By Cassidy Whitson

Sophomore, Journalism Major

At what point does a work of art become a cultural phenomenon?

What defines a “classic”?


In the case of The Great Gatsby, the answer is not quite clear. Fitzgerald’s story of love and loss, mixed with a culture of conspicuous consumption, continues to adapt through the changing times. It absorbs even more importance as it is assimilated into the culture and aestheticism of the modern era. Able to mix and heighten all emotion, Fitzgerald creates a unique and enthralling experience for the reader rather than simply telling the tale. As the reader, you are transported into the roaring atmosphere of West Egg.

Gatsby revivals have recurred numerous times during the 20th century, but “Gatsby-mania” was recently spurred by Baz Luhrmann’s rebirth of this classic. Music, fashion and lifestyle have proved to be timeless. Combined, they emulate the splendor of the lives of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. There is an allure in being wealthy, young and beautiful, even if the life led is not a happy one.

The evolution of Gatsby into the 21st century infused high fashion such as Prada with the everyday wear of Brooks Brothers; both created Gatsby-inspired collections. Rap artists such as Jay-Z were juxtaposed with indie songbirds Gotye and Sia. A new take on the high-class lifestyle was presented, one much like today’s, characterized by expense and young people imbibing in the pleasures of their riches, yet the revelry itself exposed the shallow world behind.

The “Gatsby hype” may just be a phase, an exciting cultural boom that will pass. But the themes and realism of Fitzgerald’s novel will continue to exist in every generation. Only in time, when the next artistic protégés realize its genius, will the next “Gatsby hype” be reborn. As Jay Gastby peers over the vast expanse of the bay in the novel, and looks forward to the future, he muses, “Can’t repeat the past? Why, of course you can!” Even with the novel on the shelf and the lessons of the residents of West Egg’s tumultuous lives almost forgotten, the past inevitably repeats itself, and The Great Gatsby’s legacy lives on. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”