The Great Gatsby

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Cover of the Scribner Paperback Edition of The Great Gatsby, 1995.

The Great Gatsby is considered the finest work of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It depicts the "Roaring Twenties" or "Jazz Age" of the 1920s, which was a period of great prosperity in America just before the Great Depression. [1]

It is a novel about of Jay Gatsby, who was an ambitious American from the Midwest, just as Fitzgerald himself was. Gatsby becomes a bootlegger during Prohibition, illegally selling liquor in his quest to impress Daisy Buchanan, a married, upper-class woman who had previously rejected him.

The story is told sympathetically with respect to Gatsby's search for the love of Daisy. The narrator of the novel, Nick Carraway, is less sympathetic towards Daisy and others who flaunt their wealth.

The book was initially unsuccessful, and was panned in its reviews:[1]

The book received some reviews that were dismissive (“f. scott fitzgerald’s latest a dud,” a headline in the New York World ran) and others that were pleasant but patronizing. Fitzgerald later complained to his friend Edmund Wilson that “of all the reviews, even the most enthusiastic, not one had the slightest idea what the book was about.

It was not until after Fitzgerald's death that liberals began to promote the book, perhaps not realizing its underlying conservative message. To some, the novel is largely a tale of atheistic despair, as Gatsby clings to a love interest in his past. It also criticizes the heavily conservative government of the 1920s. It is a call to arms for the government to go barging into regulating business. It largely focuses on the negative aspects of what would become American conservatism.

But there is a deeper conservative message in the book, which may explain its enduring popularity as well as the initial resistance by liberal book reviewers. Jay Gatsby overachieves in order to seek the attention of his love interest, He is persistent, and he is charitable. He keeps trying and trying, without giving up, accomplishing more than others who were initially given far more.

There have been seven different movie adaptations of the novel, with Jay Gatsby portrayed by Robert Redford in 1974 and by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2013 version. Even though the 2013 version received poor initial reviews, as the book itself did, it far outstripped predictions by garnering $$144 million in box office receipts.[2]