The classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald follows the life of Nick and Jay Gatsby in their pursuit to live life in the fast lane. Gatsby had eyes on Nick’s cousin, Daisy since the teenage years but lacked ways in which he would approach her. However, their future together does not come true because Daisy finds love in another man and marries him. Their marriage is on a rocky climb, and she rekindles her affair with Gatsby behind her husband’s back. All goes well till the husband knows of the secret affair and aims to end it by killing Gatsby. All these events happen in the joy, laughter, and parties that Gatsby held in his mansion. They were spoilt for choice as they had the money and people to mess around with at their pleasure.
In a way, the novel portrays the life of Fitz as most of the events described tend to be similar to his times in the army. Fitz joined the army in 1917 and with time, he rose to second lieutenant. His life is similar to Nick’s life (MacDonald par 1). Nick was a young man full of hopes and thoughts from Minnesota and went to Ivy League school. He idolizes luxury and wealth just like Fitz and also falls in love with a young woman stationed at a military camp. His love for the wild and reckless parties grew as he tried to woe Zelda.
The events that took place in his time are similar to those in the book. He took some of the key cultural artifacts and appreciated it even more especially in parties. The novel revolves around drinking and partying where Jazz music plays the center stage for most of the functions. Jazz music helps Fitz in developing the novel by applying it in different scenes.
Jazz music played the center stage in the early 1900s as described by Fitz, who refers to it as the roaring twenties (MacDonald par 2). Jazz was quickly growing into a popular music genre among the Americans due to its funky beats and dance styles. According to Fitz, the Jazz Age was full of age miracles, excess, art, and satire (MacDonald par 3). At the time, the World War I was at its peak stage and most of the soldiers were returning home. As a way of relieving their stress and finding damsels to spend the night with, they would head to the bar and have the best night. Jazz music in the movie brings out different emotions and plots as it links with the conversation in the scenes. It acts as a filler for the audience to connect with the movie. There are some songs used in the movie to bring out certain emotions felt by the characters.
While at Gatsby’s party, Nick, Daisy and Tom discuss how Gatsby gained such wealth in a short time. As they talk, the song Three O’clock by Paul Whiteman (Fitzgerald p 116) plays in the background. However, Nick’s thoughts are not in the discussion but on the possibility of a girl entering the premises and sweeping Gatsby off his feet. The lady might be the reason Gatsby will stop falling in love with Daisy. The song’s lyrics try to express the emotions Nick has toward the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy. The little waltz represents him as he seats patiently awaiting a miracle to happen.
Another song used to represent the mood is by Scheck and Van, Ain’t We Got Fun. Klipspringer plays it on the piano during the first visit of Daisy to Gatsby’s house (The Role of Jazz in The Great Gatsby slide 4). The song follows the foxtrot structure and was among the favorite as described by the Tin Pan Alley. It was full of vibrancy, zesty and comical lyrics.
The book adopts a line of Fats Waller’s song, the Sheik of Araby in the conversation between Nick and Jordan as they pass New York (Fitzgerald p 78). Their conversation is about the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby and the lengths Gatsby is taking to find Daisy on Long Island. Fitz used the song to commemorate the great hit as acknowledged by Tin Pan Alley. Other early jazz bands adopted the song in their playlist, especially New Orleans. With time and progressive airplay it became a jazz standard and a great recognition towards the culture.
Another lyric adaptation in the movie is by Chris Barber, Beale Street Blues. The verse, All night the saxophones complimented the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby during their courtship days in 1917 (Fitzgerald p157). The song stands out as one of the authentic blues which were popular among the whites. It was popular in 1916 and 1917, hence its adoption in the movie. It gained further popularity in 1919 after the release of Gild Gray’s version.
Jazz revolves around different themes present in the novel such as socio-economic divide, extravagance, and obsession. Fitz carefully places lyrics and songs in the novel to show the obsession people had with wealth. Gatsby wealth acted as a magnet towards the people around him. He felt superior to his friends and enemies. However, wealth acted as a barrier between the rich and poor as it is in the current times.
According to Fitz, most of the parties began at seven o’clock when everyone was retiring from work. The owners hired large orchestras to commemorate the events as it attracted the wealthy people in the society (Fitzgerald p40). Partying went all the way to the morning with different bands playing every time. The themed music controlled the crowd such as Vladimir Tostoff’ factious song Jazz history of the World. The song tends to cause hilarity to the party goers.
Parties held depended on the size of jazz bands in relation to the obsession and extravagance. A medium sized band featured a variety of instruments that feature in common jazz songs (The Role of Jazz in The Great Gatsby slide 6). They display extravagance themes. It was the beginner’s stage of the nightlife and common to those that have limited amount of money to spend. The rhythm bands had fast tempos and were common in mainstream jazz. It was common with daily party goers as they liked the nightlife and its extravagance as well as dancing to the tunes.
The wildest parties as hosted by Gatsby feature multiple functional harmonies which tend to fuse multiple layers and deviations of the primary melody. Due to the composition of different jazz music on one stage, most of the damsels in the city frequented these joints, and the wealthy people would follow suit. It acted as an inner circle for the wealthy, and some of the parties continued till the wee hours.
The song speaks of sorrow and deep thoughts; the kind Daisy was currently experiencing. The song’s upbeat tempo represented the cheerful feeling as seen in Daisy’s life. B flat major tends to shape the song as a happy one from its general appearance. It created a medium theme to it as it featured a white singer, unlike the African American dominated bands. However, it expressed the racism element in the upper class. Lastly, the lyrics express the violence and poverty affecting the Memphis in Beale Street.
Lastly, the love obsession is a predominant theme in the novel. The scene where Nick and Jordan lead towards the plaza and they converse about Daisy and Gatsby’s love story, some girls on Central part start singing Sheik of Araby (The Role of Jazz in The Great Gatsby slide 9). The song’s relatively slow tempo makes it blend with the scene as it helps the two in reflecting on Daisy and Gatsby’s story. The chord progression makes it simple to relate to unlike the previous songs in the same era. Its lyrics helps in reflecting on love as an obsessive matter by showcasing the singer as one who possesses his partner.
In conclusion, the Great Gatsby played a major role in representing the scenes and features of the roaming twenties. It shed light into the different themes jazz music possessed and its dominance at the time. Ideally, strong themes and representations make the movie more appealing to the audience as well as entertaining.
Fitzgerald, Francis Scott. The Great Gatsby. London, United Kingdom: Penguin Books, 1970. Print.
MacDonald, Ronald. How Does Fitzgerald Use Jazz Of The 1920s To Enhance His Novel The Great Gatsby. 27 March 2009. Web. 3 February 2016. <http://www.rmacd.com/misc/2009/0327/1618.html>
The Role of Jazz in The Great Gatsby. 3 February 2014. Web. 3 February 2016. <https://prezi.com/es4f2gm1waps/the-role-of-jazz-in-the-great-gatsby/>