As the Gatsby tsunami gathers pace, ahead of the release of the new film based on Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, Sarah Churchwell has a lovely essay on The Great Gatsby in the Guardian which dwells perceptively on the novel’s contemporary relevance.
Our gilded age bears a marked resemblance to Fitzgerald’s. It has become a truism that Fitzgerald was dazzled by wealth, but the charge infuriated him: “Riches have never fascinated me, unless combined with the greatest charm or distinction,” he insisted, adding later, “I have never been able to forgive the rich for being rich, and it has colored my entire life and works”. He wasn’t in thrall to wealth, but making a study of how it was corrupting the country he loved. “Like so many Americans,” Fitzgerald wrote in his 1927 story “Jacob’s Ladder”, “he valued things rather than cared about them.”
The materialistic world of Gatsby is defined by social politics in a metropolitan America. It is a story of class warfare in a nation that denies it even has a class system, in which the game is eternally rigged for the rich to win.