F. Scott Fitzgerald
|Editörün Notu : Fitzgerald'ın "Muhteşem Gatsby" eseri kendi özgeçmişi ile paralellikler taşır. Roman tutkulu bir aşk hikayesinin ardında 1920'lerin Amerika'sının sosyal ve ekonomik panoramasını çizer. Sığ sosyetenin kendini tükettiği çılgın partiler, gelir dağılımdaki derin uçurum, kolay kazanılan servetler, ahlâkî çürümüşlük dönemi, Amerikan tarihinde "Caz Devri" olarak anılır. Hızlı yaşanılan, değerlerin hızlı tüketildiği bu dönem 1929'da büyük ekonomik kriz sonucunda "Amerikan Rüyasının" iflasıyla sonuçlanır.|
| Gatsby neden muhteşem?
Muhteşem Gatsby'deki en muhteşem şey, kitabın anlatıcısı Nick Carraway'dir bence. Bu Yale mezunu eski askere hemencecik ısınır, onun zihninde kendimizi evimizde hissederiz. Yazar Scott Fitzgerald çok sevdiği izlenimci ressamlar gibi ufak fırça darbeleriyle çalışarak dünyayı bize Nick'in bakış açısından göstermeyi başarır. Bu da hiç kolay bir iş değildir aslında, karakterlere tepeden bakmaya benzemez. Okur için bir meydan okumadır. Hikayeyi anlatan Nick'in göremediği şeyleri görmeye çalışır, onun resmettiği her şeye ve Gatsby'e de şüpheyle bakmamız gerektiğini hissederiz.
GERÇEKÇİ AMA ŞEFKATLİ
Fitzgerald'ın en çok sevdiği yazarlardan biri Joseph Conrad, en çok etkilendiği kitaplardan biri de Karanlığın Yüreği'ydi. Buradaki Kurtz gibi anlatıcının kitap boyunca peşinden koştuğu, kafasında şekillendirip durduğu bir figürdür Gatsby. Hem kendisidir hem de bir şeylerin sembolü. Hem Caz Çağı'yla bütünleşmiştir hem de kendi gerçekliğiyle. 1925'te yayımlanan kitabın meziyeti, Nick'in ilk başta şefkatten yoksun olduğunu hissettiğimiz bakış açısının adım adım Gatsby'ye yönelik bir merhamet ve anlayış arayışına dönüşmesini maharetle göstermesindedir. Fitzgerald, Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu'nun İstanbul'da kendilerini sefahate adamış insanları anlattığı 1928 tarihli romanı Sodom ve Gomore'de yaptığı gibi ahlakçı bir kitap da yazabilirdi pekala. Karaosmanoğlu 'kötü' karakterlerine tanrı katından bakıp onları anlamamaktan ne kadar büyük bir erdem çıkarırsa, Fitzgerald kendi 'kötü' karakterleriyle içli dışlı olmayı bir o kadar çok ister. Romanını gerçekçi edebiyatın kafa ütüleyen değil, şefkatli bir türünün örneği haline getiren de bence budur. Türkiye'de Muhteşem Gatsby deyince akla Fitzgerald kadar çevirmeni Can Yücel de geliyor elbette. Onun çevirisinin güzelliği ve tuhaflığı daha ilk cümlesinden başlar: Toy çağımda bir öğüt vermişti babam, hâlâ küpedir kulağıma. "Ne zaman," demişti, "birini tenkide davranacak olsan, hatırdan çıkarma, herkes senin imkanlarında gelmedi dünyaya!" Şimdilerde kitapçı raflarında Gatsby'nin aslına daha sadık çevirileri var. Ama Yücel'inki özel bir çeviridir çünkü anlattığı kahraman gibi hem kusurludur hem de muhteşem.
Muhteşem Gatsby ve bizim sosyete
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald - Life
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, and named after his ancestor Francis Scott Key, the author of The Star-Spangled Banner. Fitzgerald was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. Though an intelligent child, he did poorly in school and was sent to a New Jersey boarding school in 1911. Despite being a mediocre student there, he managed to enroll at Princeton in 1913. Academic troubles and apathy plagued him throughout his time at college, and he never graduated, instead enlisting in the army in 1917, as World War I neared its end.
Fitzgerald became a second lieutenant, and was stationed at Camp Sheridan, in Montgomery, Alabama. There he met and fell in love with a wild seventeen-year-old beauty named Zelda Sayre. Zelda finally agreed to marry him, but her overpowering desire for wealth, fun, and leisure led her to delay their wedding until he could prove a success. With the publication of This Side of Paradise in 1920, Fitzgerald became a literary sensation, earning enough money and fame to convince Zelda to marry him.
Many of these events from Fitzgeralds early life appear in his most famous novel, The Great Gatsby, published in 1925. Like Fitzgerald, Nick Carraway is a thoughtful young man from Minnesota, educated at an Ivy League school (in Nicks case, Yale), who moves to New York after the war. Also similar to Fitzgerald is Jay Gatsby, a sensitive young man who idolizes wealth and luxury and who falls in love with a beautiful young woman while stationed at a military camp in the South.
Having become a celebrity, Fitzgerald fell into a wild, reckless life-style of parties and decadence, while desperately trying to please Zelda by writing to earn money. Similarly, Gatsby amasses a great deal of wealth at a relatively young age, and devotes himself to acquiring possessions and throwing parties that he believes will enable him to win Daisys love. As the giddiness of the Roaring Twenties dissolved into the bleakness of the Great Depression, however, Zelda suffered a nervous breakdown and Fitzgerald battled alcoholism, which hampered his writing. He published Tender Is the Night in 1934, and sold short stories to The Saturday Evening Post to support his lavish lifestyle. In 1937, he left for Hollywood to write screenplays, and in 1940, while working on his novel The Love of the Last Tycoon, died of a heart attack at the age of forty-four.
Fitzgerald was the most famous chronicler of 1920s America, an era that he dubbed the Jazz Age. Written in 1925, The Great Gatsby is one of the greatest literary documents of this period, in which the American economy soared, bringing unprecedented levels of prosperity to the nation. Prohibition, the ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution (1919), made millionaires out of bootleggers, and an underground culture of revelry sprang up. Sprawling private parties managed to elude police notice, and speakeasiessecret clubs that sold liquorthrived. The chaos and violence of World War I left America in a state of shock, and the generation that fought the war turned to wild and extravagant living to compensate. The staid conservatism and timeworn values of the previous decade were turned on their ear, as money, opulence, and exuberance became the order of the day.
Like Nick in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald found this new lifestyle seductive and exciting, and, like Gatsby, he had always idolized the very rich. Now he found himself in an era in which unrestrained materialism set the tone of society, particularly in the large cities of the East. Even so, like Nick, Fitzgerald saw through the glitter of the Jazz Age to the moral emptiness and hypocrisy beneath, and part of him longed for this absent moral center. In many ways, The Great Gatsby represents Fitzgeralds attempt to confront his conflicting feelings about the Jazz Age. Like Gatsby, Fitzgerald was driven by his love for a woman who symbolized everything he wanted, even as she led him toward everything he despised.
|Themes, Motifs & Symbols
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
The Decline of the American Dream in the 1920s
On the surface, The Great Gatsby is a story of the thwarted love between a man and a woman. The main theme of the novel, however, encompasses a much larger, less romantic scope. Though all of its action takes place over a mere few months during the summer of 1922 and is set in a circumscribed geographical area in the vicinity of Long Island, New York, The Great Gatsby is a highly symbolic meditation on 1920s America as a whole, in particular the disintegration of the American dream in an era of unprecedented prosperity and material excess.
Fitzgerald portrays the 1920s as an era of decayed social and moral values, evidenced in its overarching cynicism, greed, and empty pursuit of pleasure. The reckless jubilance that led to decadent parties and wild jazz musicepitomized in The Great Gatsby by the opulent parties that Gatsby throws every Saturday nightresulted ultimately in the corruption of the American dream, as the unrestrained desire for money and pleasure surpassed more noble goals. When World War I ended in 1918, the generation of young Americans who had fought the war became intensely disillusioned, as the brutal carnage that they had just faced made the Victorian social morality of early-twentieth-century America seem like stuffy, empty hypocrisy. The dizzying rise of the stock market in the aftermath of the war led to a sudden, sustained increase in the national wealth and a newfound materialism, as people began to spend and consume at unprecedented levels. A person from any social background could, potentially, make a fortune, but the American aristocracyfamilies with old wealthscorned the newly rich industrialists and speculators. Additionally, the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, which banned the sale of alcohol, created a thriving underworld designed to satisfy the massive demand for bootleg liquor among rich and poor alike.
Fitzgerald positions the characters of The Great Gatsby as emblems of these social trends. Nick and Gatsby, both of whom fought in World War I, exhibit the newfound cosmopolitanism and cynicism that resulted from the war. The various social climbers and ambitious speculators who attend Gatsbys parties evidence the greedy scramble for wealth. The clash between old money and new money manifests itself in the novels symbolic geography: East Egg represents the established aristocracy, West Egg the self-made rich. Meyer Wolfshiem and Gatsbys fortune symbolize the rise of organized crime and bootlegging.
As Fitzgerald saw it (and as Nick explains in Chapter 9), the American dream was originally about discovery, individualism, and the pursuit of happiness. In the 1920s depicted in the novel, however, easy money and relaxed social values have corrupted this dream, especially on the East Coast. The main plotline of the novel reflects this assessment, as Gatsbys dream of loving Daisy is ruined by the difference in their respective social statuses, his resorting to crime to make enough money to impress her, and the rampant materialism that characterizes her lifestyle. Additionally, places and objects in The Great Gatsby have meaning only because characters instill them with meaning: the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg best exemplify this idea. In Nicks mind, the ability to create meaningful symbols constitutes a central component of the American dream, as early Americans invested their new nation with their own ideals and values.
Nick compares the green bulk of America rising from the ocean to the green light at the end of Daisys dock. Just as Americans have given America meaning through their dreams for their own lives, Gatsby instills Daisy with a kind of idealized perfection that she neither deserves nor possesses. Gatsbys dream is ruined by the unworthiness of its object, just as the American dream in the 1920s is ruined by the unworthiness of its objectmoney and pleasure. Like 1920s Americans in general, fruitlessly seeking a bygone era in which their dreams had value, Gatsby longs to re-create a vanished pasthis time in Louisville with Daisybut is incapable of doing so. When his dream crumbles, all that is left for Gatsby to do is die; all Nick can do is move back to Minnesota, where American values have not decayed.
The Hollowness of the Upper Class
One of the major topics explored in The Great Gatsby is the sociology of wealth, specifically, how the newly minted millionaires of the 1920s differ from and relate to the old aristocracy of the countrys richest families. In the novel, West Egg and its denizens represent the newly rich, while East Egg and its denizens, especially Daisy and Tom, represent the old aristocracy. Fitzgerald portrays the newly rich as being vulgar, gaudy, ostentatious, and lacking in social graces and taste. Gatsby, for example, lives in a monstrously ornate mansion, wears a pink suit, drives a Rolls-Royce, and does not pick up on subtle social signals, such as the insincerity of the Sloanes invitation to lunch. In contrast, the old aristocracy possesses grace, taste, subtlety, and elegance, epitomized by the Buchanans tasteful home and the flowing white dresses of Daisy and Jordan Baker.
What the old aristocracy possesses in taste, however, it seems to lack in heart, as the East Eggers prove themselves careless, inconsiderate bullies who are so used to moneys ability to ease their minds that they never worry about hurting others. The Buchanans exemplify this stereotype when, at the end of the novel, they simply move to a new house far away rather than condescend to attend Gatsbys funeral. Gatsby, on the other hand, whose recent wealth derives from criminal activity, has a sincere and loyal heart, remaining outside Daisys window until four in the morning in Chapter 7 simply to make sure that Tom does not hurt her. Ironically, Gatsbys good qualities (loyalty and love) lead to his death, as he takes the blame for killing Myrtle rather than letting Daisy be punished, and the Buchanans bad qualities (fickleness and selfishness) allow them to remove themselves from the tragedy not only physically but psychologically.
Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the texts major themes.
Throughout the novel, places and settings epitomize the various aspects of the 1920s American society that Fitzgerald depicts. East Egg represents the old aristocracy, West Egg the newly rich, the valley of ashes the moral and social decay of America, and New York City the uninhibited, amoral quest for money and pleasure. Additionally, the East is connected to the moral decay and social cynicism of New York, while the West (including Midwestern and northern areas such as Minnesota) is connected to more traditional social values and ideals. Nicks analysis in Chapter 9 of the story he has related reveals his sensitivity to this dichotomy: though it is set in the East, the story is really one of the West, as it tells how people originally from west of the Appalachians (as all of the main characters are) react to the pace and style of life on the East Coast.
As in much of Shakespeares work, the weather in The Great Gatsby unfailingly matches the emotional and narrative tone of the story. Gatsby and Daisys reunion begins amid a pouring rain, proving awkward and melancholy; their love reawakens just as the sun begins to come out. Gatsbys climactic confrontation with Tom occurs on the hottest day of the summer, under the scorching sun (like the fatal encounter between Mercutio and Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet). Wilson kills Gatsby on the first day of autumn, as Gatsby floats in his pool despite a palpable chill in the aira symbolic attempt to stop time and restore his relationship with Daisy to the way it was five years before, in 1917.
The Green Light
Situated at the end of Daisys East Egg dock and barely visible from Gatsbys West Egg lawn, the green light represents Gatsbys hopes and dreams for the future. Gatsby associates it with Daisy, and in Chapter 1 he reaches toward it in the darkness as a guiding light to lead him to his goal. Because Gatsbys quest for Daisy is broadly associated with the American dream, the green light also symbolizes that more generalized ideal. In Chapter 9, Nick compares the green light to how America, rising out of the ocean, must have looked to early settlers of the new nation.
The Valley of Ashes
First introduced in Chapter 2, the valley of ashes between West Egg and New York City consists of a long stretch of desolate land created by the dumping of industrial ashes. It represents the moral and social decay that results from the uninhibited pursuit of wealth, as the rich indulge themselves with regard for nothing but their own pleasure. The valley of ashes also symbolizes the plight of the poor, like George Wilson, who live among the dirty ashes and lose their vitality as a result.
The Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg
The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are a pair of fading, bespectacled eyes painted on an old advertising billboard over the valley of ashes. They may represent God staring down upon and judging American society as a moral wasteland, though the novel never makes this point explicitly. Instead, throughout the novel, Fitzgerald suggests that symbols only have meaning because characters instill them with meaning. The connection between the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg and God exists only in George Wilsons grief-stricken mind. This lack of concrete significance contributes to the unsettling nature of the image. Thus, the eyes also come to represent the essential meaninglessness of the world and the arbitrariness of the mental process by which people invest objects with meaning. Nick explores these ideas in Chapter 8, when he imagines Gatsbys final thoughts as a depressed consideration of the emptiness of symbols and dreams.