The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald that follows a cast of characters living in the fictional town of West Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922.
Let’s find out some intriguing facts about it!
1. The story primarily concerns the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion and obsession for the beautiful former debutante Daisy Buchanan.
2. Considered to be Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, The Great Gatsby explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess, creating a portrait of the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties that has been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream.
3. Fitzgerald—inspired by the parties he had attended while visiting Long Island’s north shore—began planning the novel in 1923, desiring to produce, in his words, “something new—something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.”
4. Progress was slow, with Fitzgerald completing his first draft following a move to the French Riviera in 1924. His editor, Maxwell Perkins, felt the book was vague and persuaded the author to revise over the next winter.
5. Fitzgerald was repeatedly ambivalent about the book’s title and he considered a variety of alternatives, including titles that referenced the Roman character Trimalchio; the title he was last documented to have desired was Under the Red, White, and Blue.
6. First published by Scribner’s in April 1925, The Great Gatsby received mixed reviews and sold poorly; in its first year, the book sold only 20,000 copies.
7. Fitzgerald died in 1940, believing himself to be a failure and his work forgotten.
8. The novel experienced a revival during World War II, and became a part of American high school curricula and numerous stage and film adaptations in the following decades.
9. Today, The Great Gatsby is widely considered to be a literary classic and a contender for the title “Great American Novel.”
10. The Great Gatsby was partly inspired by a French novel called Le Grand Meaulnes, written in 1913. It has since been translated into English with the titles The Wanderer and The Lost Estate.
11. In 1998, the Modern Library editorial board voted it the 20th century’s best American novel and second best English-language novel of the same time period.
12. F. Scott Fitzgerald considered some other titles for Gatsby. At one time or another, he thought of using the following: Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; Trimalchio; Trimalchio in West Egg; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; Gold-Hatted Gatsby and The High-Bouncing Lover.
13. Fitzgerald was quite close to choosing one of the Trimalchio titles until someone persuaded him that the reference was too obscure. The original Trimalchio was a character in a first century work of fiction called Satyricon.
14. Gatsby wasn’t a critical success with everyone, either. A few of the not-so-rave reviews:
“Why [Fitzgerald] should be called an author, or why any of us should behave as if he were, has never been satisfactorily explained to me.” —The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“We are quite convinced after reading The Great Gatsby that Mr. Fitzgerald is not one of the great writers of to-day.” —The New York Evening World
“Scott Fitzgerald’s new novel, The Great Gatsby, is in form no more than a glorified anecdote, and not too probable at that.” —The Baltimore Evening Sun
15. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald moved to Great Neck on Long Island after their daughter Scottie was born in 1922. That’s where Fitzgerald witnessed the collision of “old money” and “new money.” People who came from Great Neck had recently acquired money, while those who came from nearby Manhasset Neck or Cow Neck had inherited theirs. Cow Neck does sound quite classy.
16. Even Jay Gatsby’s lavish mansion was inspired by a couple of real mansions, including Oheka Castle, in Huntington, New York. Even today, nearly a century after construction began on it in 1915, Oheka Castle is still the second-largest private estate in the United States.
17. Gatsby himself—or at least his line of work and one of his famous phrases—may have been inspired by a WWI vet named Max Gerlach, a “gentleman bootlegger” Fitzgerald knew from Great Neck. Fitzgerald scholar Matthew Bruccoli discovered a newspaper clipping in one of the Fitzgeralds’ numerous scrapbooks. The clipping, apparently sent from Gerlach, was a photo of the Fitzgeralds accompanied by a handwritten note that said, “Here for a few days on business—How are you and the family old Sport? Gerlach.” “Old sport,” of course, is the way Gatsby constantly refers to narrator Nick Carraway.
18. At the time of its publication in 1925, the novel cost just $2.
19. Unlike Fitzgerald’s previous two novels, Gatsby was not a commercial success. It sold just 20,000 copies in the entire first year of publication.
20. Gatsby’s estate wasn’t all that was inspired by the real-life comings and goings of the most beloved couple of the Jazz Age. Many of the characters were based on flesh and blood friends and lovers. Daisy was based on Ginevra King, a Chicago debutante and one of Fitzgerald’s girlfriends. One Fitzgerald scholar says his romance with King was the most important relationship he experienced, even more so than the one with his wife. That may be true, considering that these words, found written in Fitzgerald’s ledger, are thought to have been said by King’s father: “Poor boys shouldn’t think of marrying rich girls.”