The Great Gatsby. A versatile image of the Roaring Twenties

Novel and Film Adaptations

Seminar Paper, 2013

15 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents:

I. Reincarnation of the Roaring Twenties in today's society

II. "The Great Gatsby" – novel and film adaptations
2.1 Francis Scott Fitzgerald's novel
2.2 Jack Clayton's film adaptation
2.3 Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation

III. The Historical Background
3.1 Manipulation of the World Series 1919
3.2 Prohibiton of alcohol in the 1920s
3.3 The "Jazz Age" in general

IV. Social Criticism
4.1 The role of women
4.2 Materialism
4.3 The American Dream

V. Commentary: The American Dream today

VI. The end of the Roaring Twenties

VII. Bibliography

I. Reincarnation of the Roaring Twenties in today's society

Present-day's teenagers are confronted with two major points of criticism concerning their current "lifestyle". The first would be excessive partying with alcohol and other types of drugs whereas the other point concerns the materialism of today's youth. An open minded historian of the twentieth century might be very familiar with that kind of behaviour because it marvellously reflects the famous "Jazz Age" in its most outstanding social aspects.

Of course materialism in the 1920s has not meant self-expression through commercial brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, Apple, Hollister and several others like in today's society but it was still present in a more or less subtle way. Also the myth of the "American Dream" , which defines itself mostly through materialism, is still very up to date. Another trend of our present day analogoue to the North American twenties is the demonstrative feminism shown for example in fashion.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Both fashion decades do not highlight feminine curves 1

However, the "class-system" of the U.S. got even more visible in our modern days as it was back then.

These and other social characteristics of the "Roaring Twenties" are all shown in "[...] the best [ literary ] image of the time in which it was written [...]"2 "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. In the following term paper I want to describe and compare both the authenticity and the before mentioned social side of the "Jazz Age" in the original novel as well as in the two film adaptations by Jack Clayton and Baz Luhrmann.

Nontheless, the basic information of the book and the movies will be pointed out before.

II. "The Great Gatsby" – novel and film adaptations

2.1 Francis Scott Fitzgerald's novel

"The Great Gatsby" was released in 1925 and is known as the most popular work of American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Despite that the book is acknowledged today as an "[...] American classic [...]"3 and "[...] a contender for the title Great American Novel"4, it received mixed reviews in the time it was published. Although the novel was critically acclaimed by other authors of the "Roaring Twenties" like T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway and Edith Wharton, it sold poorly and led Fitzgerald to die 1940 in the believe that his literary work is a failure and will soon be forgotten. But unlike the author's expectations "The Great Gatsby" gained popularity during WW2 and became an important part of school literature in that time. The book has remained popular since, leading to two film adaptations in 1974 and 2013 which gained even more popularity for F. Scott Fitzgerald's work.

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Visualisation: Popularity of "The Great Gatsby"-novel in different times 5

The plot of the book is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, a bond salesman from New

York, who rents a house in the village of West Egg on Long Island in the summer of 1922.

There, he gets in touch with a young rich couple consisting of Nick's second cousin Daisy Buchanan and his former college friend Tom Buchanan. Soon the couple introduces him to

the young, emancipated woman Jordan Baker who stays Nick Carraway's gilfriend for most of the novel. Through Jordan the narrator gets to know his rich neighbour Jay Gatsby, who provides the title of the book, and Tom's mistress Myrtle Wilson. Gatsby and Myrtle are unlike Jordan, Daisy and Tom not part of an old prestigious family and form a contrast between the characters even though Jay Gatsby wants to hide his family origins until the end. Actually he is part of the nouvaux riches 6, the young millionaires whose family origins are found in lower social classes. Myrtle is on the opposite to all the other characters still poor and lives with her husband in the "valley of ashes", an industrial dumping ground between Long Island and New York.

There are different sub-plots described in the book but the main storyline is about the love between Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.

This plotline starts mainly with the romantic relationship the two had in 1917 during WW1. Unfortunately Gatsby and Daisy get seperated later because Gatsby has to serve as a soldier in france. Now, Daisy is through money and other reasons forced to marry Tom Buchanan. After the return from Oxford University in which Gatsby stayed for a short while after the war he realizes the marriage and gets deeply depressed. In his depression, Gatsby is obsessed from the belief that he can only reunite with Daisy if he gets as rich as Tom. As it is revealed in the end of the book, he has reached that goal only through illegal activities like bootlegging and several manipulations. However, to get Daisy's attention again, Gatsby organizes big parties with his new wealth.

And that is where the actual book starts. Nick meets Gatsby at one of those parties and forms a friendship with him. Then, he arranges an encounter between Gatsby and Daisy which ends up with the two falling in love again. Of course this is not tolerated by Tom, so he invites Nick, Jordan, Gatsby and Daisy to a meeting in the Plaza Hotel in New York. There he confronts Gatsby with his love affair to Daisy as well as with the knowledge of his criminal activities. After that, Gatsby wants to escape from the situation with his car and his beloved one. The escape is successfull but in their dispatch they kill Myrtle in an accident. As the story continues Tom finds out that his mistress was killed and so he gets even more enraged. In his anger he tells Myrtle's depressed husband that Gatsby is the murder of his wife. In his wish for revenge the husband kills Gatsby and himself. The novel ends with Gatsby's small funeral at which only his father appears, telling Nick of Gatsby's family origins.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Showdown between Gatsby

and Tom: Plaza Hotel 1922 7


1 Figures taken from:,, (Accessed 23 October 2013);

2 Leppmann, Wolfgang, Die Roaring Twenties. Amerikas wilde Jahre, München, 1992, S. 174; S.3

3 (Accessed 27 October 2013);

4 (Accessed 27 October 2013);

5 Figures taken from:, (Accessed 27 October 2013); S.4

6 Cf. (Accessed 27 Ocotber 2013);

7 Picture taken from: (Accessed 28 October 2013); S.5

Excerpt out of 15 pages


The Great Gatsby. A versatile image of the Roaring Twenties
Novel and Film Adaptations
LMU Munich
American Impressions
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Eine in englischer Sprache gehaltene Arbeit über die Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede des ursprünglichen Buches und der beiden Filmumsetzungen in ihrer Darstellung der gesellschaftlichen und historischen Aspekte der Goldenen Zwanziger --&gt, reich bebildert und mit Tabellen ausgestattet!
The Great Gatsby, Roaring Twenties, Zwanziger, Amerikanistik, Englisch, Gesellschaft, Historisch, Novel, Buch, Film, Fitzgerald
Quote paper
Aaron Richter (Author), 2013, The Great Gatsby. A versatile image of the Roaring Twenties, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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