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Great Gatsby, The

The Great Gatsby, Heart of Darkness, Chance

a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1925. The Great Gatsby is generally thought to be Fitzgerald's finest novel and one of the major achievements of twentieth-century American literature. The life of its eponymous hero, Jay Gatsby, is, in part, a merciless satire of the ‘rags to riches’ story, but Gatsby's accumulation of great wealth and a vast estate on Long Island is motivated not by greed but by the forlorn desire to reclaim a former lover, Daisy Fay, now married to Tom Buchanan, a wealthy Chicagoan also living on Long Island. It is through the novel's narrator, Nick Carraway, a cousin to Daisy, that Gatsby and Daisy are reunited, but the impossibility of their love is the novel's central thematic pre-occupation. The novel is essentially tragic in mood and its climax is a series of scenes in which Myrtle Wilson, Tom's mistress, is accidentally killed when she is run down by Daisy who is driving Gatsby's car; Myrtle's husband, George, then kills Gatsby, mistakenly believing him to be the culprit, before taking his own life.

Nick Carraway, a ‘middle-man’ narrator, caught ‘within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life’, owes much to the influence of Joseph Conrad's Marlow of Heart of Darkness and Chance. Although the plot is not substantial, Fitzgerald's execution of it is a fine technical accomplishment. Above all, The Great Gatsby contains some of Fitzgerald's most beautiful and lyrical prose. See Twentieth-Century Interpretations of ‘The Great Gatsby’: A Collection of Critical Essays (1968), edited by Ernest Lockridge, and The Achieving of ‘The Great Gatsby’: F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1920–1925 (1979), by Robert Emmet Long.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Francis Edward Grainger Biography to Thomas Anstey Guthrie Biography