The Great Gatsby is a timeless piece of fiction that captures both the decadence and the downfalls of the 1920s and, ultimately, the American Dream. Author F. Scott Fitzgerald sadly passed away before witnessing the belated success of the novel, which has since remained an indispensable piece of American culture. Here are 15 facts about The Great Gatsby.
Facts about The Great Gatsby:
- The novel was initially a dud. The book was received with mixed reviews, and only sold 20,000 copies in its first year of publication. Its popularity didn’t develop until World War II, but by then, Fitzgerald had already passed. As of 2013, the novel had sold over 25 million copies worldwide.
- Overseas soldiers were partly responsible for the book’s revival. After the book’s republication in 1941, a group called the Council on Books in Wartime distributed 155,000 copies to soldiers fighting in the Second World War. From then on, the novel’s popularity soared.
- The Great Gatsby was almost called Trimalchio in West Egg. Seven different titles were in the works before Fitzgerald landed on The Great Gatsby. The alternative titles that were considered at one point or another include Trimalchio; Trimalchio in West Egg; Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; The High-Bouncing Lover; and Gold-Hatted Gatsby. Although Fitzgerald was partial to the Trimalchio titles, he was ultimately convinced that the reference—made to a first century work of fiction called Satyricon—would go over readers’ heads.
- Actress Sigourney Weaver chose her stage name from a character in The Great Gatsby. However, the name “Mrs. Sigourney Howard” actually refers to the minor character’s husband. Therefore, it is a male name in the novel.
- Fitzgerald rewrote parts of the book to include allusions to the cover art. Francis Cugat, who was commissioned to illustrate the cover art of The Great Gatsby’s first printing, completed the now-famous painting before Fitzgerald had even finished the book. The author was so taken with the art deco piece that he went back and included references to it, such as his matching descriptions of Daisy.
- The poet that the novel’s epigraph is credited to, doesn’t actually exist. Although the four-line poem entitled “Then Wear the Gold Hat” was supposedly written by one Thomas Parke D’Inviliers, no poet by this name ever existed. It is actually one of the characters from Fitzgerald’s debut novel This Side of Paradise.
- The character Daisy was based on one of Fitzgerald’s former girlfriends. The author first met sixteen-year-old Ginevra King when he was studying at Princeton, and they began a relationship that would last several years. The Chicagoan socialite and debutante subsequently inspired several of Fitzgerald’s characters, including Judy Jones in “Winter Dreams,” Isabelle Borge in This Side of Paradise, and, of course: Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby.
- Hunter S. Thompson once retyped the entirety of The Great Gatsby. Apparently, the journalist wanted to experience what it was like to write the classic novel word-for-word. He did this more than once.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald is a notoriously bad speller. His first draft of The Great Gatsby reportedly contained hundreds of errors, including “yatch” instead of “yacht,” and “apon” instead of “upon.”
- The novel cost $2 at the time of its publication. In 1925—the year The Great Gatsby hit the shelves—$2 could get you pretty far. Adjusted for inflation, the sum would equal a little over $29 today.
- Jordan Baker’s character is based on the golfer Edith Cummings. Like the character she inspired, Cummings was an American socialite and premier amateur golfer. In 1924, Cummings became the first golfer and first female athlete to appear on the cover of Time magazine.
- The Fitzgeralds hated the first film adaptation. First filmed in 1926, just one year after the novel was published, the film was a silent movie adaptation of the stage version. In a letter she penned to a friend, Zelda Fitzgerald wrote: “We saw The Great Gatsby at the Movies. It’s rotten and awful and terrible and we left.” The only surviving footage of the film is the trailer and some publicity photos.
- Fitzgerald wrote most of the novel on the Riviera. Although he started it in America, the project was stunted when Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda moved to France. He eventually finished final revisions of the book in Rome.
- It was voted the 20th century’s best American novel. The Modern Library editorial board awarded the designation, along with the second best English-language novel of the same time period, to The Great Gatsby after a vote in 1998.
- The Great Gatsby enters the public domain in 2021. The novel’s copyright is set to expire at the end of 2020. As the Associate Press puts it, “Anyone will be allowed to publish you the book, adapt it to a movie, make it into an opera or stage a Broadway musical. No longer will need to permission to write a sequel, a prequel, a Jay Gatsby detective novel or a Gatsby narrative populated with Zombies.”