The Great Gatsby is more like a realist novel than a modernist novel. With reference to appropriately selected parts of the novel, and relevant external contextual information on realist novels and modernist novels, give your response to the above view.
In literature a realist novel can be defined as an approach that attempts to describe life without idealisation or romantic subjectivity. On the other hand, a modernist novel is characterised by a self-conscious break with traditional styles of poetry and verse. The modernist literary movement was driven by a conscious desire to overturn traditional modes of representation and express the new sensibilities of their time. It is undeniable the The Great Gatsby contains elements of both, but it is more effective as a realist novel than a modernist novel due to how it uses realistic characters and settings.
Richard Chase defined several characteristics of what makes a realist novel. He said that a realist novel uses selective presentation of a reality with an emphasis on authenticity, even at the expense of plot, and that characters appear real in temperament and motive. This has led many to define The Great Gatsby as a realist novel rather than a modernist one. There may be some merit to this opinion, especially when we consider how the events of the novel are closely related to Fitzgerald’s own life, especially the women in the novel.
For example, the character of Daisy is said to be modelled on Ginevra King. Fitzgerald met Ginevra when he was at Princeton and she was still at prep school. They exchanged love letters, but the relationship ended when Ginevra’s father bluntly told Fitzgerald that he had no business dating rich girls. This gave him a sense of inferiority and was the cause of his lust for wealth, much like Gatsby. In the novel Fitzgerald remarks that Daisy’s voice was, “full of money,” and Gatsby tells Tom, “She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me.” This is very similar to Fitzgerald’s experience of love. Critics are divided on whether the women of the play are based on Ginevra or his wife Zelda; it is likely he used elements of both as inspiration. This direct link with Fitzgerald’s real life experiences may suggest that The Great Gatsby is more effective as a realist novel than a modernist one.