The Potlatch and its Shaping Influence on Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
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None of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s other works whether in poetry or prose has received as much critical attention as his The Great Gatsby. If it is true as it is sometimes claimed in critical circles that authors really produce only a single book that they keep re-writing in different forms, The Great Gatsby is certainly the one book in Fitzgerald’s writing career that earned him the title of novelist. To date, it has been read from diverse and multiple perspectives that makes it very difficult for new readers to carve a niche in the huge amount of scholarship that it has amassed. However, I would argue that little attention has been devoted by critics to the issue of the potlatch and the way it shapes the content and form of the novel. The “potlatch” as it is conceptualized and theorized by scholars such as Marcel Mauss in The Gift and George Bataille in The Accursed Share will be deployed in this research to account for the generic/mythic displacements that have led many critics to quarrel over the category of fiction to which The Great Gatsby belongs. The potlatch perspective will also be employed to shed light into the complexity of the love-war relationships between characters and the types of society they stand for, and the way Fitzgerald conceived and circulated the book itself as a “gift” or “potlatch” in the capitalist economy of the 1920s America.