The website NewspaperAlum has a fascinating piece about how the critics of 1925 perceived Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. For many years after its publication, Gatsby was not recognized as the Great American Novel, and you can read some critiques at this webpage that are both perceptive and nonperceptive.
I am fascinated by Elizabeth Wharton’s letter to Fitzgerald, quoted on this webpage as follows:
“To make Gatsby really Great, you ought to have given us his early career (not from the cradle-but from his visit to the yacht, if not before) instead of a short resume of it. That would have situated him & made his final tragedy a tragedy instead of a ``fait divers'' for the morning papers.''
Wharton singled out a great logical weakness in this novel. I wonder if Fitzgerald was aware of it. Fitzgerald paints Gatsby as a man who has reinvented himself. He is not to be trusted about his own image and background, for there’s no way to know where reality gives way to his self-invention. Nonetheless, near the book’s end, Gatsby tells Nick where he came from, and we are expected to swallow this self-history: hook, line and sinker.