Essay about The Legacy of Romanticism in The Great Gatsby

Essay about The Legacy of Romanticism in The Great Gatsby

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The Legacy of Romanticism in The Great Gatsby


The development of American Literature, much like the development of the nation, began in earnest, springing from a Romantic ideology that honored individualism and visionary idealism. As the nation broke away from the traditions of European Romanticism, America forged its own unique romantic style that would resonate through future generations of literary works. Through periods of momentous change, the fundamentally Romantic nature of American literature held fast, a fact clearly demonstrated in the fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald. In an era of post-war disillusionment, when idealism succumbed to hedonistic materialism, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s romantically charged novel, The Great Gatsby, emerged in direct counterpoint to the disorder and apathy of Modernism. In his depiction of the idealist, Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald created a link with America’s literary past and the romantic yearnings of a nation struggling to re-define itself. If Romanticism exemplifies individualism, idealism, and transcendence, then Jay Gatsby, as a romantic protagonist, testifies to the legacy of Romanticism in American literature.

In keeping with the Romantic tradition and its reverence for individualism, Fitzgerald presents a protagonist whose “Platonic conception of himself” marks him as unique (Fitzgerald 104). Possessing a natural “heightened sensitivity to the promises of life,” Gatsby’s “romantic readiness” evolves long before his crucial encounter with Daisy Fay, finding inspiration in his association with the self-made pioneer-tycoon, Dan Cody. Described as “a product of the Nevada silver fields, of the Yukon, of every rush for metal since Seventy-five,” Cody repre...


... middle of paper ...


... the archetypal heroes of American culture.


Works Cited



Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Lathbury, Roger. Gale Study Guides to Great Literature: Literary Masterpieces Volume 1: The Great Gatsby. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group, 2000.

Lehan, Richard. Twayne’s Masterwork Studies: The Great Gatsby: “The Limits of Wonder.” New York: Twayne Publishers, 1995.

Lewis, Roger. “Money, Love, and Aspiration in The Great Gatsby.” New Essays on The Great Gatsby. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York: Cambridge UP, 1985.

Morgan, Elizabeth. “Gatsby in the Garden: Courtly Love and Irony.” College Literature. 11.2 (1984): 163-177.

Way, Brian. “The Great Gatsby.” Modern Critical Interpretations: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.

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