TONO-GATSBY: DID F. SCOTT FITZGERALD REJECT THE INFLUENCE OF H. G. WELLS?

Michael Sherborne

Abstract


Abstract. James Miller Jr’s proposition that F. Scott Fitzgerald had to reject the damaging influence of H. G. Wells before he could produce a masterpiece like The Great Gatsby (1925) has been widely accepted by Fitzgerald scholars. Central to Miller’s thesis is a claim put forward by Henry James that Wells wrote ill-conceived novels of ‘saturation’, in contrast to the more sophisticated novels of ‘selection’ produced by himself and Joseph Conrad. Miller suggests that Conrad and James’s approach to the novel became the model for Fitzgerald’s best work, replacing the detrimental example of Wells. This article questions the validity of the saturation/selection opposition, drawing on Wells’s own arguments against James’s conception of the novel, then challenges the claim that Fitzgerald rejected Wells’s example by analysing the resemblances between The Great Gatsby and a Wells novel which Fitzgerald admired, Tono-Bungay (1909). The analysis proposes that in several respects Wells’s novel is the more artistically successful of the two. Since The Great Gatsby is accepted as a modern classic while Tono-Bungay has a more problematic status in the literary canon, the article concludes by reviewing the reputations of the two novels and suggesting reasons why scholars have prioritised the former text over the latter.


Full Text:

PDF

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.