Why Did Fitzgerald Write The Great Gatsby Novel?

Last Updated: October 25th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

Sometimes you wonder why someone does something or in this case write something like The Great Gatsby, other than the obvious reason, being that F. Scott Fitzgerald was an author.

F Scott Fitzgerald 1921
A publicity photograph of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald circa 1921 by unknown author

Besides wanting to write a novel, most authors have some reasoning behind why they choose a particular subject. Perhaps a fantasy in their mind or a story they read about that stuck with them and on which idea they want to expand.

Fitzgerald wrote the novel, which was set against the backdrop of the Roaring Twenties, as a way of channeling his observations of excessive opulence, moral decay, and the elusive American Dream into a captivating narrative.

This story of rags to riches was a nuanced reflection of his era’s social upheavals and personal aspirations. When Fitzgerald (full name: Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald) wrote it, he was already a successful author.

Ironically, The Great Gatsby was a flop in Fitzgerald’s time, making him experience firsthand what it was like to be “new money” then later, no money!

The novel stands as both a critique and a celebration of the era’s extravagance, exploring the hollow core of materialism and the transient nature of success.

Fitzgerald’s own experiences, and perhaps even his desires (which often entwined with his wife Zelda’s), found a home in the characters of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. The novel portrayed people’s relentless pursuit of their unattainable dreams and the tragic consequences that can follow.

Jay Gatsby dancing with Daisy Buchanan, with a mansion in the background

Let’s delve deeper into why Fitzgerald wrote this infamous novel that, despite being 100 years old, is still relevant today.

I would also like to add a small paragraph describing what a modern-day Gatsby might look like in today’s world. I believe that an updated version of this novel would be an instrumental teaching tool to today’s youth.

What Influenced Fitzgerald to Write The Great Gatsby?

Why did Fitzgerald write The Great Gatsby?

To capture the essence of an era, immortalize its contradictions, and mirror the universal yearning for a brighter future that often remains just out of reach.

You will find a bit of Fitzgerald’s life in nearly every aspect of The Great Gatsby. He knew what it was to be poor and was turned down by two wealthy women, including his eventual wife Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald because he was poor (almost identical to Gatsby’s early life).

Photo of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald inside a car
A photo of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald published in Motor magazine, February-April 1924 By Motor magazine (publisher), Spring 1924

How Daisy met Gatsby followed the real-life storyline of Fitzgerald being assigned in Camp Sheridan, Montgomery, Alabama, where he met Zelda, the beautiful debutante who captured his heart.

After publishing two extremely successful novels, he was “allowed” to join upper-class society in New York, rub elbows with other successful writers such as Ernest Hemingway, and enjoy the fruits of his labor.

However, The Great Gatsby, although well-received by the press, was a commercial flop. He found himself forced to write short stories and articles for magazines to survive.

More than likely, Fitzgerald was disillusioned by what he saw as the failure of The American Dream. He had worked hard, didn’t rely on anyone, and after initial success, was broke once more.

Unlike Gatsby, Fitzgerald did get to marry his Daisy, but he saw both sides of the coin, so to speak. He wanted to write about his experiences and what he saw as the hypocrisy of the times he was living in.

What Is the Main Point of The Great Gatsby?

the themes of The Great Gatsby Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In his novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald masterfully conveys a multi-layered commentary on the elusive nature of the American Dream, the corrupting influence of wealth, and the inherent hollowness of a materialistic society.

Fitzgerald had a front-row seat when he was wealthy and had a successful career. He hobnobbed with the ultra-rich and saw firsthand what they said and how they behaved.

Through Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald illustrates the fervent pursuit of success and love, while also revealing the tragic consequences of such obsessions. The opulent parties and lavish lifestyles of the characters serve as a veneer that masks their underlying emptiness and moral decay, reflecting Fitzgerald’s critique of the superficial values that dominated the Roaring Twenties.

The unattainable green light across the bay symbolizes the unreachable aspirations for money and material things that drive individuals, highlighting the futile pursuit of an idealized future.

There is also the stark contrast between Gatsby’s self-made persona and the entrenched social hierarchy of “old money” that speaks to the disparity between ambition and acceptance.

Ultimately, Fitzgerald’s novel serves as a cautionary tale. He was urging readers to examine the consequences of their unchecked desires and the dangers of living solely for the pursuit of wealth and status.

How Is The Great Gatsby Relevant Today?

If you think about it, society hasn’t changed all that much.

Rather than attending parties thrown by the wealthy, today it feels as if everyone is hoping to find wealth and status or fame by being the next big social media influencer.

Society no longer seems to care if you are old money or new money, as long as you have the cash, you are golden, but we still separate our behavior between how the rich and the poor are treated.

the American dream and the main characters in The Great Gatsby

Of course, people cheating on their spouses and lovers reunited will forever be popular themes, so in that regard, the story is timeless.

The novel’s vivid portrayal of the pursuit of the American Dream, the allure of materialism, and the complexities of human relationships resonate deeply with contemporary society, and perhaps, with future societies.

In an age marked by relentless ambition and the ever-present allure of wealth, Gatsby’s relentless pursuit of a better life serves as a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of monetary and material ambitions.

We also see the characters’ struggles with identity, social status, and unrequited love mirror modern challenges, fostering empathy and understanding across generations.

The endless but unobtainable green light across the bay symbolizes unattainable aspirations, reminding us of the persistent human drive to reach for more and more and more.

Is The Great Gatsby Based on Real Events? Unraveling the Masterpiece’s Truth or Fiction


As long as society continues to value money and fame over all else, as long as human complexities persist, as long as true love is valued in the heart, The Great Gatsby will continue to shine.

How Did The Great Gatsby Influence Society?

Gatsby Parties

This timeless novel is a poignant reflection of the cultural dynamics and societal shifts of its time.

The novel captured the extravagance, materialism, and moral ambiguity of the Roaring Twenties, marking the spirit of an era that featured both exuberant prosperity and underlying disillusionment.

Using the figure of Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald laid bare the relentless pursuit of the American Dream and the potential emptiness, as well as tragedy, that can result from the unbridled desire for wealth and social status.

The story’s timeless themes of love, aspiration, and the fragility of human connections continue to resonate, offering commentary on the intricacies of human nature and relationships.

The Great Gatsby was a commercial failure, selling only 23,000 copies in its first year, so while not many people read it at the time, it seems as though the people who did read it didn’t care for the truths that it exposed.

What Would a Modern-Day Gatsby Lifestyle Look Like?

a man in black jacket posing in front of a plane

A modern-day Gatsby lifestyle would likely manifest as a lavish display of wealth intertwined with the trappings of technological advancement.

Since Gatsby earned his money with illegal alcohol sales, perhaps today it would be selling Fentynal, cocaine, or Ecstasy. Or could a modern-day Gatsby earn his fortune by selling crypto or running a pyramid scheme? All of these are very real possibilities.

Rather than extravagant parties in a grand mansion, we might see exclusive tech-fueled gatherings at exclusive locations such as Malibu, luxury travel to secluded islands, and ostentatious displays of wealth shared through social media platforms, of course.

The enigmatic figure at its center could be a tech magnate or a social media influencer, amassing not just material riches but also virtual fame. Millions of followers would be asking, “Where did the money come from?” and publications would surround this figure with articles entitled, “How to Become Rich and Famous Just Like Jay Gatsby.”

Similar to Gatsby’s elusive pursuit of Daisy, this modern counterpart might chase after a digital “green light,” seeking validation and connection in the digital realm. A 21st-century Gatsby would be photographed with some of the most beautiful women in the world, but in reality, these are merely photo ops and there would be no real connection.

a young man with some ladies having fun on a yacht

We can imagine a hidden love life with Daisy (the wife of some ultra-rich person), whom Gatsby knew when they were in high school, perhaps, but they would be careful to never, ever be photographed together.

Yet, beneath the shimmering surface, the complexities of love, identity, and the emptiness of material excess would persist, mirroring the enduring human struggle that Fitzgerald tried to make his readers see. Modern-day Gatsby would forever search to find meaning in an increasingly interconnected yet isolating world.

The more I write about this question, the more I wish someone would make a movie with a modern-day Gatsby. How exciting would that be?!

How Did The Great Gatsby Reflect American Life in the 1920s?

As an avid fan of this novel, I often wonder if Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s novel wasn’t popular in his lifetime because of the truth that it told.

Most people will avoid looking in a mirror if the reflection isn’t to their liking, agreed?

main Characters in the Great Gatsby novel

Through its characters and descriptive narrative, the novel mirrored the extravagant excesses of the Roaring Twenties, exemplified by Jay Gatsby’s extravagant parties and lavish lifestyle. These parties symbolized the era’s unrestrained indulgence and the pursuit of pleasure as a distraction from underlying societal tensions.

Scott Fitzgerald’s writing style also sheds light on the prevailing materialism of the Jazz Age, a term he created by the way, embodied by nearly the characters’ preoccupation with wealth and status.

Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s careless attitudes toward their privilege and the heedless pursuit of personal pleasure encapsulated the moral decay that is often associated with unchecked prosperity.

Perhaps most of all, the novel explored the concept or sham that Fitzgerald saw as the American Dream. Gatsby’s relentless aspiration to rise above his humble origins paralleled the belief in upward mobility and the idea that anyone could attain success and implied happiness if they simply worked hard enough.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in the novel The Great Gatsby

More importantly, Gatsby’s tragic fate at the end of the novel served as a caution, revealing the dream’s elusive nature and the emptiness that could accompany its pursuit.

Fitzgerald may not have intended his novel to be a reflection of the time he was living in, but it has since become not only a classic American tale but a literary snapshot of the 1920s.

What Can The Great Gatsby Teach Us Today?Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby Novel

This classic American novel is every bit as poignant today as it was 100 years earlier.

The Great Gatsby imparts timeless lessons that resonate with contemporary society and perhaps for future societies. The novel’s exploration of the illusion that is the American Dream reminds us to critically examine our aspirations and the pursuit of material success.

It was Gatsby’s pursuit of wealth and unrequited love that ended with the ultimate tragedy that serves as a reminder of the importance of genuine human connections and the dangers of fixating on an idealized past.

Furthermore, the moral decay of the majority of the characters combined with the hollowness of their extravagant lifestyles highlight the potential pitfalls of unchecked consumerism and superficial values.

This encourages us to reevaluate our priorities and seek meaning beyond material possessions.

The Great Gatsby still stands as a mirror for today’s readers to examine themselves, their ambitions, and their personal values while encouraging us to make changes before potential tragedy strikes.

Final Summary

The Great Gatsby Novel 1925 a novel about the American dream

In writing The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald wove a tapestry of motivations, weaving his own experiences, societal observations, and literary aspirations into a masterpiece that transcends time.

Fitzgerald’s exploration of the American Dream, materialism, and the complexities of human relationships continues to captivate readers, urging them to reflect on the universal yearning for success and connection.

While Fitzgerald’s work may be seen as “ancient history” by some readers, his reasons for writing this novel had a deeper meaning and a longer lasting impression than anyone (including the author) could have ever imagined.

Why Did Fitzgerald Write The Great Gatsby Novel?
Why Did Fitzgerald Write The Great Gatsby Novel?
Dive into Fitzgerald's motivations for writing The Great Gatsby's enticing world. Uncover the author's inspirations and his literary genius. Find more here.
Gatsby Flapper Girl