Great Gatsby 15 Short Essays

Have you ever felt that there were two of you battling for control of the person
you call yourself? Have you ever felt that you weren\'t quite sure which one you
wanted to be in charge? All of us have at least two selves: one who wants to
work hard, get good grades, and be successful; and one who would rather lie in
the sun and listen to music and daydream. To understand F. Scott Fitzgerald, the
man and the writer, you must begin with the idea of doubleness, or twoness.

Fitzgerald himself said in a famous series of essays called The Crack Up,
"the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed
ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to
function." Everything about Fitzgerald is touched by this idea. For
example, he both loved and hated money. He was attracted to the life of the very
rich as an outsider who had very little, and at the same time he hated the
falseness and hypocrisy and cruelty of their lives. He was disciplined, knowing
that he had to have great mental and physical self-control to succeed as a
writer, but he was often unable to exercise those very qualities he knew he
would need in order to succeed. He loved his wife Zelda more than anything in
his life, and yet he hated her for destroying his talent. Part of him lived a
dazzling life full of parties, gaiety, and show; and part of him knew that this
sort of life was a complete sham. All of this doubleness Fitzgerald puts into
the novel you are about to read: The Great Gatsby. As you begin reading think
about Nick Carraway, the narrator of the novel, and Jay Gatsby, the hero of the
novel, as the two sides of Fitzgerald. Think of Fitzgerald as putting into his
two main characters both of the people that he knew he had within him. As you
read, ask yourself whether or not you have these two people within you: Nick,
the intelligent and disciplined observer; and Gatsby, the passionate and
idealistic dreamer who wants his dream so much that he will sacrifice everything
for it. Fitzgerald himself seemed genetically destined for doubleness. His
mother\'s father, P. F. McQuillan, went to St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1857, at the
age of twenty-three. In twenty years he built up--literally from nothing--an
enormously successful wholesale business. He was a totally self-made man, and
from him Scott inherited a sense of self-reliance and a belief in hard work. The

Fitzgeralds, on the other hand, were an old Maryland family. Scott
himself--Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was his full name--was named for his
great, great, great grandfather\'s brother, the man who wrote "The Star

Spangled Banner." And Edward Fitzgerald, Scott\'s father, was a handsome,
charming man, but one who seemed more interested in the family name than in hard
work. The McQuillan and the Fitzgerald in Scott vied for control throughout his
childhood. He was a precocious child, full of energy and imagination, but he
liked to take short cuts, substituting flights of fantasy for hard work. On his
seventh birthday in 1903 he told a number of the older guests that he was the
owner of a yacht (perhaps the seeds of Gatsby\'s admiration for Dan Cody\'s yacht
in the novel). As an adolescent he loved to play theatrical games--pretending to
be drunk on a streetcar or telephoning an artificial limb company to discuss
being fitted for a false limb. He was an excellent writer and a vivid satirist
of his classmates, but his marks were not good; so, like so many Midwestern
boys, he was shipped East to boarding school, where he would be taught
discipline and hard work. In September of 1911, with the words and music of

Irving Berlin\'s new song "Alexander\'s Ragtime Band" uppermost on his
mind, he enrolled at the Newman School in Hackensack, New Jersey, a popular

Roman Catholic school among Midwestern families. Here he was to have two years
to ready himself for a good Ivy League College, preferably Princeton or Yale.

Scott chose Princeton, but Princeton very nearly didn\'t choose him. The
doubleness in Scott is beautifully illustrated by the way in which he maneuvered
himself into Princeton. An avid writer and reader, Fitzgerald tended to read
what he liked and ignore his school work, and therefore he failed his entrance
exams during his senior year. After a "summer of study," he