The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald's World of Ideas

University of Alabama Press, 1997 - 232 páginas
Berman examines the intellectual and cultural milieu in which The Great Gatsby was created. The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald's World of Ideas focuses on F. Scott Fitzgerald and the prevailing ideas and values that permeated American society in the late teens and early twenties, providing a vivid portrait of the intellectual and cultural milieu in which The Great Gatsby was produced. This new and original reading of Gatsby discloses Fitzgerald's remarkable awareness of the issues of his time and his debt to such philosophers and critics as William James, Josiah Royce, George Santayana, John Dewey, Walter Lippman, H. L. Mencken, and Edmund Wilson. Ronald Berman's fresh approach considers the meaning of various ideas important to the novel: for example, those moral qualities governing both social and individual life. Berman's reading of the text reveals extraordinary emphases on matters that could productively be described as philosophical -- the nature of friendship, love, and the good life. But the text of the novel has many echoes, and the same concern with moral issues -- especially those issues affecting democratic life -- can be found in a number of other texts of the first quarter of the century. Vigorously debated throughout Fitzgerald's own lifetime, these texts shed a completely new light on the idealism of The Great Gatsby and on the penetrating view it has of life in a new form of American democracy. A noted Fitzgerald scholar, Berman makes it clear that accepted interpretations of The Great Gatsby and of Fitzgerald's work in general must be changed. Berman demonstrates that Fitzgerald wrote within a vast dialectic, relating the ideas of the twenties to those of the oldAmerica described in so many of his works. Gatsby, Nick Carraway, and the other characters of Fitzgerald's greatest novel all have to consider not only their relationship to the present but also their distance from what was once a highly meaningful past. Berman has written a book to earn the praise of scholars and interested intelligent readers. I have high respect for Berman's work because I learn from it.... An original and strong contribution to the entire scholarship on American literature and will remain a lovely example of what social history can do for literature. -- Milton R. Stern University of Connecticut Berman succeeds in throwing a fresh light on a masterpiece. -- Scott Donaldson College of William and Mary A thoughtful and penetrating appraisal of the morals, ideas, and ideals of the pre-World War I America that became the subjects of national debate prior to Fitzgerald's composition of The Great Gatsby. Berman succeeds brilliantly in opening to the reader a new door to understanding Fitzgerald's great novel. In a lucid, graceful, readable book, Berman proves that fine scholarship can always uncover a new layer of meaning enabling us to enter the world of the novel as if for the first time. No reader could ask for more. -- Ruth Prigozy Hofstra University

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Old Values and New Times
Community and Crowd
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