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The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby has been called one of the most quintessentially American novels of all time.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

"There was music from my neighbour'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.

Everybody who is anybody is seen at the glittering parties held in millionaire Jay Gatsby's mansion in West Egg, east of New York. The riotous throng congregates in his sumptuous garden, coolly debating Gatsby's origins and mysterious past. None of the frivolous socialites understands him and among various rumours is the conviction that 'he killed a man'. A detached onlooker, Gatsby is oblivious to the speculation he creates, but always seems to be watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. As writer Nick Carraway is drawn into this decadent orbit, Gatsby's destructive dreams and passions are revealed, leading to disturbing and tragic consequences.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1896. He studied at Princeton University before joining the army in 1917. In 1920, he married Zelda Sayre. Their traumatic relationship and subsequent breakdowns became a major influence on his writing. Among his publications were five novels: This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby, The Beautiful and the Damned, Tender is the Night and The Last Tycoon (his last and unfinished work); six volumes of short stories and The Crack-Up, a selection of autobiographical pieces. F. Scott Fitzgerald died suddenly in 1940. (From Penguin)

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From the book

Chapter One

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

"Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."

He didn't say any more, but we've always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence, I'm inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought — frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon; for the intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.


From The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald ©1925. Published by Penguin Canada.

More about this book

On Beyond the Bestseller, we look at a book that de-constructs F. Scott Fitzgerald's well-known novel.

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