F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Life in the Great Gatsby
Through his classic novel, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald allows many aspects of his personal life to permeate into the story, characters, and ideologies. Without having any background into the life of Fitzgerald, the average reader would conclude that the story was no less than a figment of Fitzgerald’s imagination. This is not the case however, as F. Scott funnels many of his thoughts and ideas into the characters in the book. There are quite a few stunning similarities between his character Daisy, and his own wife Zelda.
He incorporates his general attitudes toward money as he displays the financial behaviors of his characters to model his own. Most importantly, he bases much of the plot and characterizations on his time living in Great Neck, New York; a very wealthy section of Long Island. It is these aspects that give the reader a greater understanding of Fitzgerald’s life, and gives the novel itself a more profound meaning. The Great Gatsby was a book written in France, but born at 6 Gateway Drive in Great Neck, New York.
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Gatsby lived there for two years, and though the communities of East and West Egg are technically fictional, they are quite clearly based off of Kings Point and Manhasset Bay. As Mary Jo Murphy of the New York Times states in her recent article “Fitzgerald himself knew it well… He seeded his masterpiece there, drawing on his own experiences on ‘that slender riotous island’” (Murphy). The setting of The Great Gatsby was identical to that of his home of two years, and this couldn’t be a more black and white comparison of his life to the book.
Fitzgerald lived in a wealthy, upper class community in which social status was based upon wealth. Fitzgerald was constantly surrounded by social leaches, ever-trying to crawl up the social ladder; people whose sole concern was in partying, not a care for the mysterious Gatsby. We see this when Nick states, “I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guest who had actually been invited… I was immediately struck by the number of young Englishmen dotted about; all well dressed, all looking a little hungry, and all talking in low, earnest voices to solid and preposterous Americans” (41).
These inhabitant of Great Neck were surely represented by the attendees of Gatsby’s social gatherings every Saturday night. The shallow demeanors and hollow intentions of Fitzgerald’s ‘friends’ on Great Neck contributed much to his criticism of American culture, especially of the upper class. Another major aspect of Fitzgerald’s life that was represented in The Great Gatsby is his wife, Zelda. She can easily be compared to Tom Buchanan’s wife, Daisy, as much of the feelings and events shared in their relationship are very similar to those in F. Scott and Zelda’s relationship.
When Francis Scott first met Zelda while writing in New York City, still seeking fame and fortune, they could not be wed. “Unwilling to wait while Fitzgerald succeeded in the advertisement business and unwilling to live on his small salary, Zelda Sayre broke their engagement” (Bruccoli). This changed once he stated to write for The Saturday Evening Post in St. Paul, as he was paid handsomely for his articles. He returned to Zelda, with his new fortune and they were immediately wed. This is eerily similar to how Gatsby could not be with Daisy prior to going off to war, for Daisy was of upper class blue-blood wealth and Gatsby was quite poor.
Once Gatsby attained his wealth, by any means possible, Daisy was immediately enthralled by his possessions and she was temporarily won away from Tom Buchanan. The epitome if her selfish materialism is displayed when Daisy “bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily. ‘They’re such beautiful shirts… It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such- such beautiful shirts before” (92). These similarities prove Daisy to be a direct reflection of Zelda and more of Fitzgerald’s personal life revealing itself in the pages of The Great Gatsby.
The final major aspect of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s personal life that is portrayed in his novel is his behavior and attitudes toward money. This attitude, in short, would be: Money can buy happiness, and there’s no reason not to show it off. When F. Scott Fitzgerald was declined by Zelda Sayre, instead of moving on he elected to do the opposite. He quit his job in New York City, moved back to St. Paul where he could make a good living, and returned to Zelda hoping now he would live up to her standards. This is the same behavior we see in Jay Gatsby.
When Daisy will not be with him because of his lack of wealth and social standing, Jay devotes his life’s work to attaining wealth to win Daisy back. Also Mr. Fitzgerald had a tendency to spend money just as quickly as he earned it; living above his means, and showing off his wealth whenever he could. The same is shown of Gatsby when Nick describes Gatsby’s car, “I’d seen it. Everyone had seen it. It was a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, nd terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns” (64). He spends luxuriously, buying the most expensive car and only wearing brightly colored expensive suits. This reckless and attention seeking spending of money is one behavior of F. Scott Fitzgerald that is prominent in his character Gatsby. While The Great Gatsby was written surely to be a critique and disapproving display of the upper class in America, it is also a deeper revelation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life. Most would not recognize this, but his book is saturated with aspects of his own life.
Allowing his own life to be present in his novel is surely something that gives the book some real emotion and deeper meaning. The people, events, and attitudes displayed in the book are not just fiction; they’re based off of the real life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Bibliography Bruccoli, Matthew J. “A Brief Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. ” SC. edu. The University of South Carolina, 4 Dec. 2003. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. . Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York City: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925. Print. Murphy, Mary Jo. “Eyeing the Unreal Estate of Gatsby Esq. ” NYTimes. com. The New York Times ,1 Oct. 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2012. .
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