Meyer Wolfsheim in "The Great Gatsby"

Resource Kit by
Sadie Gold-Shapiro

Module Content

Introduction

Introduction 

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby in 1925, just a year after one of the most restrictive immigration laws of the twentieth century was passed. This law, along with a booming post-World War I economy, set the backdrop for the so-called Jazz Age of the 1920s, a time of massive social upheaval in the United States. 
 
F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in the 1890s to an upper-middle class Irish American family in the Midwest. Raised Catholic, he was schooled in largely homogenous parochial institutions, later graduating from Princeton. Though he wrote and published a lot during his lifetime, he did not receive critical acclaim until after his death in 1940. The Great Gatsby, today a bestseller and required reading in many high school classrooms, was virtually unknown during his lifetime. 
 
This kit will offer teachers tools to examine the instances of racism, nativism, and anti-Semitism present in the book, and in particular to discuss the Jewish character Meyer Wolfsheim. 
 
Cover image: "Arnold Rothstein At His Desk," 1910s, courtesy of Getty Images. Arnold Rothstein was a kingpin of the Jewish mafia and allegedly the inspiration for the fictional Meyer Wolfsheim.
 
n.b. I’d like to thank Neil Rubin for his interest, ideas, and initial research which informed this kit.