Some critics of The Great Gatsby have proposed that the novel is actually an autobiography, Nick Carraway being F. Scott Fitzgerald. I think this is a really interesting idea and an analysis from this perspective would provide good insights about Fitzgerald.
Both Carraway and Fitzgerald come from Midwestern upbringings. Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota while Carraway states that he comes from a “Middle Western city for three generations,” (Fitzgerald 3). In the early part of Fitzgerald’s life, he joined the army but was never deployed. Carraway, however, truly participated in the war and was a veteran as well, “I participated in that delayed Teutonic migration known as the Great War” (pg). Both become unsatisfied with their Midwestern style of living and move to New York City. Fitzgerald “moved to New York City hoping to launch a career in advertising,” while Carraway wished to get into the bond business (“F. Scott Fitzgerald”).
Nick may represent Fitzgerald’s moral side. But what about the other side? The part of Nick that is corrupted and enjoys the fast-paced, riotous life in New York perhaps speaks to a latentaspect of Fitzgerald’s personality. “I began to like New York, 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,” (Fitzgerald 56). The pleasure Carraway takes in New York comes with the development of a drinking habit. As illustrated by Fitzgerald, after Nick’s arrival in New York, his innocence was shattered by the lure of alcohol, “I have been drunk just twice in my life, and the second time was that afternoon; so everything that happened has a dim, hazy cast over it,” (Fitzgerald 29). Fitzgerald was much the same but Carraway exhibited just a glimpse of Fitzgerald’s drinking habit, “a heavy drinker, he progressed steadily into alcoholism and suffered prolonged bouts of writer’s block,” (“F. Scott Fitzgerald”). Alcoholism being one of the many facets of Fitzgerald’s life, appears subconsciously in The Great Gatsby—whether it be in Nick’s drinking habits, the roaring parties held at Gatsby’s mansion, or Gatsby’s true occupation as a bootlegger.
The Great Gatsby may not be a true autobiography of Fitzgerald but the textual evidence above shows intense similarities between Fitzgerald and his narrator, Nick Carraway. Perhaps Fitzgerald used The Great Gatsby as an outlet to reflect on his hidden vices which society would have looked down upon. However one may look at it, the appreciation of Carraway’s character and his struggles is important to fully grasp the underlying message Fitzgerald was implanting.
– Jenna P.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 1925. Print.
“F. Scott Fitzgerald.” 2013. The Biography Channel website. Dec 03 2013, 05:25
Editor’s Note: If you are interested in learning more about the life and times of Fitzgerald, consider checking out some of the following biographies – all available through the UW Libraries. Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography by Jeffrey Meyers (HarperCollins, 1994), Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald by James R. Mellow (Houghton Mifflin, 1984), or this brand new volume of essays called F. Scott Fitzgerald in Context, edited by Bryant Mangum and published this year by Cambridge University Press.