An Introduction to Modernism and The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Ftizgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which is widely considered to be one of the greatest of all American novels, was written in the 1920’s during the period of literary philosophy known as Modernism. Modernism was a philosophical and artistic movement of the early 20th century which portrayed the world of men as a harsh, hostile environment in which life had lost its meaning and men and women were isolated from each other, struggling to survive alone. This world is one in which our dreams are unrealistic and futile 1) It was a completely new, original way of looking at life: a) Modernists believed that the traditional ways of life were no longer valid. They believed that those things in which men had traditionally found meaning (religion, patriotism, financial success) were no longer meaningful because of: i) The horrors of WWI
ii) Poverty in the cities
iii) The difficulty of making a living
The Great Gatsby and the Modern Novel
1) Fitzgerald left the Victorian era behind, creating a Modernist masterwork that still serves as a model for American fiction. a) The gritty realism of 19th century fiction was too limited to allow Fitzgerald to portray the Jazz Age, a period in which dark fantasy reigned. Modernism offered a new style—a broad palette—with which to describe the recklessness of the 1920’s. b) All of Gatsby’s characters are representative of the modern world: wealth, social class, industry, and organized crime. The novel, therefore, becomes a critique of what is wrong with 20th century America. c) Fitzgerald’s protagonist Jay Gatsby is the ultimate modernist hero: He is a man who refuses to accept the life into which he was born, and he undertakes an incredible task: to reinvent himself into something completely different. His faith in himself and his dream is extraordinary, and it sets him apart in his world. It also isolates him, and, in the end, it marks him for...
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