F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is about to premiere (May 10 ,2013) with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the lead part of Jay Gatsby. Many American high school students may now look forward to reading The Great Gatsby to discover more about the story and character that the very popular actor Leonardo DiCaprio portrays.
That’s fine. The book is great literature and students should want to read one of the greatest American novels. But Gatsby’s story is intriguing on many different levels. Students would be further interested if teachers told them that the character Jay Gatsby is the modern equivalent of drug lord. The difference is that today in the United States, we have drug prohibition creating vast fortunes instead of 1920′s alcohol prohibition.
I think students would also be more interested if they saw the parallels between F.Scott Fitzgerald and Jay Gatsby. How Fitzgerald sought fortune through writing and how Gatsby sought fortune as a bootlegger to both impress and win over a woman. Fitzgerald reminds us how much money and sex is a major theme in everyone’s lives.
First-time Fitzgerald readers may not know too that upon his death, F.Scott Fitzgerald and his books were largely forgotten. It took popular author/humorist and friend Dorothy Parker, whose today’s modern popular equivalent in the U.S. might be David Sedaris, to edit and publish a book that began the author’s revival.
This is the book below that really started it all.
Before the revival, like Gatsby, Fitzgerald was sad and tragic figure. After the age of thirty, his life began to spiral.
Something that English high school teachers usually fail to mention is that Fitzgerald was a boozehound. This part of his life is chronicled in Budd Schulberg’s The Disenchanted. Budd Schulberg was a Hollywood scion, author of several notable books, and colleague of Fitzgerald during the Pat Hobby story days.
The cover of the paperback version is a little more telling about the connection with Fitzgerald.
I hope the movie will give students more insight into this fascinating period of American 1920′s history. American women had just been given the right to vote in 1919 and the “flappers” were blazing new trails. Automobiles were now widespread. Ford had only introduced the first Model T in 1908. Young people now had more freedom of mobility and the luxury of unchaperoned rumble seats. The end of World War I, jazz music, and a booming economy made “The Lost Generation” want to party like it was 1999.
But most importantly, the 1920′s encompassed the grand experiment called Prohibition. Fitzgerald purportedly modeled Jay Gatsby on a real-life character George Remus. The story of George Remus is one that is truly stranger than fiction. An incredibly interesting story that rivals Jay Gatsby and one that you would certainly never be told in bland American high school history books.