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F. Scott Fitzgerald on Writing ‘The Great Gatsby’

It’s getting to be Gatsby season! Summer marks a popular time to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s
The Great Gatsby. Of course, the novel’s drama begins and ends with the summer. But with
poetic descriptions like “the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like
children leaving a pleasant street at dusk,” capturing the sun setting on an outdoor dinner
party, one can understand why.

This Friday will see the premier of Baz Luhrmann’s hotly anticipated Gatsby fantasia, which
put the cool-headed moralist narrator, Nick Carraway, in a mental institution. While we can’t
ask Fitzgerald what he thinks about this latest adaptation, we can know what he thought about
a novel he considered to be his “imaginary eldest brother,” courtesy of excerpts from his letters
collected in F. Scott Fitzgerald On Writing, edited by Larry W. Phillipps. “From the start
Fitzgerald wanted The Great Gatsby to be a ‘consciously artistic achievement,’ something
‘beautiful and simple and intricately patterned,’” according to the book’s forward, written by
Charles Scribner III. (Every writer should own a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald On Writing; better
yet, write out the entire novel of The Great Gatsby, like Hunter S. Thompson did to learn what
beautiful writing felt like. Then, get Trimalchio, an early version, to read all the fat Fitzgerald

Though he had high hopes and put his entire heart into writing it, Fitzgerald would be shocked
to see the immortality this novel has been granted, other than being the highlight of his epitaph.
The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, when Fitzgerald was 29 years old, and had mixed
reviews and mediocre sales. Fitzgerald was only 44 when he died an alcoholic, struggling to
write and stay relevant, as unsold boxes of Gatsby rotted away in a warehouse. Five years
later, the U.S. military saved the book from obscurity by ordering 150,000 copies for the troops,
likely to promote the romanticism of a young war veteran who, though tragically, achieves the
American dream. On average, 500,000 copies are sold each year, and sales are way ahead
of reaching that number this year thanks to the film.

Part of its enduring legacy is due to The Great Gatsby being a Rorschach test. Some see it
as a celebration of the decadence of wealth, and others see it as a fable warning of the
repercussions of that shallow lifestyle. But everyone gets it all wrong, according to what I
personally take away from the book. Here's one of its greatest and most overlooked quotes:
“I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan
and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which
made us subtly inadaptable to Eastern life.” Being a Northern Californian, from a small cow
town no less, living in New York for the past seven years, this, to me, is what the book is all
about. But judge for yourself.

Now, in the author’s own words, here’s Fitzgerald on critics, how to succeed in the publishing
industry, and writing The Great Gatsby:

“While I have every hope and plan of finishing my novel [The Great Gatsby] in June, you know
how those things often come out, and even if it takes me ten times that long I cannot let it go
out unless it has the very best I’m capable of in it, or even, as I feel sometimes, something
better than I’m capable of.

To his editor Max Perkins, 1924

Letters, p. 182

“What I cut out of it [The Great Gatsby] both physically and emotionally would make another

In His Own Time, p. 156

“I myself didn’t know what Gatsby looked like or was engaged in and you felt it. If I’d known
and kept it from you you’d have been too impressed with my knowledge to protest. This is a
complicated idea but I’m sure you’ll understand. But I know now—and as a penalty for not
having known first, in other words to make sure, I’m going to tell more.”

To Max Perkins, 1925

Letters, p. 193

“My new novel appears in late March: The Great Gatsby. It represents about a year’s work
and I think it’s about ten years better than anything I’ve done. All my harsh smartness has
been kept ruthlessly out of it—it’s the greatest weakness in my work, distracting and disfiguring
it even when it calls up an isolated sardonic laugh. I don’t think this has a touch left. I wanted
to call it Trimalchio (it’s laid out on Long Island) but I was voted down by Zelda and everybody

To Ernest Boyd, 1925

Letters, pg. 497

“If the book [The Great Gatsby] fails commercially it will be from one of two reasons or both.

First, the title is only fair, rather bad than good.

Second and most important, the book contained no important woman character, and
women control the fiction market at present. I don’t think the unhappy end matters particularly.”

To Max Perkins, 1925

Letters, p. 201

“Suggested line for [book] jacket: ‘Show transition from his early exuberant stories of youth
which created a new type of American girl and the later and more serious mood which
produced The Great Gatsby and marked him as one of the half-dozen masters of the English
prose now writing in America…What other writer has shown such unexpected developments,
such versatility, changes of pace,’ etc., etc., etc. I think that, toned down as you see fit, is the
general line. Don’t say ‘Fitzgerald has done it!’ and then in the next sentence that I am an
artist. People who are interested in artists aren’t interested in people who have ‘done it.’ Both

are O.K. but don’t belong in the same ad. This is an author’s quibble. All authors have one

However, you have always done well by me (except for Black’s memorable excretion
in the Alumni Weekly, do you remember—‘Make it a Fitzgerald Christmas!’) and I leave it to

To Max Perkins on The Great Gatsby, 1925

Letters, p. 211

“To circle nearer to this book [The Great Gatsby], one woman who could hardly have written
a coherent letter in English, described it as a book that one reads only as one goes to the
movies around the corner. That type of criticism is what a lot of young writers are being greeted
with, instead of any appreciation of the world of imagination in which they (the writers) have
been trying, with greater or lesser success, to live…”

In His Own Words, p. 156

“…In dealing with figures as remote as a bootlegger and crook to most of us [The Great
Gatsby], I was not afraid of heightening and melodramatizing any scenes; and I was thinking
that in your novel I would like to pass on this theory to you for what it is worth. Such advice
from fellow craftsmen has been a great help to me in the past, indeed I believe it was Ernest
Hemingway who developed to me, in conversation, that the dying fall was preferable to the
dramatic ending under certain conditions, and I think we both got the germ of the idea from

To John Peale Bishop, 1934

Letters, p. 388-389

“I agree with you entirely, as goes without saying, in your analysis of Gatsby. He was perhaps
created on the image of some forgotten farm type of Minnesota that I have known and
forgotten, and associated at the same moment with some sense of romance. It might interest
you to know that a story of mine, called ‘Absolution,’ in my book All the Sad Young Men was
intended to be a picture of his early life, but that I cut it because I preferred to preserve a sense
of mystery.”

To John Jamieson, 1934

Letters, p. 529

“[My books] have alternated between being selective and blown up. Paradise and Gatsby were
selective; The Beautiful and Damned and Tender aimed at being full and comprehensive—
either could be cut by one-fourth, especially the former. (Of course they were cut that much

but not enough.) The difference is that in these last two I wrote everything, hoping to cut to
interest. In This Side of Paradise (in a crude way) and in Gatsby I selected the stuff to fit a
given mood or “hauntedness” or whatever you might call it, rejecting in advance in Gatsby, for
instance, all of the ordinary material for Long Island, big crooks, adultery theme and always
starting from the small focal point that impressed—my own meeting with Arnold Rothstein for

To Corey Ford, 1937

Letters, p. 573

"Books are like brothers. I am an only child. Gatsby [is] my imaginary eldest brother."

The Crack-up, p. 84

“I expect to be back on my novel [The Last Tycoon] any day and this time to finish, a two
month’s job. The months go so fast that even Tender is the Night is six years away. I think the
nine years that intervened between The Great Gatsby and Tender hurt my reputation almost
beyond repair because a whole generation grew up in the meanwhile to whom I was only a
writer of Post stories. I don’t suppose anyone will be much interested in what I have to say this
time and it may be the last novel I’ll ever write, but it must be done now because, after fifty,
one is different. One can’t remember emotionally, I think, except about childhood but I have a
few more things left to say.”

To Zelda Fitzgerald, 1940

Letters, p. 146

“From the start Fitzgerald wanted The Great Gatsby to be a ‘consciously artistic achievement,’
something ‘beautiful and simple and intricately patterned,’” according to the book’s forward,
written by Charles Scribner III.
The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, when Fitzgerald was 29 years old, and had mixed
reviews and mediocre sales.


The Great Gatsby Line That Came

From Fitzgerald's Life—and Inspired
a Novel
F. Scott and Zelda's turbulent marriage gave both spouses material to write about,
which in turn became writing material for subsequent generations of authors.

By Heart is a series in which authors share and discuss their all-time favorite
passages in literature.

Doug McLean

In 1939, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald stirred up one last fiasco--a disastrous and booze-fueled
trip to Cuba. They had been separated. Zelda lived in Asheville's Highland Hospital, where
she was institutionalized after suffering from anxiety and hearing imaginary voices; Scott left
from Hollywood, where a screenwriting job for MGM stalled his fiction and depressed him
terribly. We know very little about the trip, except that it was the last time they saw each other.
Scott died less than two years later, succumbing to his weakened heart and broken spirit.
Zelda perished in a North Carolina asylum, when a fire broke out and she, locked in a room
awaiting electroshock therapy, could not escape.

Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald differs from recent Zelda-themed
novels (Z, Call Me Zelda) by maintaining a tight focus on that Cuba trip, two dimmed stars' last
grasp at love and happiness. The author, R. Clifton Spargo, dramatizes the few established
historical events (we know, for instance, that Scott was beaten up for trying to stop a cockfight)
and fills in the gaps and silences with moments of his own invention. Key to his depiction of
the couple's torrid relationship is the literary competitiveness that thrived between them. As
he writes in his essay for this series, both Zelda and Scott borrowed heavily from life--and from
each other--to make their art, and they both criticized the other's plagiaristic tendencies. But
what right do writers have to borrow from real people, and what should stay put in the domain
of private life?

R. Clifton Spargo, a graduate of the doctoral program in literature at Yale University and the
Iowa Writer's Workshop, is currently the Provost's Fellow in Fiction at the University of Iowa.
He writes the "HI/LO" cultural criticism blog for The Huffington Post and publishes fiction in
literary magazines like The Kenyon Review.

"It'll show you how I've gotten to feel about--things. Well, she was less than an hour old and
Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling and
asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned
my head away and wept. 'All right,' I said. 'I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool--that's
the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.'"
--Daisy Buchanan, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

R. Clifton Spargo: Invention begins in the middle of things, torn from the messiness of the
world around us. Most good writing plunders life, often the most intimate moments in life, but
at what cost? As writers we treat our own experiences, and also other people's everyday lives,
as the raw material of literature--though it's difficult to tell, as you wade through the now, which
experiences will trouble your imagination long and hard enough to contribute to a story worth
telling in the long run.


Will the Real Great Gatsby Please Stand Up?

F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t resist putting his own life into his novels, but where’s the line
between truth and fiction?

Years after he wrote The Great Gatsby, in the back leaf of another book, F. Scott Fitzgerald
scribbled a list of his most famous novel’s nine chapters. Next to each one, he wrote down his
sources. There were the old-money, polo-playing Rumsies and Hitchcocks and the impressive
parties thrown by movie director Allan Dwan and by Herbert Bayard Swope, the editor of the
New York World. There were his own memories, of the ash heaps, of days spent in New York
City, and, in particular, of one wedding—the wedding of Ginevra King, his first love. Out of the
whole book, he marked only three chapters as “an invention,” “inv” or “all an invention.”

Fitzgerald did not mean for The Great Gatsby to draw heavily from his own life. His first book,
This Side of Paradise, had lifted from his days as a Princeton student, and his second, The
Beautiful and the Damned, from his relationship with his wife, Zelda. As he was beginning to
start work on the novel that would become The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald wrote to his editor,
Max Perkins, complaining that, at 27, he had dumped more of his personal experiences into
his fiction than anyone else he knew. This next novel, his new novel, would be different. “In
my new novel I'm thrown directly on purely creative work,“ he wrote, “not trashy imaginings as
in my stories but the sustained imagination of a sincere and yet radiant world.”

But as he wrote his book, he ended up drawing on the rowdy elegance of the Roaring Twenties
milieu in which he lived to recreate that radiant world.

"He's borrowing from various kinds of sources to get his story across,“ says Scott Donaldson,
the author of the Fitzgerald biography Fool for Love. "But he's really writing about himself in
the book. And that's why it's so intimate and why it still resonates, I think."

To create Jay Gatsby, though, Fitzgerald also borrowed from the lives of other men, and
devotees have been trying to pin down his real-life inspirations for decades. “The search for
Gatsby has been one that preoccupied and eluded scholars and continues to,” says Bryant
Mangum, a professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University and the editor of F.
Scott Fitzgerald in Context. “There are many, many models for Gatsby.”

It’s pretty well agreed upon that Fitzgerald took Gatsby’s backstory from his friend Robert Kerr.
In the novel, Gatsby’s rise to riches begins when, out rowing on Lake Superior, he meets a
yacht owner and winds up working on the boat as a body man and confidante. As a young
man, Kerr had rowed out to warn a “mysterious yachtsman” of a dangerous tide and had
signed on to his service. Like Gatsby’s yacht owner, Dan Cody, Kerr's yachtsman had a saucy,
famous journalist for a mistress—Nellie Bly.

But this is just the beginning of Gatsby’s career, a story he keeps secret. By the time the novel
begins, the man who rowed out to the yacht, the young, striving James Gatz, has already
transformed into Jay Gatsby—the mansion dweller who throws lavish parties, the
businessman whose business dealings are not clearly honest, the bootlegger who’s obsessed
with winning Daisy back.

The Great Gatsby is set in “West Egg” and “East Egg”—Long Island communities based,
respectively, on Manhasset and Great Neck, where the Fitzgeralds had moved with their
newborn daughter in 1922. As they got to know their fun-loving Great Neck neighbors, they
met more than one man who might have served as the model for this Gatsby. "I have
unearthed some of the choicest bootleggers," Zelda wrote to a friend not long after the move.
One of Fitzgerald’s closest friends, Edmund “Bunny” Wilson, wrote a play in which a character
who very much resembles Fitzgerald describes his new novel’s protagonist: "He's a gentleman
bootlegger; his name is Max Fleischman. He lives like a millionaire." In the margins of his copy
of the play, Fitzgerald wrote, “I had told Bunny my plan for Gatsby.”

Later in his life, Fitzgerald wrote to his friend John Peale Bishop that Gatsby "started out as
one man I knew and then changed into myself." There are a couple of other clues, however,
that a certain bootlegger, Max Gerlach, was the “one man” Gatsby began as. Arthur Mizener,
a Fitzgerald biographer, wrote that Zelda, later in her life, said that a man named “von Gerlach”
was the model for Gatsby. And in 1923 Gerlach wrote a note to the author, which Fitzgerald’s
daughter, Scottie, kept. It ends with Gatsby’s signature phrase, which appears 45 times in the
novel: “Enroute from the coast—Here for a few days on business—How are you and the family
old sport?”

But playing this game gets frustrating. Matthew Bruccoli, the leading Fitzgerald scholar for
decades, was convinced that there was more to find out about the connection between
Gerlach and Gatsby. At one point, he hired a private investigator to track down more of
Gerlach’s history. Around the same time, another Fitzgerald scholar, Horst Kruse, was digging
into the connections between Gerlach and Fitzgerald as well.

But although these scholars (and the private detective) learned more about Gerlach’s life, the
more details they turned up, the less likely it seemed that Fitzgerald modeled Gatsby directly
on Gerlach, who was not just a bootlegger, but spent many less glamorous years as a car

This is where this game starts to lose its charm: the more you try to match Fitzgerald’s fiction
up with his life, the more tenuous the connections become.

“When I began to study Fitzgerald, it looked very easy,“ says Fitzgerald scholar James L.W.
West, III, who has written most extensively about Ginevra King, Fitzgerald's own first love.
“You read about his life and you read his novels, and you said oh”—that person becomes that
character. “The further you go with Fitzgerald, the more complicated it becomes.”

Some characters do seem to have straightforward inspirations. The golfer Jordan Baker, a
close friend of Gatsby's long-lost love, Daisy Buchanan, is based on golfer Edith Cummings,
the first female athlete to appear on the cover of Time magazine and a close friend of Ginevra.
Meyer Wolfsheim, the underworld connection who, Fitzgerald intimates, is one source of
Gatsby’s mysterious fortune, fixed the 1919 World Series—just like Chicago gambler Arnold
Rothstein was rumored to have done.

A mirror of sorts, art is often a reflection of how an artist sees life or wishes to see life.
Regarded as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most notable work of literary art, The Great Gatsby whispers
with echoes of the author’s personal experiences. In the introduction to The Far Side of
Paradise: A Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Arthur Mizener notes, “[Fitzgerald]
always…wrote about himself or about people and things with which he was intimate. As a
consequence his life is inextricably bound up in his works” (xviii). In The Great Gatsby, aspects
of Fitzgerald’s life are reflected in the construction of the conflicted narrator, the depiction of
the complex title character, and the lavish portrayal of upper-class life in 1920s America.

In The Great Gatsby, the background of the narrator, Nick Carraway, parallels the real-life
biography of the book’s author, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, in many ways. Carraway and
Fitzgerald were Minnesota-bred sons of well-to-do families, Ivy League-educated
Midwesterners who ventured east after World War I for opportunities in the bond business and
writing, respectively.

In his literary study titled The Art of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sergio Perosa writes, “Nick Carraway
is defined as the perfect narrator. He has learned from his father to suspend judgment (which
is an essential element for ‘objectivity’),” making him a sympathetic, understanding, good
listener full of decency (62). Carraway opens his narration of The Great Gatsby with the advice
his father had imparted to him: “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone…just remember that
all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had” (Fitzgerald 5).
Likewise, Fitzgerald was reared with the notions of honor and humility. In his biography of the
author, Mizener explains that Fitzgerald’s father taught him the code of the Southern
gentleman, the belief in good manners and right instincts. Mizener recounts anecdotes of
Fitzgerald’s sympathetic nature toward his friends and colleagues. “[Fitzgerald] always saw
what others were feeling and sympathized with them, especially if he himself had imposed on
them…” (Mizener xix).

Even though Carraway is positioned as an objective observer with a vision of “precious

detachment,” he also “becomes a participant in the story, a kind of fictional ‘go-between,’ who
can be at the same time ‘within and without’” (Perosa 62). The story is seen through the eyes
of Carraway, who views the newly rich inhabitants of West Egg and the old money residents
of East Egg with awe, intrigue, pity and disgust. Thinking but not expressing his views allows
him to be an insider looking in, living amongst and socializing with people he might otherwise
disassociate himself with, because as his father snobbishly suggests, “a sense of fundamental
decencies is parceled out unequally at birth” (Fitzgerald 6). Regarding Jay Gatsby’s grandiose
parties, Carraway notes, “I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited”
(Fitzgerald 45). Even amidst guests who concoct gossip about the ambiguous life story of their
host— a German spy killer or the devil’s second cousin— Carraway concedes, “I could see
nothing sinister about [Gatsby]” (54). Of Jordan Baker, the woman with whom he would strike
up a love affair, Carraway readily admits, “she was incurably dishonest,” but “it made no
difference to me. Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply…” (63).

In much the same way, Fitzgerald never knew whom he would encounter in his social circle
of movers and shakers and was reluctant to judge them. The world of Ivy Leaguers and self-
made businessmen and the vestiges of money and culture were sometimes populated by
people with shady pasts who built their newfound wealth in less than upright ways. “This was
the world Fitzgerald grew up in, desiring with all the intensity of his nature to succeed according
to its standards and always conscious of hovering socially on the edge of it, alternating
between assertion and uncertainty because of his acute awareness that his foothold was
unsure” (Mizener 13). Subsequently, Fitzgerald, whose collegiate career was marked by
exclusion from certain sports and clubs, felt simultaneously a part of, as well as apart from,
distinguished society. “This power of understanding and of sympathy, with the feeling of
intimacy it bred, that Fitzgerald at his best brought to his personal relations carries over into
his best stories and gives these stories an effect unique in twentieth-century fiction” (Mizener

Thus, Fitzgerald’s personal experience with duality affects his literary technique. “His use of a
narrator allowed Fitzgerald to keep clearly separated…the two sides of his nature, the middle-
western Trimalchio and the spoiled priest who disapproved of but grudgingly admired him.
Fitzgerald shuffled back and forth between their attitudes…” (Mizener 185). Fitzgerald was a

part of two worlds, the Middle West represented by Carraway’s efforts to hold fast to its simple
virtues, and the East exemplified by Gatsby’s corruption by its urban sophistication and
culture. Like Fitzgerald, Carraway lived internally, reflecting deeply on life as he lived it and
fighting to resolve his inner conflict with his surroundings. Both were watchers of life who, at
once, aspired to reach great heights but also were hesitant to take the falls of the morally
dishonest examples that they witnessed.

As the conflicted narrator, Carraway states his dual advantage and dilemma. “Everyone
suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few
honest people that I have ever known” (Fitzgerald 64). Eventually, Carraway’s point-of-view
bestows heroism upon Gatsby’s pitiable life. “They’re a rotten crowd,” Carraway tells Gatsby,
a romantic fool whose simple, Midwestern belief in love is corrupted by the Eastern obsession
with vacuous wealth into which the likes of Tom and Daisy Buchanan escape responsibility.
“You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” Ever torn in his assessments, Carraway
claims, “I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave [Gatsby],
because I disapproved of him from beginning to end” (Fitzgerald 162).

While Mizener’s biography of Fitzgerald describes how the famed author attempted to resolve
his inner turmoil by drinking or committing suicide, in his novel, Fitzgerald creates for Carraway
a more noble resolution to his disillusions with the reality of what money can and cannot buy.
In the end, instead of giving in to the East’s pressures, Carraway returns to the West’s
innocence, to what is comfortable and familiar, the simple life. “Nick [Carraway] having learned
just how much brutal stupidity and carelessness exist beneath the charm and even the pathos
of [the East’s corrupt wealthy], goes back to the West, to the country he remembers from…his
boyhood…” (Mizener 190).

In The Great Gatsby, the tragic account of the title character, Jay Gatsby, also reflects the
personal experiences of author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gatsby and Fitzgerald were romantics who
embarked on love affairs during military service, made new money early in life and hosted
wild parties to impress the women they loved. Gatsby and Fitzgerald succumbed to the
decadent lifestyle, eventually losing themselves in the affection they had for their lovers,
Daisy Buchanan and Zelda Sayre, respectively.

In the novel, the poor North Dakota farm boy, who was born James Gatz, fabricated the
greatness of the great Gatsby. “The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island,
sprang from his Platonic conception of himself,” Fitzgerald writes about his enigmatic title
character. “He invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be

likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end” (104). Similarly, Fitzgerald
also gave into egocentrism and extravagance. In The Far Side of Paradise: A Biography of F.
Scott Fitzgerald, Arthur Mizener describes how Fitzgerald utilized a “dramatic power on
which he depended to charm and entertain people. He did not expect people to believe most
of what he said; part of the fun was that it was not true” (130).

In contrast to Nick Carraway, Gatsby lived externally, struggling to draw joy from things
outside himself, such as the physical representations of his materialism and the people who
are drawn to him for his riches. Gatsby’s home symbolizes his dream-come-true and his
sense of self as a member of high society. Showing it off for the first time to the woman who
passed him over to marry a rich man five years earlier, “[Gatsby] revalued everything in his
house according to the measure of response it drew from [Daisy’s] well-loved eyes”
(Fitzgerald 96-97). In response to Daisy’s inability to comprehend how Gatsby lived alone in
his mansion, Gatsby boasts, “I keep it always full of interesting people, night and day. People
who do interesting things. Celebrated people” (Fitzgerald 96). Yet, the detachment, loneliness
and mystery surrounding Gatsby is perpetuated by the vicious gossip of “those who accepted
Gatsby’s hospitality and paid him the subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him”
(Fitzgerald 65).

Like Gatsby, Fitzgerald believed a man was judged by the company he kept and felt the need
to fit into elite circles via association. During his collegiate years, Fitzgerald’s stature made
him unsuitable for the socially revered football team. “There were besides football other,
though less powerful, means of a becoming a Big Man,” including the Triangle Club of
which Fitzgerald was a member (Mizener 33). Such clubs provided a social grading system.
“Not to make a club constitutes failure; and a man’s success is measured by the prestige of
the club to which he is elected” (Mizener 34). Fitzgerald’s need to impress extended to
matters of the heart. “As with every important act of his life, [Fitzgerald] made out of falling
in love with [Zelda] an act of identification and dedication. Like Gatsby, ‘he took [her] one
still…night…[and] found that he had committed himself…He felt married to her, that was
all’” (82). Yet, like the fictional Daisy, Zelda did not commit as easily. During their
courtship, Fitzgerald complained that Zelda’s desire for “luxury and largeness beyond
anything her world provided” made her “question whether he was ever going to make enough
money for them to marry and live as she wished to” (Mizener 83-85).

The desperate need to amass a fortune to win the affections of a woman made both Gatsby
and Fitzgerald hunt down success like hungry animals. Fitzgerald peddled his writing to
advertising and magazine projects, while Gatsby profited by dabbling in organized crime.
They have unequal success in winning over the loves of their lives. In The Art of F. Scott
Fitzgerald, Sergio Perosa proposes that the sentimental intentions of the “dubious
gangster…in part redeem his coarse manners and his shady background” (64). Perosa writes,
“Gatsby reveals more and more of his contrasting aspects of modesty, ambiguous power, and
questionable respectability…[Gatsby] has made his fortune for [Daisy], and for her he has
bought his house in West Egg and given his parties (in the hope of meeting her by chance)”
(64). While Gatsby and Fitzgerald share a love for leisure, schmoozing and socializing,
Gatsby is “far from participating in the drunken sprees of his guests” (Perosa 64). On the
other hand, Fitzgerald actually wins his woman and they bond in their untamed social
escapades. During wild days on the party circuit, “[Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald] played their
parts as the prince and princess of the confident and eager kingdom of youth…” (Mizener
137). Recounting stories of Fitzgerald’s drunken displays of mischief and near-misses with

the law, Mizener adds “…there were a great many parties in New York; Fitzgerald as usual
provided a good deal of the fun and some of the serious trouble” (83).

The sad lesson of the lives of the author and the character he created is that the need to dream
dies when overindulgence overtakes a person and he receives everything he desires. Life was
not perfect for Fitzgerald after he had achieved his dream of a newly successful career and
marriage. “For a moment the delights of anticipation remained a part of the achievement. At
the same time Fitzgerald knew that fulfillment destroys the dream” (Mizener 129). This
sentiment is expressed in The Great Gatsby when the title character’s self-centeredness
makes him cry out incredulously, “Can’t repeat the past?…Why of course you can!”
(Fitzgerald 116). Gatsby wants the past that he and Daisy shared, but the new Daisy cannot
give it to him. “A long-cherished, sentimental illusion can be shattered by a mere brush with
reality…Gatsby’s enormous dream is bound to suffer from any contact with
reality…[Gatsby] has ‘paid a high price for living too long with a single dream’…He wanted
to repeat the past, and the present fails him. He wanted to make up for his loss, and a greater
loss awaits him” (Perosa 64-68). Despite his perceived self-absorption, Gatsby is willing to
take the blame for the car accident in which Daisy kills her husband’s mistress, Myrtle
Wilson; ultimately, this most selfless act leads to Gatsby’s death at the hands of Myrtle’s
enraged husband, George Wilson.

Ironically, Gatsby and Fitzgerald both led farfetched lives that ended in tragic deaths. When
Fitzgerald’s writing career began to flourish, he began showing off his money in seemingly
tasteless ways. Eventually, “[Fitzgerald] saw his own rise from poverty to affluence as an
illustration of the terrible, meaningless power of money” (Mizener 103). Fitzgerald had his
own longings for the past. Focussed on their happier days together, Fitzgerald struggled with
the hope that Zelda would recover from her mental illness, “trying as always to preserve that
past, with all its enormous investment of feelings, that he would never know again” (Mizener
259). After battling with bad press, drinking spells and deteriorating health, Fitzgerald died of
a heart attack in Hollywood. “He was buried with a flurry of ironies even thicker than he had
himself dared to devise for Gatsby” (Mizener 336). His body was laid out in an undertaker’s
parlor “on the other side of the tracks” relative to Beverly Hills. “He was not placed in the
chapel but in a back room,” and, like Gatsby’s funeral in the novel, “almost no one came to
see him” (Mizener 336). Fitzgerald’s body was shipped to Maryland, but his wish to be
buried alongside his father’s family was denied because “his books were proscribed and he
had not died a good Catholic” (Mizener 336).

In addition to the comparisons that can be drawn between Fitzgerald and the narrator and title
character of The Great Gatsby, the depiction of upper-class life in the 1920s is illuminated by
the author’s own experiences, as well. In The Far Side of Paradise: A Biography of F. Scott
Fitzgerald, Arthur Mizener suggests that Fitzgerald’s work “connected him in many people’s
minds with ‘the Jazz Age,’ so that he was for them both the historian— ‘the laureate’— of the
post-war generation and its exemplar” (xxii).

The Great Gatsby is a novel about ambition and excess, reflecting Fitzgerald’s fascination with
the reckless abandon of the Jazz Age. Post-war blues were drowned in the alcohol that
Constitutional Prohibition could not stop. Achievement and success fed relaxed morals,
earning people the money they needed to set aside their stuffy standards and buy a rollicking
good time. In the preface to The Great Gatsby, the University of South Carolina’s Mathew J.
Bruccoli notes, “The novel is appropriately set in the get-rich-quick decade that brought about
the organization of crime as a concomitant of Prohibition,” hence, Gatsby’s involvement in
bootlegging and stolen securities (x). According to the story of the great Gatsby, underhanded
deeds could buy the extravagant lifestyle of the fashionable East Egg for those who lived in
the less fashionable West Egg—a notion that did not sit well with those who came from a long
line of wealth.

The narrator describes Gatsby’s showy attempts to live like the rich by hosting ribald parties
where a Rolls-Royce brings endless streams of guests from the city to his mansion to enjoy a
catered buffet, cocktail bar and big orchestra. “There was music from [Gatsby’s] house through
the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the
whisperings and the champagne and the stars…they conducted themselves according to the
rules of behavior associated with amusement parks” (Fitzgerald 43-45). Subsequently, the
social codes of the 1920s condoned exclusion and looking down on others. Daisy, the one
woman Gatsby wants to impress with these parties, “was appalled by West Egg…appalled by
its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive fate that herded
its inhabitants along a short cut from nothing to nothing” (Fitzgerald 114). Daisy goes on to
complain, “Lots of people come who haven’t been invited…They simply force their way in and
[Gatsby’s] too polite to object” (Fitzgerald 115). Guests raise a ruckus as Gatsby’s parties
come to a close, lamenting the fact that all good things—including the celebratory era itself—
must come to an end. When the revelry ends, life seems to end with it. “A sudden emptiness
seemed to flow now from the windows and the great doors, endowing with complete isolation
the figure of the host who stood on the porch, his hand up in a formal gesture of farewell”
(Fitzgerald 60).

Life mirroring fiction, Fitzgerald and his wife lived like the characters in his stories who “had
set out to fulfill their vision of the good life, a life essentially passive and dependent on outside
stimuli, a confused and pathetic vision of beautiful, ‘civilized’ places, ‘interesting,’ well-to-do
people…They ended in emotional bankruptcy” (Mizener 238). Depression strikes when the
money runs out, and the friends with it. Financial difficulties led Fitzgerald “to think of vitality
as if it were a fixed sum, like money in the bank. Against this account you drew until, piece by
piece, the sum was spent and you found yourself emotionally bankrupt” (Mizener 273). In
many of his works, Fitzgerald linked money to vitality. “Somewhere very deep in his
imagination that complicated tangle of feelings he had about the rich interlocked with his
feelings about the delight of vitality and the horror of its exhaustion” (Mizener 275). Though he
wrote about the lives of the rich, it was a life Fitzgerald could not live, and financial straits led
his wife Zelda to a sanitarium and led Fitzgerald to drink. This process of deterioration
coincides with the deterioration of the overindulgence that marked the Jazz Age of the 1920s
into the destitution of the Depression Era of the 1930s.

Winning haunted Fitzgerald’s mind constantly, but the sins and social pressures of the Jazz
Age would make him suffer great losses, as did the great character in one of his best-known

books. Gatsby never won his prize—Daisy—and lost his life for her. In The Art of F. Scott
Fitzgerald, Sergio Perosa writes, “Too many forces, besides his sentimental weakness, are at
work against [Gatsby] for him to escape his doom. He is doomed for having lived too long with
a single, impossible dream, defeated by social opposition, trampled down by a world of moral
corruption and carelessness” (70). Tragically, the people who flocked to Gatsby’s parties
avoided his funeral, prompting one character to announce a major lesson: “Let us learn to
show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead” (Fitzgerald 180).
Acknowledgment in all forms— socially, romantically, financially— is better appreciated when
a person is here to receive it. “Like Gatsby…Fitzgerald loved reputation, the public
acknowledgment of genuine achievement…He lived, finally, to give that chaos in his head
shape in his books and to see the knowledge that he had done so reflected back to him from
the world. He died believing he had failed” (Mizener 338).

In conclusion, “[F. Scott Fitzgerald] lived a colorful life and, in the end, a disastrous one, which
is no less moving because much of the disaster was of his own making” (Mizener xvii). The
life of F. Scott Fitzgerald was “a life at once representative and dramatic, at moments a
charmed and beautiful success…and at moments disastrous beyond the invention of the most
macabre imagination” (Mizener 1). Fitzgerald injected these complex experiences into his
work. The Great Gatsby “vibrates with the intensely personal participation of the author, who
infuses into his characters the warmth and depth of his own feeling” (Perosa 74). In The Great
Gatsby, the characters of Carraway and Gatsby are flip sides of the same coin, two sides of
the same man. Fitzgerald uses his classic novel as a mirror, forcing these two sides to face
each other and, thus, bring to light the hypocrisy of the Jazz Age’s high life. “All his life
[Fitzgerald] had depended on his belief that he could hold the part of himself that responded
to experiences without restraint and the morally responsible part of himself, the spoiled priest,
in reasonable balance” (Mizener 304). By reflecting his personal experiences in the fabric of
the priestly Carraway and the unrestrained Gatsby, Fitzgerald imparts the novel’s cardinal
lesson: The spoils of the good life can spoil a good man if he allows it.

Eyeing the Unreal Estate of Gatsby Esq.


The house where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived from 1922 to 1924 on Gateway Drive in Great Neck, N.Y.
Credit Joshua Bright for The New York Times

IF the measure of the great American novel is whether thousands of people will pay to watch
a staged reading of its every word in a single seating, interrupted only by a meal and maybe
a sipped Manhattan or six, then Jonathan Whatshisname’s latest doorstopper is not your book.
“The Great Gatsby” is.

In “Gatz,” the marathon rendering of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s text that began its run at the Public
Theater this week, a present-day office worker happens on a paperback and begins to read
aloud. Eight hours or so later, he arrives at what must be the most cited final line in the
American canon: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the

But rest your oars awhile. Board the Long Island Rail Road. Watch the gap. Be borne back
into the past over tracks that will lead you to Fitzgerald’s Eggs, East and West, which he placed
in “the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound,” a half-hour from Manhattan by train, not
much longer by Rolls-Royce.

That is if you can find this place. Long Island was the setting for the novel, but discovering
what’s left of its 1920s Gold Coast splendor — either the real thing or Fitzgerald’s vivid gilt
invention — is as much a job for a receptive imagination as it is for a Google map with a
homing device directed to locate a certain green beacon. It’s a diverting exercise, though, and
the railroad is an excellent starting point. After all, it ferried party guests to Gatsby, whose
“station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains.”

Fitzgerald himself knew it well. He and Zelda lived at 6 Gateway Drive in Great Neck, N.Y., on
the Port Washington line, from October 1922 to April 1924. He seeded his masterpiece there,
drawing on his own experiences on “that slender riotous island,” and in a room above the
garage turning out short stories that prefigured “Gatsby.” Who knows how much of the final
draft he actually wrote at 6 Gateway, but he had sketched his vision for it three months before
he got to Great Neck in a letter to his Scribners editor, Maxwell Perkins: “I want to write
something new — something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned.”

What had been a modest house inhabited carelessly and extravagantly by the constantly cash-
deprived Fitzgeralds is a significantly updated swell private residence now, a brisk walk from
the Great Neck L.I.R.R. station, around the corner from “Yanni’s Furs, Shearlings, Leather,
Outerwear.” A basketball hoop stands in front of the garage, and one of those decorated cow
sculptures that were exhibited all around New York City a few years ago is on the front lawn.
There’s no “F. Scott Slept Here” to guide you — who wants literary pilgrims camped out on
the driveway? — but this is the place where the flapper and the philosopher lived and loved
and drank, and where the embryonic Tom and Daisy, Myrtle and Wilson, Nick and Gatsby
began to take shape.

It’s not the grail of the Gold Coast, though. That would be some gaudy pile that served as the
inspiration for the Gatsby mansion in arriviste West Egg (the Kings Point end of the Great
Neck peninsula), or, better yet, the Buchanan house in old-gold East Egg (the Sands Point
end of the Port Washington peninsula), where Gatsby directed his gaze across Manhasset
Bay to fixate on the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. You won’t find either. Not definitively.

But on the seasonal Great Gatsby Boat Tour around the bay, the host, Eleanor Cox, invites
passengers to select a mansion from the many, new and old, along the shores and assign it
to Gatsby, then pivot and assign a corresponding house across the water to the Buchanans.
Depending on your taste and imagination, you could end up choosing a house now owned by
a founder of Arizona Iced Tea, or one once inhabited by Groucho Marx and today, Ms. Cox
announces, by Bill O’Reilly.

A large, white-columned Sands Point estate called Lands End, now in disrepair as developers
seek to tear it down and subdivide the lot, is the one most frequently invoked as the inspiration
for the Buchanan residence. When it was put up for sale in 2002, the real estate notices
boasted unequivocally that it was. That’s because it was the home of the newspaperman
Herbert Bayard Swope and his wife, Margaret, and the Fitzgeralds were among the theater
and literary set at the Swopes’ famous parties. At least they were until Margaret disinvited
them after Zelda stripped at one party and tried to seduce Margaret’s shy adolescent brother,
who was terrified, writes Judith S. Goldstein in her book “Inventing Great Neck: Jewish Identity
and the American Dream.” Ms. Goldstein quotes a 1931 account: "That was it for Margaret.
Zelda was out. ‘Not with my brother, sister! Not in my house, Mrs. F!’ ”

You can see how Fitzgerald might have drawn inspiration for the novel’s raucous parties.

But wait. The Swopes did not move to “East Egg” until the Fitzgeralds had bolted for France;
they lived in “West Egg” then (actually Great Neck), and it was their house on East Shore
Road there, near Fitzgerald’s good friend and partner in alcoholism, Ring Lardner, that was
the scene of those early bacchanals. This first Swope house no longer exists, but the Lardner
house, at 325 East Shore Road, does.

“Fitzgerald and Ring Lardner used to sit and look across the water” from the porch in the
evening, drinking and taking in the scene, said Ruth Prigozy, executive director of the F. Scott
Fitzgerald Society and author of an illustrated biography of Fitzgerald. The house is near the
mouth of Manhasset Bay, where the opposite shore is quite near, and where no doubt there

once were plenty of lights and docks to choose from (though not in exclusive Sands Point).
You can’t see much of that view from the road now; newer houses obscure what Fitzgerald
must have seen before he wrote this line for Nick:

“I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor’s lawn, and the consoling proximity of

According to Ms. Goldstein, “that kind of social tension that he was so sensitive to is not there”
anymore. At the time, however, she writes in her book, “ ‘The Great Gatsby’ and Great Neck
evoked America’s infatuation with New York City; ambition; Society; the transformative power
of vast, newly acquired wealth — and the hollowness of its pursuit — and the convoluted
possibilities of Jews mixing with Gentiles.” Great Neck was one of the few Gold Coast
communities that welcomed or even allowed Jews then, mixed in as they were with the
theatrical and literary crowd that flocked to the suburb. Today Jews are the majority.

Still, Fitzgerald couldn’t really afford Great Neck the way others in his Broadway crowd could.
“If I don’t in some way get $650 in the bank by Wednesday morning,” he wrote Perkins, “I’ll
have to pawn the furniture.”

To find more of that consoling proximity of millionaires today, you can follow East Shore Road
up the Great Neck peninsula past the carwash, past Progressive Urology and past the Lardner
house with its white clapboard and black shutters peeping through the leaves on a wooded
hilltop, and coil around to Kings Point Road and finally to the self-consciously named Gatsby
Lane. There are glimpses of spectacular water views between wedding-cake houses, and it
wouldn’t be hard to place Gatsby in one of the more ostentatious mansions. Perhaps the one
with the three-tiered fountain in front, a Gatsbyesque touch of ersatz Bernini.

In Great Neck, Fitzgerald drove a rented Rolls — probably not one “terraced with a labyrinth
of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns,” as Gatsby did — but my Mini Cooper served for
a spin up to East Egg. Most of the 600 or so colossal estates of the ’20s are gone, but two
survivors are the Guggenheim houses at Sands Point Preserve: Falaise, built to look like a
Norman manor, is open to the public; Hempstead House stands empty and imposing for
tourists and film crews to photograph. It is conceivable, Ms. Prigozy said, that Fitzgerald
attended parties here.

Anyone knocking on the door now, though, would have to be, as Fitzgerald wrote in the closing
paragraphs of “Gatsby,” “some final guest who had been away at the ends of the earth and
didn’t know that the party was over.”


Literary Geography

Mapping The 1920s New York City Of The Great Gatsby

Thursday, May 9, 2013, by Hana R. Alberts
With Baz Luhrmann's remake of seminal novel
The Great Gatsby out tomorrow (trailer!),
everyone's gone mad for the 1920s all over again.
Lavish theme parties, mood music, flapper-esque
costumes from Prada and bejeweled diadems a la
Tiffany's... and the list goes on. But what about its
geography? Sure, this is fiction, and F. Scott
Fitzgerald was apparently not overly concerned
with accuracy while working on the novel across
the pond in France and Italy. But to look at the
city through Gatsby-colored glasses is to see it at
a romantic, decidedly different time, and that's
why we made this map: nostalgia.
The novel is set in the New York of 1922, and
Midwestern transplant Nick Carraway, his
enigmatic neighbor Jay Gatsby, and societal
creme de la creme Daisy and Tom Buchanan and
golf star Jordan Baker divide their time between
the North Shore of Long Island and the city, where they eat, drink, drive, flirt, and generally
live the good life embracing very kind of vapid values and utter carelessness that Fitzgerald
ultimately skewers by the end. But man, did they have a good time doing it. "I began to like
New York," Carraway, our narrator, says, "the racy adventurous feel of it at night and the
satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless
eye." (So maybe not that much has changed.)
Much of the plotline takes place in West and East Egg modern-day Great Neck and Port
Washington, respectively which is excluded from our blog's purview. But characters frequent
Manhattan and even the no-man's-land middle ground of Flushing, Queens, to further their
debauchery, carry on affairs both illicit and endearing, and battle out their most intense
"As a social historian, Fitzgerald utilized real places and real details for the denotations and
connotations these references generated in informed readers," writes the late F. Scott expert
Matthew J. Bruccoli. "As an impressionist, Fitzgerald sought to convey, by means of
language and style, the emotions associated with actual and fictional settings." So the
inclusion of places like the Plaza Hotel and the Yale Club, and areas from Central Park to
Washington Heights, were completely intentional. Here now, 19 real-world NYC counterparts
to locations in The Great Gatsby, complete with excerpts that shed some light on a bygone
era, one that was defined by so much more than parties.

Coney Island
When Nick tells Gatsby that his extravagant mansion looks like a World's Fair, Gatsby
suggests that they just hop in the car and go to Coney Island. In many renditions of the
novel's cover, including the original pictured, the hazy face of a woman (probably Daisy) is
superimposed over some nondescript glowing neon lights. Those lights are roughly taken
from or inspired by the Coney Island skyline, according to late Fitzgerald expert Matthew J.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park

What's now this park was formerly home to "the valley of ashes," where Tom Buchanan's
mistress, the ill-fated Myrtle, and her husband Wilson lived near his car-repair shop. It was,
at the time, where the Long Island Railroad tracks came up alongside the highway between
West Egg and the city, now Northern Boulevard. It was a dump, according to late Fitzgerald
expert Matthew J. Bruccoli, who described it in the book's endnotes as a "swamp that was
being filled with ashes, garbage, and manure." Flushing was apparently also the home of
Fitzgerald acquaintance and used-car salesman Max Gerlach, who probably introduced F.
Scott to the expression "old sport" (Gatsby's catchphrase) and who, unfortunately, shot
himself in 1939. The parallels to Wilson in profession, area of residence, and personal
details are likely not an accident.
Borough of Queens, NY

Flushing Bay
Along the Long Island Railroad, the no-man's-land valley of ashes that is now Flushing
Meadows-Corona Park (see map point #1) was, according to narrator Nick Carraway,
"bounded on one side by a small foul river, and when the drawbridge is up to let barges
through, passengers on waiting trains can stare at the dismal scene for as long as half an
hour." (We're not sure the bay is any less foul now... ) Imaginary Port Roosevelt, where
Wilson stops when he's on a murderous rampage, must have been in Queens, near this
bay's Barge Canal Terminal in Queens.

Queensboro Bridge
The bridge was the last hurdle for the Long Islanders before they reached their beloved
Manhattan, driving their fancy cars at top speed toward the parties and festivities ahead.
Crossing it was a significant, empowering moment, as narrator Nick Carraway observes:
"Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon
the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all
built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from Queensboro Bridge is
always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in
the world.... 'Anything can happen now that we've slid across this bridge,' I thought.
'Anything at all.'"
Queensboro Bridge, Queens, NY 11101

Blackwell's Island
Referenced in the book as Blackwell's Island (its old name), because characters
continuously passed over it in order to get into the city, this East River land mass was known
for "a penitentiary (1832-1935), lunatic asylum, and several hospitals."
Roosevelt Island, New York, NY 10044

Pennsylvania Station (The Old One)

When West and East Eggers don't drive, they take the train from Long Island, which
deposits them right at the old Penn Station. Nick frequently commutes via this old NYC icon;
and Tom Buchanan's mistress, Myrtle Wilson, buys magazines at the newsstand there as

well as perfume and cold cream from the station drugstore. Nick, after a long night at a
house party with those two, finds himself "lying half asleep in the cold lower level of the
Pennsylvania Station, staring at the morning's 'Tribune' and waiting for the four o'clock train."
Some things don't change, do they...
1 Penn Plz, New York, NY 10119

Yale Club of New York City

At the end of native Midwesterner Nick's sometimes lonely days working in the city as a
bond salesman, he retreats to his alma mater's club on Vanderbilt Avenue (where it still is
today). It was an unusual respite of scholarly solitude: "I took dinner usually at the Yale
Club—for some reason it was the gloomiest event of my day—and then I went upstairs to
the library and studied investments and securities for a conscientious hour. There were
generally a few rioters around, but they never came into the library, so it was a good place to
50 Vanderbilt Ave, New York, NY 10017

Murray Hill Hotel

Nick Carraway's nightly commute progressed from the Yale Club over to Penn, passing this
grand Victorian lodging house: "If the night was mellow, I strolled down Madison Avenue
past the old Murray Hill Hotel and over Thirty-Third Street to the Pennsylvania Station."

The 40s near Fifth Avenue

Nick's commute continues, giving us a sense of the vitality of 1920s street life. Nick, like all
New Yorkers, harbored fantasies about total strangers, as he was at once surrounded by
people and at the same time not able to shake a sense of isolation: "I liked to walk up Fifth
Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I
was going to enter their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my
mind, I followed them back to their apartments on corners of hidden streets, and they turned
and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At the
enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes..." That sense of
disconnectedness and soullessness amid the busy city continues as Nick walks towards
Penn: "Again at eight o'clock, when the dark lanes of the Forties were five deep with
throbbing taxi cabs, bound for the theater district, I felt a sinking in my heart. Forms leaned
together in the taxis as they waited, and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard
jokes, and lighted cigarettes outlined unintelligible gestures inside." Nick, in this moment,
feels excluded from the city's private, exclusive, hard-to-crack social scene.
10 E 40th St, New York, NY 10016
40.751539 -73.981231

National Biscuit Company

The National Biscuit Company, now called Nabisco, had several cookie-making plants and
factories in West Chelsea (in particular, where Chelsea Market is now). During one of
Carraway's hot summertime commutes between West Egg and Penn Station, which
apparently, in his world, passed through Chelsea, "[o]nly the hot whistles of the National
Biscuit Company broke the simmering hush at noon."

"The Old Metropole"

A hotel on 43rd Street and Broadway (apparently the first to be entirely kitted out with
running water in every room) that was home to a notorious murder. Gatsby and Meyer
Wolfsheim wax nostalgic about their old hangout ("filled with faces dead and gone... filled
with friends gone now forever"), even though it was built in 1912, only 10 years before the
novel is set. (The occurrence of World War I in the interim undoubtedly changed the vibe for
regulars.) It is nearby, in an unnamed "well-fanned Forty-second Street cellar," where

Gatsby and Nick have lunch and run into Wolfsheim. Wolfsheim and Gatsby also met for the
first time on 43rd Street, at the fictional Winebrenner's poolroom, when Gatsby was poor and
just out of the army.
147 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036

New Amsterdam Theater

This is where Florenz Ziegfeld's show full of showgirls, "Follies," was performed in the
1920s. Starlet Gilda Gray's understudy was a much-buzzed about attendee at one of
Gatsby's West Egg soirees. In fact, lots of "theatrical people" came to Gatsby's beachfront
New York, NY 10001

Carnegie Hall
The famed concert hall opened in 1891, and in the book it is where where made-up
composer Vladimir Tostoff's made-up piece, the "Jazz History of the World," was allegedly
performed to much fanfare, making all the papers and causing "a big sensation." An
orchestra at one of Gatsby's parties plays the composition, boosting the bacchanal to new
levels of ridiculousness.
152 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019

50th Street

In search of a place to go to escape the summer heat, Jordan Baker suggest the big
cinemas around 50th Street. Midtown then, as now, was almost gloriously stifling that time of
year. "I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone's away," Baker comments.
"There's something very sensuous about it—overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going
to fall into your hands."

The Plaza
The iconic hotel is where Nick Carraway has tea with Jordan Baker, and, later, where the
whole gang gathers on a hot summer day in the parlor of a suite for some raucous
arguments between Gatsby and Tom Buchanan over Daisy that precede a sad accident on
the way home to Long Island. It turned out that their attempt to beat the heat merely resulted
in more heat: "The notion originated with Daisy's suggestion that we hire five bathrooms and
take cold baths, and then assumed more tangible form as 'a place to have a mint julep.'...
The room was large and stifling, and, though it was already four o'clock, opening the
windows only admitted a gust of hot shrubbery from the Park."
768 5th Ave, New York, NY 10019

Central Park
Nick Carraway and on-again/off-again flame golf pro Jordan Baker go on a romantic evening
drive "in a Victoria" (an old-school car, one presumes). It was an ideal setting for some
flirtin': "The sun had gone down behind the tall apartments of the movie stars in the West
Fifties and the clear voices of little girls, already gathered like crickets on the grass, rose
through the hot twilight... It was dark now and as we dipped under a little bridge I put my arm
around Jordan's golden shoulder and drew her to me... We passed a barrier of dark trees,
and then the facade of Fifty-ninth Street, a block of delicate pale light, beamed down into the
59th St to 110th St, New York, NY 10028

Fifth Avenue, by the Park
"We drove over to Fifth Avenue, so warm and soft, almost pastoral, on the summer Sunday
afternoon that I wouldn't have been surprised to see a great flock of white sheep turn the
corner," Nick Carraway narrates.
5th Ave., New York, NY 10009

West 158th Street

This part of Washington Heights is where Myrtle Wilson's urban pied-a-terre is located, on
the top floor "a long white cake of apartment houses." It was decorated with oversized
tapestried furniture, and in it narrator Nick, Myrtle, her sister, Tom Buchanan, and the
McKees (neighbors) get wildly drunk in the middle of the afternoon, all while the apartment
remained "full of cheerful sun" till 8 p.m. Welcome to New York, Nick.
New York, NY

Financial District
Nick Carraway works (somewhat uneasily, it seems) at the made-up Probity Trust company
down in the FiDi, amid what he calls "the white chasms of lower New York." He lunches with
the clerks and other young bond salesman "in dark crowded restaurants on little pig
sausages and mashed potatoes and coffee." (Photo: the Financial District in 1922, the year
the novel is set.)