For hardcore F. Scott Fitzgerald fans, there was never any doubt that The Great Gatsby was set on the North Shore of Long Island. Even before seeing either of the movies inspired by the book, the town of West Egg was assumed to be in the Hamptons. But now, a new documentary, Gatsby In Connecticut; The Untold story is turning everything you think you know upside down.
Initially, Charles Scribner III, the great-great-grandson of the man who originally published The Great Gatsby, said there was no way that West Egg was not based on Long Island, but after hearing the evidence from filmmaker Robert Steven Williams and author Richard Webb Jr. (who wrote a companion book to go along with the documentary), Scribner says that they may be onto something believing that West Egg might have actually been Westport, CT, says Town & Country.
The impulse for the documentary started with a 1996 article in The New Yorker by Barbara Probst Solomon which posed a question about Fitzgerald’s inspiration for West Egg.
“Was ‘Gatsby’ entirely inspired by Long Island, as critics and scholars have always thought, or was it a blend of Fitzgerald’s first beachy summer in Westport and his time in Great Neck?”
Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, lived in Westport, Connecticut, following their wedding in 1920 during a happy time in their relationship. The couple lived in Long Island from 1922 to 1924. The house the Fitzgeralds rented in Westport was the smaller house, a guest house, on the property of an estate.
The guest house, possibly the inspiration for the house that Daisy’s cousin, Nick Carroway, rents on Gatsby’s estate, is often called the Gray House, as it was built by William Gray II in 1758. Fitzgerald features the house in his novel The Beautiful and Damned, describing it perfectly.
“The gray house had been there when women who kept cats were probably witches…. Since those days the house had been bolstered up in a feeble corner, considerably repartitioned and newly plastered inside, amplified by kitchen and added to by a side-porch but, save for where some jovial oaf had roofed the new kitchen with red tin, Colonial it defiantly remained.”
In the years that followed in the lives of the Fitzgeralds, both mentioned or referred to the Gray House in their work. In her book Save Me The Waltz, Zelda Fitzgerald wrote about that house in Westport.
Williams explains that he and Webb are not saying that Long Island wasn’t part of the inspiration for The Great Gatsby, but that it was likely a combination of the two locations, says The New York Times.
“We’re not saying it’s exclusively one or the other. We call it the beachy blend. We like to think a little more Westport than Great Neck.”
The first summer of the Fitzgeralds’ marriage was spent on the beach in Westport where parties took place less than two miles from the Gray House.
“The lush beach parties, bootlegging and movie activity that were to reappear transformed in Fitzgerald’s fiction were all happening within a two-mile radius of his cottage.”
There are a variety of clues in the documentary, which will be released in the fall, that lay out the argument that Westport played a large part in the inspiration of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of the world of Jay Gatsby. The book, Boats Against The Current, will be out at the end of June.