The Great Gatsby (1925)

Ninety-eight years ago today, the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby was released. We all read it in high school, I’ve read it several times since. I’ve seen the films (the 1974 is my favorite), I have gone to a cast reading of the entire book in one day (9 hours), and I have the final sentence tattooed on my forearm. It is one of two books that I always have downloaded to my phone. This book came into my life at just the right time to become a cherished friend, introduced me to the art and literature of the Jazz Age, the beauty of Paris in the 1920s, the Lost Generation, and everything inspired by them. You have to read this book.

Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Cover artist: Francis Cugat
Published: April 10, 1925 (US), February 10, 1926 (UK)
Publisher: Charles Scribner’s Sons (US), Chatto & Windus (UK)
Pages: 218 (Original US Edition)
Preceded by: The Beautiful and Damned (1922)
Followed by: Tender Is the Night (1934)

In Spring 1922, Nick Carraway—a Yale alumnus from the Midwest and a veteran of the Great War—journeys east to New York City to obtain employment as a bond salesman. He rents a bungalow in the Long Island village of West Egg, next to a luxurious estate inhabited by Jay Gatsby, an enigmatic multi-millionaire who hosts dazzling soirées yet does not partake in them.

One evening, Nick dines with his distant relative, Daisy Buchanan, in the fashionable town of East Egg. Daisy is married to Tom Buchanan, formerly a Yale football star whom Nick knew during his college days. The couple have recently relocated from Chicago to a colonial mansion directly across the bay from Gatsby’s estate. At their mansion, Nick encounters Jordan Baker, an insolent flapper and golf champion who is a childhood friend of Daisy’s. Jordan confides to Nick that Tom keeps a mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who brazenly telephones him at his home and who lives in the “valley of ashes,” a sprawling refuse dump. That evening, Nick sees Gatsby standing alone on his lawn, staring at a green light across the bay.

Days later, Nick reluctantly accompanies a drunken and agitated Tom to New York City by train. En route, they stop at a garage inhabited by mechanic George Wilson and his wife Myrtle. Myrtle joins them, and the trio proceed to a small New York apartment that Tom has rented for trysts with her. Guests arrive, and a party ensues which ends with Tom slapping Myrtle and breaking her nose after she mentions Daisy.

One morning, Nick receives a formal invitation to a party at Gatsby’s mansion. Once there, Nick is embarrassed that he recognizes no one, and begins drinking heavily until he encounters Jordan. While chatting with her, he is approached by a man who introduces himself as Jay Gatsby and insists that both he and Nick served in the 3rd Infantry Division during the war. Gatsby attempts to ingratiate himself to Nick and, when Nick leaves the party, he notices Gatsby watching him.

In late July, Nick and Gatsby have lunch at a speakeasy. Gatsby tries to impress Nick with tales of his war heroism and his Oxford days. Afterwards, Nick meets Jordan at the Plaza Hotel. She reveals that Gatsby and Daisy met around 1917 when Gatsby was an officer in the American Expeditionary Forces. They fell in love, but when Gatsby was deployed overseas, Daisy reluctantly married Tom. Gatsby hopes that his newfound wealth and dazzling parties will make Daisy reconsider. Gatsby uses Nick to stage a reunion with Daisy, and the two embark upon a sexual affair.

In September, Tom discovers the affair when Daisy carelessly addresses Gatsby with unabashed intimacy in front of him. Later, at a Plaza Hotel suite, Gatsby and Tom argue about the affair. Gatsby insists that Daisy declare that she never loved Tom. Daisy claims she loves Tom and Gatsby, upsetting both. Tom reveals that Gatsby is a swindler whose money comes from bootlegging alcohol. Upon hearing this, Daisy chooses to stay with Tom. Tom scornfully tells Gatsby to drive her home, knowing that Daisy will never leave him.

While returning to East Egg, Gatsby and Daisy drive by Wilson’s garage and their car accidentally strikes Tom’s mistress, Myrtle, killing her instantly. Gatsby reveals to Nick that it was Daisy who was driving the car, but that he intends to take blame for the accident to protect her. Nick urges Gatsby to flee to avoid prosecution but he refuses. After Tom tells George that Gatsby owns the car that struck Myrtle, a distraught George assumes the owner of the vehicle must be Myrtle’s paramour. George fatally shoots Gatsby in his mansion’s swimming pool and then commits suicide.

Several days after Gatsby’s murder, his father Henry Gatz arrives for the sparsely-attended funeral. After Gatsby’s death, Nick comes to hate New York and decides that Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, and he were all Westerners unsuited to Eastern life. Nick encounters Tom and refuses to shake his hand. Tom admits that he was the one who told George that Gatsby owned the vehicle which killed Myrtle. Before returning to the Midwest, Nick returns to Gatsby’s mansion one last time and stares across the bay at the green light emanating from the end of Daisy’s dock.

Ballet Adaptations

  • In 2009, BalletMet premiered a version at the Capitol Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. It was choreographed by Jimmy Orrante.
  • In 2010, The Washington Ballet premiered a version at the Kennedy Center. It was received an encore run the following year.
  • In 2013, the Northern Ballet premiered a version of The Great Gatsby at Leeds Grand Theatre in the UK, with choreography and direction by David Nixon, a musical score by Richard Rodney Bennett, and set designs by Jerome Kaplan. Nixon also created the scenario and costume designs.

Computer Games Adaptations

  • In 2010, Oberon Media released a casual hidden object game called Classic Adventures: The Great Gatsby. The game was released for iPad in 2012.
  • In 2011, as a tribute to old NES games, developer Charlie Hoey and editor Pete Smith created an 8-bit-style online game of The Great Gatsby called The Great Gatsby for NES. Ian Crouch of The New Yorker compared it to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1989) for the NES.
  • In 2013, Slate (magazine) released a short symbolic adaptation called “The Great Gatsby: The Video Game”.

Film Adaptations

  • The Great Gatsby (1926), directed by Herbert Brenon—starring Warner Baxter, Lois Wilson, and William Powell, a lost film.
  • The Great Gatsby (1949), directed by Elliott Nugent—starring Alan Ladd, Betty Field, and Macdonald Carey.
  • The Great Gatsby (1974), directed by Jack Clayton—starring Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, and Sam Waterston.
  • The Great Gatsby (2013), directed by Baz Luhrmann—starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire.

Literature Adaptations

  • The Double Bind (2007) by Chris Bohjalian imagines the later years of Daisy and Tom Buchanan’s marriage, as a social worker in 2007 investigates the possibility that a deceased elderly homeless person is Daisy’s son.
  • Great (2014) by Sara Benincasa is a modern-day young adult fiction retelling of The Great Gatsby with a female Gatsby named Jacinta Trimalchio.

Opera Adaptions

  • The New York Metropolitan Opera commissioned John Harbison to compose an operatic treatment of the novel to commemorate the 25th anniversary of James Levine’s debut. The work, called The Great Gatsby, premiered on December 20, 1999.

Radio Adaptations

  • On January 1, 1950, an hour-long adaptation was broadcast on CBS’s Family Hour of Stars starring Kirk Douglas as Gatsby.
  • In October 2008, the BBC World Service commissioned an abridged 10-part reading of the story, read from the view of Nick Carraway by Trevor White.
  • In May 2012, BBC Radio 4 broadcast The Great Gatsby, a Classic Serial dramatization by Robert Forrest.

Television Adaptations

  • The Great Gatsby (1955), by Alvin Sapinsley—a NBC episode for Robert Montgomery Presents starring Robert Montgomery, Phyllis Kirk, and Lee Bowman.
  • The Great Gatsby (1958), by Franklin J. Schaffner—a CBS episode for Playhouse 90 starring Robert Ryan, Jeanne Crain, and Rod Taylor.
  • The Great Gatsby (2000), by Robert Markowitz—a A&E movie starring Toby Stephens, Mira Sorvino, and Paul Rudd.

Theater Adaptations

  • The 1926 stage adaptation of Owen Davis, subsequently developed, became the 1926 film version. The play, directed by George Cukor, opened on Broadway on February 2, 1926, and ran for 112 performances. A successful tour later in the year included performances in Chicago, 1 August through October.
  • In July 2006, Simon Levy’s stage adaptation, the only one authorized and granted exclusive rights by the Fitzgerald estate, premiered at The Guthrie Theater to commemorate the opening of its new theatre, directed by David Esbjornson. It was subsequently produced by Seattle Repertory Theatre. In 2012, a revised version was produced at Arizona Theatre Company and Grand Theatre in London, Ontario, Canada.
  • In 2010, Gatz, an Off-Broadway production by Elevator Repair Service, debuted and was highly praised by critic Ben Brantley of The New York Times.

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