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F. Scott Fitzgerald at Work

The Making of "The Great Gatsby"

Horst H. Kruse

Publication Year: 2014

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby occupies a preeminent place in American letters. Scholars have argued that Jay Gatsby is, in fact, the embodiment of American culture and social aspiration. Though The Great Gatsby has been studied in detail since its publication, both readers and scholars have continued to speculate about Fitzgerald’s sources of inspiration.
The essays in F. Scott Fitzgerald at Work examine fresh facts that illuminate the experiences and source materials upon which Fitzgerald based this quintessentially American masterpiece. They confirm author Horst Kruse’s view that Fitzgerald’s flights of fancy, even at their most spectacular, are firmly grounded in biographical experience as well as in the social, literary, and philosophical circumstances of his era.
In the first essay, Kruse reconstructs the life story of the individual who allegedly inspired the character of Jay Gatsby: Max von Gerlach. Kruse recounts his journeys to various archives and libraries in the United States as well as in Germany to unearth new facts about the genesis of the Gatsby characters. In another journey, readers travel with Kruse to Long Island to explore its physical and moral geography in relation to Fitzgerald, specifically the role of certain elite Long Island families in the advancement of the “science of eugenics” movement. The final two essays take Kruse across the globe to various destinations to consider the broader place of The Great Gatsby in American and international intellectual history.
Replete with fascinating discoveries and insights, F. Scott Fitzgerald at Work both corrects previous assumptions about The Great Gatsby and deepens our appreciation and understanding of Fitzgerald‘s imagination.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

My work on The Great Gatsby and its sources of inspiration has extended over several decades. In the course of it I have incurred many obligations to individuals and institutions. First and foremost, I owe thanks and gratitude to my wife, Ursula Kruse, as well as to my friend the late Matthew J. Bruccoli. Both have advised, challenged, and encouraged me in my research. Drafts and...

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pp. 1-3

The Great Gatsby is inexhaustible,” Matthew J. Bruccoli wrote in his introduction to New Essays on “The Great Gatsby” in 1985. A quarter of a century’s further work on the novel has not proved him wrong. Surprisingly, Bruccoli’s statement also holds for studies of the author’s sources and the actual process of the novel’s composition. Even as the times recede in which the manuscript...

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1. Max von Gerlach, the Man Behind Jay Gatsby: A German Immigrant Story and Its Impact on the Composition of The Great Gatsby

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pp. 4-73

There is all but universal agreement that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby occupies a preeminent place in American literature, in terms of popular appeal and critical acclaim, and that Jay Gatsby, the protagonist, more so than any other character in American fiction, embodies national themes and aspirations. The complex story of the novel’s achievement is thus fully deserving...

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2. Dinner at the Buchanans’: Eugenics and the Beginning of The Great Gatsby

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pp. 74-96

In the density of its structure and the tight development of its plot, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby quickly moves the reader’s attention from one scene to another. It appears to privilege later sections, culminating in the drawn‑out epilogue with Nick Carraway’s night-thoughts on the beach of Long Island Sound at the end of the final chapter. By comparison, the opening scene of...

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3. The Great Gatsby: A View from Kant’s Window—Transatlantic Crosscurrents

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pp. 97-105

“There was nothing to look at from under the tree except Gatsby’s enormous house so I stared at it, like Kant at his church steeple, for half an hour” (GG 69). Nick Carraway’s reference to the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) appears to be the most extraneous as well as the most arcane among the many references to actual persons, places, and incidents

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4. Once by the Atlantic: Nick Carraway’s Meditation on the Course of History and Its Ideological Context

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pp. 106-120

When in the summer of 1923 Fitzgerald began to revamp a first draft of the beginning of the manuscript of his third novel, his deliberate attempt to write “something new—something extraordinary and beautiful and simple intricately patterned” (Correspondence 112) eventually culminated in the act of moving his narrator’s vision of “the old island [. . .] that flowered once for...


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pp. 121-134


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pp. 135-148


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pp. 149-154

E-ISBN-13: 9780817387709
E-ISBN-10: 0817387706
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817318390
Print-ISBN-10: 0817318399

Page Count: 168
Illustrations: 20
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 887503662
MUSE Marc Record: Download for F. Scott Fitzgerald at Work

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Subject Headings

  • Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott), 1896-1940. Great Gatsby.
  • Fiction -- Authorship -- Psychological aspects.
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