Looking Back to the Past and Forward to the Future : West, East and Nostalgia in The Great Gatsby.
Copyright 2010 by John Brooks. In accordance with Title 17 of the United States Code, Copyright Law of the United States of America, this material is copyrighted, and any further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without the permission of the copyright owner.
Modern American Literature; Jazz Age; Urban Culture; Modernity; Nostalgia; Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott), 1896-1940. Great Gatsby; Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott), 1896-1940 -- Criticism and interpretation; Geography in literature; United States -- In literature; United States -- History -- 1919-1933;
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s images of the Jazz Age characterize the Twenties as a time of extravagance, a departure from the morally driven Victorian age. Modern America was far more concerned with excess and pretense than the prewar past and lacked the order that tradition had previously inspired. The Jazz Age was a time when conflicts were deeply cultural—the emerging modern, urban culture and the rural, traditional culture were in substantial opposition. Fitzgerald emphasizes emerging moral conflicts in The Great Gatsby by putting the pastoral Middle West against the modern East, reflecting a changing time period and the implications that the changes had on American lives. The novel juxtaposes two time periods: one in the Victorian Middle West presented through metadiagetic narrative suggesting nostalgia, and the other a characterization of the modern and industrious East in present narrative time. By organizing characters’ lives this way, coming from Victorian landscapes to be introduced to modernity, Fitzgerald is able to critically assess modern culture. Fitzgerald looks nostalgically back to a time of order, tradition and morality while simultaneously critiquing the present and future America. McNair Scholar project. Faculty Advisor: Kirk Curnutt.