1. The Great Gatsby: A Reminder of the Power and Emptiness of Money 2. This Side of Paradise: Fitzgerald’s Exploration of the American Upper Class 3. The Grapes of Wrath: A Seminal Work on Social Injustice and Human Connection 4. The Sun Also Rises: Hemingway’s Portrayal of the Lost Generation’s Quest for Meaning

Scott Fitzgerald Videos

Scott Fitzgerald was the quintessential jazz age writer. But his career did not take off the way he dreamed. He got a job writing screenplays for Hollywood but was not very good at it. He also drank too much.

He was a poor boy amongst rich classmates at Princeton. He found a way to impress people and win their acceptance: He would write.

1. The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is one of the most recognizable novels in American literature. It makes an appearance on millions of high school syllabi and has inspired countless theatrical productions, including the 1974 version that featured Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro. The 2013 version was directed by Baz Luhrmann and starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. It also boasted a stellar cast of supporting characters including Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, and Isla Fisher with Jay-Z serving as executive producer.

Luhrmann’s take on the story is a blend of realism and romance. He captures the exuberance of the Roaring Twenties while exposing the emptiness beneath the gaudiness and glitz. This film is a reminder that while money can give you everything, it can also make you feel like nothing at all. It’s a relevant message in our present-day world that still worships money more than anything else. The movie also illustrates the power of art to reshape our perceptions of history and culture.

2. This Side of Paradise

Its place in the Fitzgerald canon may have been tarnished by Edmund Wilson’s 1924 dismissal of This Side of Paradise as “a phantasmagoria of incident which had no dominating intention to endow it with unity and force.” But this first novel is not without its moments. Its exploration of the American upper class—its institutions, aristocratic families, and elitist standards of behavior—provides a unique insight into the era of the Jazz Age.

Its depiction of friendships among young men reveals the importance of admiration, aspiration, and desire in modern life. And its portrayal of love warped by egotism is an important precursor to the themes of The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night. In addition, this book offers a glimpse into Fitzgerald’s desire to develop a specifically American literary identity—even though he may have disavowed European tradition in his work, this is clearly his novel. This Side of Paradise is a fanciful pastiche of Midwestern boys’ books, American campus novels, optimist early twentieth century progressive fiction, and post-World War I disillusionment.

3. The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath is a seminal work about displaced farm families during the Depression era Dust Bowl. Its themes of social injustice and human connection to the environment remain a major influence on American culture.

The book was published in 1939 and made into a celebrated Hollywood film by director John Ford in 1940. It tells the story of a family, the Joads, who are forced from their home in Oklahoma by drought and a lack of work, traveling to California along with thousands of other people in search of jobs and land.

Steinbeck drew heavily on field notes taken by Farm Security Administration worker Sanora Babb, who interviewed migrant workers and wrote personal stories that were then shared with him. The film also incorporates Christian imagery through the characters of Tom and Jim Casy, who are interpreted as Christ-like figures at various points in the narrative. The movie is considered a milestone in cinema and was added to the National Film Registry in 1989.

4. The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway’s novel about a group of American expatriate writers in Spain and France in the 1920s, was filmed twice. The 1957 version starring Hart Bochner and Jane Seymour, was a commercial failure because the author’s gorgeous prose proved difficult to translate into the staccato rhythm of film, and its depictions of thwarted love and hedonistic lifestyles were too off-putting during the Eisenhower years.

The film is notable, however, for its portrayal of the emptiness of postwar life and the futile quest for meaning that characterizes the Lost Generation. Its depictions of Lady Brett Ashley’s nymphomania and Jake Barnes’ impotence from his war wound are now seen as iconic images of the era.

Check out this snazzy video spotted by Open Culture, featuring rare footage of Fitzgerald and Zelda during their heyday before the Lost Generation icons lost themselves to alcoholism and mental illness. You may be surprised to learn that the writer was not always so charming in real life.

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