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Gatsby, Gath, and Gault

Precis of "Gatsby, GATH, and Gault" On his return in 1924 from an extended stay in France, Scott Fitzgerald was exhausted both physically and creatively. His friend John Biggs, Jr., with whom he had collaborated on writing projects at Princeton, came to his aid. Not only did he find the Fitzgeralds a stately old Delaware mansion to lease, but he helped to direct Fitzgerald's imagination towards a new project. His recovery was rapid. By the middle of the year, Fitzgerald was well into the book that was published early in 1925 as The Great Gatsby. Meanwhile, Biggs was working on a novel of his own that was published in 1926 as Demigods. Different from each other though they might seem, these two novels are significantly alike in certain basic respects. In both books, the protagonist is shown resisting the pressures of fate that threaten him with living a life of mediocrity. Fitzgerald's Jimmy Gatz and Biggs's John Gault seek an adult identity appropriate to their own self-image and ambitions. For better or worse, these characters both attempt to create their destiny independent of divine or parental influence. Of particular interest, I find, is that they follow the same course as Meshach Milburn, the protagonist of a novel written nearly fifty years before by the American journalist/novelist/poet George Alfred Townsend, who wrote under the pen-name GATH. Thus the names GATsby and GAulT and one of the principal themes of all three novels, the quest for personal identity. This essay, "Gatsby, GATH, and Gault," attempts to assemble evidence that GATH's The Entailed Hat inspired John Biggs, Jr., and F. Scott Fitzgerald to write their own versions of this earlier novel for their own contemporary readership. All three of these novels present their protagonists' quest for personal identity and study the influence of America's capitalist institutions and materialistic outlook 6n life in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
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