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The Great Gatsby an autobiographical novel

In what sense is The Great Gatsby an autobiographical novel? Does Fitzgerald write more of himself into the character of Nick or the character of Gatsby, or are the author’s qualities found in both characters?

The Great Gatsby is an autobiographical novel in several ways. The author has depicted the life in the 1920s as he had seen and lived it. Two of the main characters (Nick and Gatsby) bear the same energy and depth as the author himself. It is also why both the characters are more alive than the other ones.  Gatsby represents the lavish lifestyles of the rich people of the era but at the same time he also bears the romantic attitude and seriousness of the author. Most important thing about the two characters is their originality. Nick is a relatively simpler and yet a deep and engaging character.

Gatsby on the other hand, looks frivolous at the surface but has great density inside. People generally find more of the author in Nick as compared to Gatsby. Still, it is not difficult to find the same madness as the author himself in the central character of the novel. Fitzgerald used to drink heavily in his youth. Some of the same spoilt nature and free spirit is visible in Gatsby.  Apart from it, his pain is also visible in Gatsby’s character.

The author had suffered several heart attacks in his life. In several other aspects too his life had been very painful and this pain is visible in the separation of Gatsby and his girlfriend Daisy. Nick is somewhat more thoughtful and poised character. He reflects the  inner self of the author. In Gatsby and Nick the author has created the two characters that despite being diverse are close and support each other. However, while the two characters seem to have diverse outlooks, they are two aspects of the same coin. It is not difficult to find the wisdom of the author in Nick. He also has the same sophistication and honesty. Fitzgerald had himself led a difficult life and some of his pain gets evident in these characters.

Fitzgerald’s Gatsby is just as traumatic as the author’s life was. He too had been through turbulent situations. However, in his personal life Fitzgerald was a handsome and ambitious man, quite a lot like Gatsby. The biggest irony of his life was that Fitzgerald did not know till his death that  he was successful. Most of his books received critical acclaim after his death. Sadly, Gatsby’s life too comes to an end with a gloomy death. He does not die an honorable death but is murdered by George Wilson. In Nick, we do not see any of the mistakes that Fitzgerald had made. He is sober and better. Nick’s character reflects the inner Fitzgerald – more organized and peaceful. It would not be wrong to say that the two main characters represent the two very different sides of the author’s personality.

Nick is the soul of the author and Gatsby reflects the mishap that author’s life had become at a point. Fitzgerald has left behind several beautiful works. He might not have been as successful in his life and still he did create some exemplary titles. In his characters one can see the reflection of his personal life and its ups, downs and evens. So, in the sense that the two main characters bear the reflection of the author’s own character, Fitzgerald’s novel is autobiographical.

The romance and glitterati that are a part of Gatsby’s life were also the dream of the author. It is said that for some time the author and his wife had tried to lead that life in Newyork.  People have found similarities between his wife and Daisy. Rest of the circumstances in the novel are also a reflection of the life during 1920s. However, Fitzgerald’s work is not entirely autobiographical except that his own life must have worked as an inspiration behind the writing  of “The Great Gatsby’. From events to characters and settings, all have their roots in the life during the 20s. Moreover, the two main characters – the hero and the narrator – represent two edges of his personality and the author had led a life divided between these two extremes.  In a way, one can say that Nick and Gatsby represent two facets of the author’s personality.

His dream was to be enormously rich and yet he could not go against his traditional values. The death of Gatsby at the end also ends the confusion that despite dreaming of being rich, the author decided to stick to his personal values. Gatsby has used inferior means to gather his wealth in the novel and appears a bit sly on the inside. After all, his motive is to cleverly take Daisy away. All is fair in love and war. So, in this sense Gatsby represents one side of the author’s character but with a  twist. The way Nick monitors people and events keenly in the novel signifies the author’s own deep outlook and how he would look at people and events in his age. Nick is not someone who would let himself flow with the running tide. He is more like a stone on the bank – calm and serious.  However, while these facts indicate that the Great Gatsby is an autobiographical novel, it is not so in its entirety. There are also elements of criticism in the novel and a depiction of the social scenario and rising moral decay during the 20’s.

References: [Biography]

Written by Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.

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