The Great Gatsby


The Great Gatsby was published by Charles Scribner's Sons on April 10, 1925. Fitzgerald called Perkins on the day of publication to monitor reviews: "Any news?"[23] "Sales situation doubtful," read a wire from Perkins on April 20, "[but] excellent reviews." Fitzgerald responded on April 24, saying the cable "depressed" him, closing the letter with "Yours in great depression."[64] Fitzgerald had hoped the novel would be a great commercial success, perhaps selling as many as 75,000 copies.[64] By October, when the original sale had run its course, the book had sold fewer than 20,000 copies.[23][60][64] Despite this, Scribner's continually kept the book in print; they carried the original edition on their trade list until 1946, by which time Gatsby was in print in three other forms and the original edition was no longer needed.[23] Fitzgerald received letters of praise from contemporaries T. S. Eliot, Edith Wharton, and Willa Cather regarding the novel; however, this was private opinion, and Fitzgerald feverishly demanded the public recognition of reviewers and readers.[23]

The Great Gatsby received mixed reviews from literary critics of the day. Generally the most effusive of the positive reviews was Edwin Clark of The New York Times, who felt the novel was "A curious book, a mystical, glamourous story of today."[65] Similarly, Lillian C. Ford of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "[the novel] leaves the reader in a mood of chastened wonder," calling the book "a revelation of life" and "a work of art."[66] The New York Post called the book "fascinating ... His style fairly scintillates, and with a genuine brilliance; he writes surely and soundly."[67] The New York Herald Tribune was unimpressed, but referred to The Great Gatsby as "purely ephemeral phenomenon, but it contains some of the nicest little touches of contemporary observation you could imagine-so light, so delicate, so sharp .... a literary lemon meringue."[68] In The Chicago Daily Tribune, H.L. Mencken called the book "in form no more than a glorified anecdote, and not too probable at that," while praising the book's "careful and brilliant finish."[69]

Several writers felt that the novel left much to be desired following Fitzgerald's previous works and promptly criticized him. Harvey Eagleton of The Dallas Morning News believed the novel signaled the end of Fitzgerald's success: "One finishes Great Gatsby with a feeling of regret, not for the fate of the people in the book, but for Mr. Fitzgerald."[70] John McClure of The Times-Picayune said that the book was unconvincing, writing, "Even in conception and construction, The Great Gatsby seems a little raw."[71] Ralph Coghlan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch felt the book lacked what made Fitzgerald's earlier novels endearing and called the book "a minor performance ... At the moment, its author seems a bit bored and tired and cynical."[72] Ruth Snyder of New York Evening World called the book's style "painfully forced", noting that the editors of the paper were "quite convinced after reading The Great Gatsby that Mr. Fitzgerald is not one of the great American writers of to-day."[73] The reviews struck Fitzgerald as completely missing the point: "All the reviews, even the most enthusiastic, not one had the slightest idea what the book was about."[23]

Fitzgerald's goal was to produce a literary work which would truly prove himself as a writer,[74] and Gatsby did not have the commercial success of his two previous novels, This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned. Although the novel went through two initial printings, some of these copies remained unsold years later.[75] Fitzgerald himself blamed poor sales on the fact that women tended to be the main audience for novels during this time, and Gatsby did not contain an admirable female character.[75] According to his own ledger, now made available online by University of South Carolina's Thomas Cooper library, he earned only $2,000 from the book.[76] Although 1926 brought Owen Davis's stage adaption and the Paramount-issued silent film version, both of which brought in money for the author, Fitzgerald still felt the novel fell short of the recognition he hoped for and, most importantly, would not propel him to becoming a serious novelist in the public eye.[23] For several years afterward, the general public believed The Great Gatsby to be nothing more than a nostalgic period piece.[23]

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