deemed a threat not only due to his status as nouveau riche, but because he is perceived as an ethnic and societal outsider.[12] Tom Buchanan's hostility towards Gatsby, who is the embodiment of "latest America",[14] has been interpreted as partly embodying status anxieties typical of the 1920s era, involving anti-immigrant sentiment.[14] Accordingly, Gatsby—whom Tom belittles as "Mr. Nobody from Nowhere"[106]—functions as a cipher because of his obscure origins, his unclear religio-ethnic identity and his indeterminate class status.[11]

Due to Gatsby's nouveau riche background and indeterminate class status, Fitzgerald viewed the character to be a contemporary Trimalchio,[u] the crude upstart in Petronius's Satyricon, and even refers to Gatsby as Trimalchio once in the novel.[108] Unlike Gatsby's spectacular parties, Trimalchio participated in the orgies he hosted, although the characters are otherwise similar.[109] Intent on emphasizing the connection to Trimalchio, Fitzgerald entitled an earlier draft of the novel as Trimalchio in West Egg.[110] Fitzgerald's editor, Maxwell Perkins, convinced the author to abandon his original title of Trimalchio in West Egg in favor of The Great Gatsby.[111]

Following The Great Gatsby's publication in April 1925, Fitzgerald was dismayed that many literary critics misunderstood the novel,[112] and he resented the fact that they failed to perceive the many parallels between the author's own life and his fictional character of Jay Gatsby; in particular, that both created a mythical version of themselves and attempted to live up to this legend.[113]

Gatsby as a reference point[edit]

A painting featuring the Statue of Liberty
Jay Gatsby has been described by critics as a false prophet of the American Dream, often represented by the Statue of Liberty and signifying new opportunities in life.

The character of Jay Gatsby has become a cultural touchstone in American culture and is often invoked in popular discourse in the context of rags-to-riches grandeur. Political commentator Chris Matthews views the character as personifying the eternal American striver, albeit one is keenly aware that his nouveau riche status is a detriment: "Gatsby needed more than money: he needed to be someone who had always had it.... this blind faith that he can retrofit his very existence to Daisy's specifications is the heart and soul of The Great Gatsby. It's the classic story of the fresh start, the second chance".[114] However, in contrast to Gatsby as "the eternal American striver", folklorist Richard Dorson sees Gatsby as a radically different American archetype who rejects the traditional approach to earning wealth via hard work in favor of quick riches via bootlegging.[115] In Dorson's view, Gatsby "has explicitly rejected the Protestant ethic in favor of a much more extravagant form of ambition".[115]

The character is frequently evoked as an indicator of social mobility; in particular, the likelihood of the average American amassing wealth and achieving the American dream.[15] In 1970, scholar Roger L. Pearson traced the literary origins of this dream to Colonial America.[15] The dream is the belief that every individual, regardless of their origins, may seek and achieve their desired goals, "be they political, monetary, or social. It is the literary expression of the concept of America: The land of opportunity".[15] Pearson suggests Gatsby serves as a false prophet of the American dream, and pursuing the dream only results in dissatisfaction for those who chase it, owing to its unattainability.[16] In this context, the green light emanating across the Long Island Sound from Gatsby's house is interpreted as a symbol of Gatsby's unrealizable goal to win Daisy and, consequently, to achieve the American dream.[116][117] Reporting in 2009 on the economic effects of the Great Recession on Long Island—the fictional setting of Gatsby's mansion—The Wall Street Journal quoted a struggling hotelier as saying "Jay Gatsby is dead".[118]

The term "Gatsby" is also often used in the United States to refer to real-life figures who have reinvented themselves; in particular, wealthy individuals whose rise to prominence involved an element of deception or self-mythologizing. In a 1986 exposé on disgraced journalist R. Foster Winans who engaged in insider trading with stockbroker Peter Brant, the Seattle Post Intelligencer described Brant as "Winan's Gatsby".[119] Brant had changed his name from Bornstein and said he was "a man who turned his back on his heritage and his family because he felt that being recognized as Jewish would be a detriment to his career".[119]

In more recent years, Gatsby's voracious pursuit of wealth has been referenced by scholars as exemplifying the perils of environmental destruction in pursuit of self-interest.[120] According to scholars, Gatsby's quest for greater status manifests as self-centered, anthropocentric resource acquisition.[120] Inspired by the predatory mining practices of his fictional mentor Dan Cody, Gatsby participates in extensive deforestation amid World War I and then undertakes bootlegging activities reliant upon exploiting South American agriculture.[120] Gatsby conveniently ignores the wasteful devastation of the valley of ashes to pursue a consumerist lifestyle and exacerbates the wealth gap that became increasingly salient in 1920s America.[120] For these reasons, scholars argue that—while Gatsby's socioeconomic ascent and self-transformation depend upon these very factors—each one is nonetheless partially responsible for the ongoing ecological crisis.[120]

Musical leitmotif[edit]

Both the character of Jay Gatsby and Fitzgerald's novel have been linked to composer George Gershwin's 1924 song Rhapsody in Blue.[121] As early as 1927, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald opined that Rhapsody in Blue idealized the youthful zeitgeist of the Jazz Age.[122] In subsequent decades, both the latter era and Fitzgerald's literary works were often linked by critics and scholars with Gershwin's composition.[123] In 1941, historian Peter Quennell opined that Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby embodied "the sadness and the remote jauntiness of a Gershwin tune".[124]

Accordingly, Rhapsody in Blue was used as a dramatic leitmotif for the character of Jay Gatsby in the 2013 film The Great Gatsby, the fourth cinematic adaptation of Fitzgerald's 1925 novel.[125][126] Various writers such as the American playwright and critic Terry Teachout have likened Gershwin himself to the character of Gatsby due to his attempt to transcend his lower-class background, his abrupt meteoric success, and his early death while in his thirties.[123]


Photo of Warner Baxter
Photo of Alan Ladd
Photo of Robert Redford
Photo of Kirk Douglas
Actor Warner Baxter portrayed Jay Gatsby in the lost 1926 film. Alan Ladd and Robert Redford portrayed the character in the 1949 and 1974 film adaptations respectively. Kirk Douglas voiced the character in a 1950 radio adaptation.


The first individual to portray the role of Jay Gatsby was 37-year-old James Rennie, a stage actor who headlined the 1926 Broadway adaptation of Fitzgerald's novel at the Ambassador Theatre in New York City.[17] As "a handsome Canadian with a good voice",[17] Rennie's portrayal of Gatsby was met with rave reviews from theater critics.[17] He repeated the role for 112 performances and then paused when he had to voyage to England due to an ailing family member.[17] After returning from England, he continued to appear as Gatsby when the stage play embarked upon a successful nation-wide tour.[17] As Fitzgerald was vacationing in Europe at the time, he never saw the 1926 Broadway play,[17] but his agent Harold Ober sent him telegrams which quoted the many positive reviews of the production.[17]


A number of actors later portrayed Jay Gatsby in cinematic adaptations of Fitzgerald's novel. Warner Baxter played the role in the lost 1926 silent film.[18] Although the film received mixed reviews,[127] Warner Baxter's portrayal of Gatsby was praised by several critics,[18][127] although other critics found his acting to be overshadowed by Lois Wilson as Daisy.[127] Purportedly, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda Sayre loathed the 1926 film adaptation of his novel and stormed out midway through a viewing of the film at a cinema.[128] "We saw The Great Gatsby at the movies," Zelda wrote to an acquaintance in 1926, "it's rotten and awful and terrible and we left".[128]

Nearly a decade after Fitzgerald's death by a heart attack in 1940, Gatsby was portrayed by Oklahoma actor Alan Ladd in the 1949 film adaptation.[129] Ladd's Gatsby was criticized by Bosley Crowther of The New York Times who felt that Ladd was overly solemn in the title role and gave the impression of "a patient and saturnine fellow who is plagued by a desperate love".[130] The film's producer Richard Maibaum claimed that he cast Ladd as Gatsby based on the actor's rags-to-riches similarity to the character:

"I was in his house and he took me up to the second floor, where he had a wardrobe about as long as this room. He opened it up and there must have been hundreds of suits, sport jackets, slacks and suits. He looked at me and said, 'Not bad for an Okie kid, eh?'... I remembered when Gatsby took Daisy to show her his mansion, he also showed her his wardrobe and said, 'I've got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection of things at the beginning of each season, spring and fall.' I said to myself, 'My God, he is the Great Gatsby.'"[129]

In 1974, Robert Redford portrayed Gatsby in a film adaptation that year.[131] Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times believed that Redford was "too substantial, too assured, even too handsome" as Gatsby and would have been better suited in the role of antagonist Tom Buchanan.[132] Likewise, film critic Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune criticized Redford's interpretation of Gatsby as merely a "shallow pretty boy".[133] Siskel declared there was little resemblance between Redford's suave portrayal and the ambitious parvenu in the novel.[133]

In more recent decades, Leonardo DiCaprio played the role in director Baz Luhrmann's 2013 film adaptation.[128] In a 2011 interview with Time magazine prior to the film's production, DiCaprio explained he was attracted to the role of Gatsby due to the idea of portraying "a man who came from absolutely nothing, who created himself solely from his own imagination. Gatsby's one of those iconic characters because he can be interpreted in so many ways: a hopeless romantic, a completely obsessed wacko or a dangerous gangster intent on clinging to wealth".[134]


Robert Montgomery, Robert Ryan, and Toby Stephens have portrayed Jay Gatsby in various television adaptations of Fitzgerald's novel.

The character of Jay Gatsby has appeared many times in television adaptations. The first was in May 1955 as an NBC episode for Robert Montgomery Presents starring Robert Montgomery as Gatsby.[135] In May 1958, CBS filmed the novel as an episode of Playhouse 90, also titled The Great Gatsby, which starred 50-year-old Robert Ryan as the 32-year-old Jay Gatsby.[136]

Toby Stephens later portrayed the character in a 2000 television film adaptation.[137] In a 2001 review of the television film, The New York Times criticized Stephens' performance as "so rough around the edges, so patently an up-from-the-street poseur that no one could fall for his stories for a second" and his "blunt performance turns Gatsby's entrancing smile into a suspicious smirk".[138]

In The Simpsons episode "The Great Phatsby", Mr. Burns assumes Jay Gatsby's role,[139] with the storyline spoofing the 2013 film adaptation.[140] In the Family Guy episode "High School English", Brian Griffin is portrayed as Gatsby.


Kirk Douglas starred as Gatsby in an adaptation broadcast on CBS Family Hour of Stars on January 1, 1950,[141] and Andrew Scott played Gatsby in the 2012 two-part BBC Radio 4 Classic Serial production.[142]


Year Title Actor Format Distributor Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
1926 The Great Gatsby James Rennie Stage Broadway (Ambassador Theatre)
1926 The Great Gatsby Warner Baxter Film Paramount Pictures 55% (22 reviews)[143]
1949 The Great Gatsby Alan Ladd Film Paramount Pictures 33% (9 reviews)[144]
1950 The Great Gatsby Kirk Douglas Radio CBS Family Hour of Stars
1955 The Great Gatsby Robert Montgomery Television NBC Robert Montgomery Presents
1958 The Great Gatsby Robert Ryan Television CBS Playhouse 90
1974 The Great Gatsby Robert Redford Film Paramount Pictures 39% (36 reviews)[145] 43 (5 reviews)[146]
2000 The Great Gatsby Toby Stephens Television A&E Television Networks
2012 The Great Gatsby Andrew Scott Radio BBC Radio 4
2013 The Great Gatsby Leonardo DiCaprio Film Paramount Pictures 48% (301 reviews)[147] 55 (45 reviews)[148]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b A "doughboy" was a popular term for "an American infantryman in World War I".[28] The term's exact provenance is unknown.
  2. ^ In 1920s slang, a "yachtsman" was a popular euphemism for a bootlegger as contraband alcohol was often imported via sailboat.[2]
  3. ^ Gatsby's birth year is revealed based on his first meeting with Dan Cody. Fitzgerald writes that Dan Cody went to sea in 1902 and, five years later in 1907, Cody first encountered Gatsby in Little Girl Bay at Lake Superior.[19] At the time of this first encounter, Gatsby was 17-years-old.[20] Consequently, Gatsby was born circa 1890 according to the novel's text.
  4. ^ Reflecting Gatsby's Lutheran roots, his university St. Olaf College was founded in 1874 by Lutheran followers in southern Minnesota.
  5. ^ "Tuolomee" is an alternate spelling for the Tuolumne River which emerges from Sierra Nevada mountain range. Ostensibly, copper tycoon Dan Cody, who made his fortune in "the Nevada silver fields",[19] named his yacht after the legendary river which was once rich in silver and copper ore.
  6. ^ Gatsby's love for Daisy mirrors Fitzgerald's love for Ginevra King. Fitzgerald "was so smitten by King that for years he could not think of her without tears coming to his eyes".[30]
  7. ^ a b Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy was inspired by Fitzgerald's life-long obsession with socialite Ginevra King.[31][32] As Maureen Corrigan notes: "Because she's the one who got away, Ginevra—more than Zelda—is the love who lodged like an irritant in Fitzgerald's imagination, producing the literary pearl that is Daisy Buchanan".[33]
  8. ^ After World War I, the U.S. military sent 2,000 American doughboys to study at Oxford University for four months.[36] After the war, Fitzgerald sojourned in Oxford in 1921.[37]
  9. ^ While Fitzgerald served in the United States Army, he received a letter from Ginevra King informing him that she had married Chicago businessman William "Bill" Mitchell.[40] Soon after, a heart-broken Fitzgerald married Zelda Sayre, a Southern belle.[41]
  10. ^ The novel's antagonist Thomas "Tom" Buchanan was primarily based upon William "Bill" Mitchell, the businessman who married Ginevra King, Fitzgerald's first love.[43] Mitchell was a Chicagoan who loved polo.[43] Also, like Ginevra's father Charles Garfield King whom Fitzgerald resented, Buchanan is an imperious Yale man and polo player from Lake Forest, Illinois.[44]
  11. ^ After leaving the U.S. Army, Fitzgerald settled in New York City amid the ongoing societal transformation of the Jazz Age.[48] Fitzgerald described the era as racing "along under its own power, served by great filling stations full of money".[49] In Fitzgerald's eyes, the era was a morally permissive time when Americans became disillusioned with prevailing norms and obsessed with hedonism.[50]
  12. ^ The fictional character of Meyer Wolfsheim is an allusion to real-life Jewish gambler Arnold Rothstein,[51] a New York crime kingpin whom Fitzgerald met once in undetermined circumstances.[52] Rothstein was blamed for match fixing in the Black Sox Scandal that tainted the 1919 World Series.[53]
  13. ^ The "new money" peninsula of West Egg is an allusion to the Great Neck (Kings Point) region of Long Island, while the "old money" East Egg refers to Port Washington (Sands Point).[57]
  14. ^ In 1922, Fitzgerald moved to Kings Point on Long Island where his marriage began to disintegrate.[58] The quarrels between Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda grew intense,[58] and they remarked to friends that their marriage would not last much longer.[58] While staring across Long Island Sound, Fitzgerald continued to long for Ginevra King and hoped to be reunited with her.[59] He later confided to his daughter that Ginevra "was the first girl I ever loved" and that he "faithfully avoided seeing her" to "keep the illusion perfect".[60]
  15. ^ Fitzgerald based Jordan Baker on Ginevra's friend Edith Cummings,[64] a golfer known in the press as "The Fairway Flapper".[65] The character's name is a play on two automobile brands, the Jordan Motor Car Company and the Baker Motor Vehicle,[66] alluding to Jordan's "fast" reputation and the new freedom presented to flappers in 1920s America.[67][68][69]
  16. ^ The "valley of ashes" was a landfill in Flushing Meadows, Queens. "In those empty spaces and graying heaps, part of which was known as the Corona Dumps, Fitzgerald found his perfect image for the callous and brutal betrayal of the incurably innocent Gatsby".[70] The landfill was drained and became the site of the 1939 World's Fair.[70]
  17. ^ A "sheik" referred to young men in the Jazz Age who imitated the appearance and dress of iconic film star Rudolph Valentino.[80] The female equivalent of a "sheik" was called a "sheba".[81] Both "sheiks" and "shebas" were slightly older in age than the younger "flapper" generation who were children during World War I.[81]
  18. ^ a b Both Zelda Fitzgerald and F. Scott Fitzgerald's friend Edmund Wilson stated that Max Gerlach was a neighbor.[1][97] Scholars have yet to find surviving property records for a Long Island estate with Gerlach's name.[98] However, there are likely "gaps in the record of his addresses",[98] and an accurate reconstruction of Gerlach's life is hindered "by the imperfect state of relevant documentation".[99]
  19. ^ Zelda Sayre was the granddaughter of Confederate Senator Willis B. Machen.[84] Her father's uncle was John Tyler Morgan, a Confederate general in the American Civil War and the second Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama.[85] Her family owned the White House of the Confederacy.[86] According to Zelda's biographer Nancy Milford, "if there was a Confederate establishment in the Deep South, Zelda Sayre came from the heart of it".[87]
  20. ^ In a 2009 book, scholar Horst Kruse asserts that Max Gerlach was born in or near Berlin, Germany, and, as a young boy, he immigrated with his German parents to America.[101]
  21. ^ In 2002, over six decades after Fitzgerald's death, his earlier draft of the now-famous novel was published under the title Trimalchio: An Early Version of The Great Gatsby.[107]


  1. ^ a b c d e Bruccoli 2002, p. 178: "Jay Gatsby was inspired in part by a local figure, Max Gerlach. Near the end of her life Zelda Fitzgerald said that Gatsby was based on 'a neighbor named Von Guerlach or something who was said to be General Pershing's nephew and was in trouble over bootlegging'".
  2. ^ Kruse 2014, pp. 17–18, 43–44.
  3. ^ a b Fitzgerald 1925, p. 209; Slater 1973, p. 56.
  4. ^ a b Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 117–118: "Just why these inventions were a source of satisfaction to James Gatz of North Dakota, isn't easy to say.... His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people".
  5. ^ a b Kruse 2002, pp. 53–54, 47–48, 63–64.
  6. ^ a b Kruse 2014, p. 15.
  7. ^ a b Kruse 2002, p. 47.
  8. ^ a b Bruccoli 2002, p. 178.
  9. ^ a b Kruse 2014, pp. 38–39, 63–64.
  10. ^ a b Kruse 2002, p. 60.
  11. ^ a b Pekarofski 2012, p. 52.
  12. ^ a b Vogel 2015, p. 41.
  13. ^ a b c d Slater 1973, p. 56.
  14. ^ a b c d Vogel 2015, p. 45.
  15. ^ a b c d Pearson 1970, p. 638.
  16. ^ a b Pearson 1970, p. 645.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tredell 2007, p. 95.
  18. ^ a b c Green 1926.
  19. ^ a b c Fitzgerald 1925, p. 120.
  20. ^ a b c Fitzgerald 1925, p. 118.
  21. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 209: "A little before three the Lutheran minister arrived from Flushing, and I began to look involuntarily out the windows for other cars. So did Gatsby's father".
  22. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 119: "An instinct toward his future glory had led him, some months before, to the small Lutheran College of St. Olaf's".
  23. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 119: "He stayed there two weeks, dismayed at its ferocious indifference to the drums of his destiny, to destiny itself, and despising the janitor's work with which he was to pay his way through".
  24. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 120: "The none too savory ramifications by which Ella Kaye, the newspaper woman, played Madame de Maintenon to his weakness and sent him to sea in a yacht, were common property of the turgid journalism of 1902. He had been coasting along all too hospital shores for five years when he turned up as James Gatz's destiny in Little Girl Bay".
  25. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 118: "I suppose he'd had the name ready for a long time, even then.... He invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end".
  26. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 118, 120–121.
  27. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 121: "And it was from Cody that he inherited money—a legacy of twenty-five thousand dollars. He didn't get it. He never understood the legal device that was used against him, but what remained of the millions went intact to Ella Kaye".
  28. ^ Robbins & Chipman 2013, p. 255.
  29. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 79.
  30. ^ Noden 2003.
  31. ^ Smith 2003: Fitzgerald later confided to his daughter that Ginevra King "was the first girl I ever loved" and that he "faithfully avoided seeing her" to "keep the illusion perfect".
  32. ^ Borrelli 2013.
  33. ^ Corrigan 2014, p. 58.
  34. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 177–179: "He found her excitingly desirable. He went to her house, at first with other officers from Camp Taylor, then alone.... I can't describe to you how surprised I was to find out I loved her, old sport".
  35. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 57, 79–80, 180, 205.
  36. ^ American University in Europe 1921.
  37. ^ Kruse 2014, p. 50.
  38. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 155: "It was in nineteen-nineteen, I only stayed five months. That's why I can't really call myself an Oxford man.... It was an opportunity they gave to some of the officers after the armistice".
  39. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 180: "After the armistice he tried frantically to get home, but some complication or misunderstanding sent him to Oxford instead".
  40. ^ West 2005, p. 68.
  41. ^ West 2005, p. 73.
  42. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 182: "The letter reached Gatsby while he was still at Oxford".
  43. ^ a b Bruccoli 2000, pp. 9–11, 246; Bruccoli 2002, p. 86; West 2005, pp. 66–70.
  44. ^ West 2005, pp. 4, 57–59.
  45. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 91–94.
  46. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 183.
  47. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 178: "However glorious might be his future as Jay Gatsby, he was at present a penniless young man without a past, and at any moment the invisible cloak of his uniform might slip from his shoulders. So he made the most of his time".
  48. ^ Turnbull 1962, pp. 92–93.
  49. ^ Fitzgerald 1945, p. 18: "In any case, the Jazz Age now raced along under its own power, served by great filling stations full of money".
  50. ^ Fitzgerald 1945, p. 15: The Jazz Age represented "a whole race going hedonistic, deciding on pleasure".
  51. ^ Bruccoli 2000, p. 29; Mizener 1965, p. 186.
  52. ^ Bruccoli 2002, p. 179; Mizener 1965, p. 186.
  53. ^ Bruccoli 2000, p. 29.
  54. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 73, 88, 160–161, 205–207.
  55. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 88: "Meyer Wolfsheim? No, he's a gambler." Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: "He's the man who fixed the World's Series back in 1919".
  56. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 95: "He had waited five years [since 1917] and bought a mansion where he dispensed starlight to casual moths".
  57. ^ Bruccoli 2000, pp. 38–39.
  58. ^ a b c Turnbull 1962, p. 112.
  59. ^ Noden 2003; Corrigan 2014, p. 58.
  60. ^ Smith 2003; Borrelli 2013.
  61. ^ a b Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 94–96.
  62. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 60–61: "When the 'Jazz History of the World' was over, girls were putting their heads on men's shoulders in a puppyish, convivial ways, girls were swooning backward playfully into men's arms, even into groups, knowing that some one would arrest their falls".
  63. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 2–3.
  64. ^ Bruccoli 2002, p. 211.
  65. ^ West 2005, pp. 57–59.
  66. ^ Whipple 2019, p. 85.
  67. ^ Fitzgerald 1991, p. 184. Editor Matthew J. Bruccoli notes: "This name combines two automobile makes: The sporty Jordan and the conservative Baker electric".
  68. ^ Tredell 2007, p. 124: An index note refers to Laurence E. MacPhee's "The Great Gatsby's Romance of Motoring: Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker", Modern Fiction Studies, 18 (Summer 1972), pp. 207–12.
  69. ^ Fitzgerald 2006, p. 95; Fitzgerald 1997, p. 184
  70. ^ a b Lask 1971.
  71. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 27.
  72. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 29–31.
  73. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 155–157.
  74. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 158–159.
  75. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 159.
  76. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 162–163.
  77. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 172–174.
  78. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 214–216.
  79. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 194–197.
  80. ^ Savage 2007, pp. 206–207, 225–226.
  81. ^ a b Perrett 1982, pp. 151–152.
  82. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 209–211.
  83. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, pp. 207–211.
  84. ^ Milford 1970, pp. 3–4.
  85. ^ Davis 1924, pp. 45, 56, 59; Milford 1970, p. 5; Svrluga 2016.
  86. ^ Wagner-Martin 2004, p. 24.
  87. ^ Milford 1970, p. 3.
  88. ^ Mizener 1965, p. 164.
  89. ^ Mizener 1965, pp. 135, 140.
  90. ^ Mizener 1965, pp. 140–41.
  91. ^ Mizener 1965, p. 140: Although Fitzgerald strove "to become member of the community of the rich, to live from day to day as they did, to share their interests and tastes", he found such a privileged lifestyle to be morally disquieting.
  92. ^ a b Mizener 1965, p. 141: Fitzgerald "admired deeply the rich" and yet his wealthy friends often disappointed or repulsed him. Consequently, he harbored "the smouldering hatred of a peasant" towards the wealthy and their milieu.
  93. ^ Turnbull 1962, p. 150: According to Fitzgerald himself, he was unable "to forgive the rich for being rich, and it has colored my entire life and works."
  94. ^ a b Turnbull 1962, p. 150.
  95. ^ Van Allen 1934.
  96. ^ Berman 2014, p. 36: The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines rejected several of Fitzgerald's stories as they deemed them to be "baffling, blasphemous, or objectionably satiric about wealth".
  97. ^ Kruse 2014, pp. 13–14: Biographer Arthur Mizener wrote in a January 1951 letter to Max Gerlach that "Edmund Wilson, the literary critic, told me that Fitzgerald came to his house, apparently from yours [Gerlach's], and told him with great fascination about the life you were leading. Naturally, it fascinated him as all splendor did".
  98. ^ a b Kruse 2014, pp. 23–24.
  99. ^ Kruse 2014, p. 20.
  100. ^ Kruse 2002, p. 51.
  101. ^ Kruse 2014, pp. 6, 20.
  102. ^ Kruse 2002, pp. 45–83; Bruccoli 2002, p. 178.
  103. ^ a b Bruccoli 2002, p. 178; Kruse 2002, pp. 47–48; Kruse 2014, p. 15
  104. ^ a b Kruse 2014, p. 26.
  105. ^ Fitzgerald 1925, p. 185.
  106. ^ Vogel 2015, p. 40; Slater 1973, p. 54.
  107. ^ West 2002.
  108. ^ Fitzgerald 1991, p. 88, Chapter 7, opening sentence: "It was when curiosity about Gatsby was at its highest that the lights in his house failed to go on one Saturday night—and, as obscurely as it had begun, his career as Trimalchio was over".
  109. ^ Fitzgerald 2000, pp. vii–viii: Tanner's introduction to the Penguin Books edition.
  110. ^ Hill, Burns & Shillingsburg 2002, p. 331.
  111. ^ Bruccoli 2002, pp. 206–07.
  112. ^ Eble 1974, p. 37.
  113. ^ Kruse 2002, p. 75.
  114. ^ Matthews 2003, pp. 18–19.
  115. ^ a b Dorson 1986, p. 76.
  116. ^ Rimer 2008.
  117. ^ Bewley 1954, pp. 235, 238: "For Gatsby, Daisy does not exist in herself. She is the green light that signals him into the heart of his ultimate vision ... Thus the American dream, whose superstitious valuation of the future began in the past, gives the green light through which alone the American returns to his traditional roots, paradoxically retreating into the pattern of history while endeavoring to exploit the possibilities of the future".
  118. ^ Lagnado 2009.
  119. ^ a b Conant 1986.
  120. ^ a b c d e Keeler 2018, p. 174.
  121. ^ a b Teachout 1992; Bañagale 2014, pp. 156–157; Levy 2019; Mizener 1960; Fitzgerald 2004, p. 93
  122. ^ Fitzgerald 2004, p. 93.
  123. ^ a b Teachout 1992.
  124. ^ Mizener 1960.
  125. ^ Bañagale 2014, pp. 156–157.
  126. ^ Levy 2019.
  127. ^ a b c Tredell 2007, p. 97.
  128. ^ a b c Howell 2013.
  129. ^ a b McGilligan 1986, p. 280.
  130. ^ Crowther 1949.
  131. ^ Dixon 2003; Hischak 2012, pp. 85–86
  132. ^ Ebert 1974.
  133. ^ a b Siskel 1974.
  134. ^ Luscombe 2011.
  135. ^ Hyatt 2006, pp. 49–50.
  136. ^ Hischak 2012, pp. 85–86.
  137. ^ Howell 2013; Hischak 2012, pp. 85–86.
  138. ^ James 2001.
  139. ^ Perkins 2017.
  140. ^ Pearce 2017.
  141. ^ Pitts 1986, p. 127.
  142. ^ Forrest 2012.
  143. ^ Rotten Tomatoes: The Great Gatsby (1926).
  144. ^ Rotten Tomatoes: The Great Gatsby (1949).
  145. ^ Rotten Tomatoes: The Great Gatsby (1974).
  146. ^ Metacritic: The Great Gatsby (1974).
  147. ^ Rotten Tomatoes: The Great Gatsby (2013).
  148. ^ Metacritic: The Great Gatsby (2013).

Works cited[edit]