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Fitzgerald's New York in the 1920s

Passage from F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby"

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Fitzgerald's New York in the 1920s

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Nick Carraway, the narrator of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, is the anonymous observer of New York City in the early 1920s. Try reading these two paragraphs aloud so that you can hear the effects of Fitzgerald's active verbs and the distinct rhythms of his prose.

from The Great Gatsby*

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye. I liked to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was going to enter their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others--poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for the solitary restaurant dinner-- young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.

Again at eight o’clock, when the dark lanes of the Forties were five deep with throbbing taxi cabs, bound for the theatre district, I felt a sinking in my heart. Forms leaned together in the taxis as they waited, and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard jokes, and lighted cigarettes outlined unintelligible gestures inside. Imagining that I, too, was hurrying toward gaiety and sharing their intimate excitement, I wished them well.


Originally published by Scribner's in 1925, Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby was republished as a Penguin Popular Classic in 2007.

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