"The Great Gatsby" by Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Autobiographical Traits

Facharbeit (Schule), 2013

15 Seiten, Note: 14 Punkte


Table of Contents

1. Introduction
1.1 The Autor
1.2 Summary

2. Autobiographical elements in novels
2.1 Fitzgeralds application of autobiographical elements

3. Autobiographical Traits
3.1 Relationship with Zelda / Daisy
3.2 Desire for success through failure / Alcoholism
3.3 Time / Lifestyle

4. Is „The Great Gatsby“ an autobiographie?

5. Ist „The Great Gatsby“ easier to understand after reading Fitzgerald’s biography?

6. Literaturverzeichnis


“The Great Gatsby”, written by Francis Scott Fitzgerald, and published in 1925, is a socio-critical novel where he tells the story of a self-made millionaire pursuing his lost love. It was praised by famous authors and is to be considered as one of the best American novels.

Understanding “The Great Gatsby” is important because this novel gives you a perfect view in to the roaring twenties. Fitzgerald used often, autobiographical elements in his novels. In my essay, I try to consider if one knows the novel better because of knowing something about the author’s life.

1.1 The Author

Francis Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on 24 September 1896. He was educated at Newman School and Princeton University. Due to academic difficulties he left Princeton and went to the US Army.

He knew the depict world of New York in his novel „The Great Gatsby“ from own conception. After college in New York and after an unsuccessful military service he worked there as a journalist. His novel „This Side of Paradise“ (1920) helped him to be prosperous in his early years. Before that he had a glamorous life and became an idol of the jazz-generation and the „Roaring Twenties“. In the mid twenties he became friends with the writer Ernest Hemingway and published „The Great Gatsby“ in 1925. Soon he broke under his fame and the pressure he felt every day. His alcoholism got worse and his wealth shrank incessantly. Eventually he led a life of self-accusation and worked as a writer for a magazine in Hollywood where he died with 44 years of age due to a heart attack.

1.2 Summary

Nick Carraway, the protagonist of the novel „The Great Gatsby“, recently moved to the West Egg

District of Long Island, a wealthy area. His neighbor is Jay Gatsby, a mysterious man who often held parties on Saturday nights. As the summer progresses, Nick eventually receives an invitation for a Gatsby party. Nick becomes friends with Gatsby and learns that he is in love with Daisy so they started an affair. Nick knew Daisy from his childhood when they almost married but he was too poor back then. Tom, Daisy’s husband, is suspicious and tries to prove that Gatsby is not what he seems. Daisy gets really angry but finds out that Gatsby is not a pharmacist but makes his money through bootlegging. Daisy drives home with Tom and accidently hits Myrtle Wilson lethally. Thinking that Gatsby killed her, Mr. Wilson shoots Gatsby in his own house. No one attended Gatsby’s funeral but his Dad and Nick. Tom and Daisy go to Chicago and Nick never sees them again.

2. Autobiographical elements in novels

An autobiographical novel is a form of using information’s of the author’s life but also elements of fiction. Because it includes parts of fiction it will not fulfill the “autobiographical pact” and that is why one cannot see the novel only as an autobiography but as a novel with autobiographical elements.[1] The parts of the story like names and locations are often changed but still represent the author’s life. Most of the events are exaggerated or altered to make it more dramatic or entertaining to read. The biographical topic helps the reader to better understand basic essentials within a work. It also helps the reader to connect different novels by one author. Furthermore it allows the writer to rely and reflect on his or her own experiences. Nonetheless, an autobiographical novel need not always be related to the author’s life but often has to be treated as a fictional work. A lot of novels regarding personal, intense topics like war, family conflicts and deaths are written as autobiographical novels.

2.1 Fitzgerald’s application of autobiographical elements

All great novels are often based on autobiographical fiction because authors write most efficient when they rely on first hand experiences. Especially Francis Scott Fitzgerald used his own feelings, impressions and experiences for his novel and his short stories. In his essay “One Hundred False Starts,” published in 1933, he said: ”Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves and that’s the truth. We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives and experiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time that anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.

Then we learn our trade, well or less well, and we tell our two or three stories and each time in a new disguise and maybe ten times, maybe a hundred, as long as people will listen.”[2]

On the other hand, Fitzgerald’s fiction was not just thinly disguised autobiography it was more transformed and transmuted than a complete autobiography. None of his protagonists like Jay Gatsby or Dick Diver can be fully identified with Scott F. Fitzgerald, nevertheless he allocated a lot of emotions and experiences to them. He always emphasized, that his literature contains autobiographical elements and that it had its origins in his feelings: “Taking things hard from Genevra to Joe Mank: That’s stamp that goes into my books so that people can read it blind like brail,”[3] or “Whether it’s something that happened twenty years ago or only yesterday, I must start out with an emotion, one that’s close to me and that I can understand.”[4]

He chose a lot of things out of his life like family, friends, life and locations for his literature to recreate them in a fictional way of capable, conveying trueness as he saw them.

His emotions and expressions for his novel „The Great Gatsby” came from his visit with the Fitzgerald clan of Great Neck, Long Island. Fitzgerald met the writer Ring Lardner who might be the model for the mysterious Owl Eyes. The setting for Gatsby’s extraordinary parties in West Egg was provided by Great Neck while the Corona Dump of Queens provided the setting of the valley of ashes where Wilson’s garage is. The believing in the „American Dream“ by Fitzgerald is represented by Gatsby and additionally by a Long Island neighbor of Fitzgerald who was also a bootlegger and always used the expression „old sport“ like Jay Gatsby.[5]

3. Autobiographical Traits

3.1 Relationship with Zelda / Daisy

In November 1917, Fitzgerald left to join the army as a second lieutenant. He never served in Europe but was sent to Alabama, where he met Zelda Sayre with whom he fell in love with.
Regardless the love Zelda felt, she refused to marry him until he could support her and take care of her. In April 1920 Zelda married Fitzgerald and they became one of the prominent couples of the ‘Roaring Twenties’, while living a live of social and financial abandon.[6]

In the early years of their marriage Zelda and Scott were public figures, particularly in the nightlife of New York City. He held a wild life with Zelda. They behaved like Fitzgerald’s fictional characters and that is no coincidence because Francis Scott Fitzgerald used some of the uninhibited behavior in his fiction.


[1] Philippe Lejeune, "Autobiographical Pact," pg. 19

[2] Afternoon of an Author, ed. Arthur Mizener (New York: Scribners, 1958), p. 132.

[3] The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald, ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli (New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich/Bruccoli Clark, 1978), # 1072.

[4] “One Hundred False Starts,” Afternoon of an Author, p. 132.

[5] Scrapbook, Princeton; the clipping is reproduced in the Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual (1976), p. 108

[6] The Great Gatsby, Methuen Notes (Study Aids, 1978)

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"The Great Gatsby" by Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Autobiographical Traits
14 Punkte
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Fitzgerald, autobiographical traits, facharbeit, The Great Gatsby, autobiographie
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Moritz Dittmar (Autor:in), 2013, "The Great Gatsby" by Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Autobiographical Traits, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/231625


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