The Dust Jacket of The Great Gatsby
The dust jacket of The Great Gatsby has an extremely complex yet influential relationship to its text as well as its author. Francis Cugat, the artist of the cover, developed the painting through a series of ten sketches. In each sketch he develops a new element of the painting which indicates the level of complexity in the final work. Interestingly, Fitzgerald never mentions the artist’s name in his correspondents with his editor Maxwell Perkins. However, he does admit that it has a direct influence on the novel. In a correspondence written from France (estimated to have been written around august 17, 1924) Fitzgerald implores, “for Christ sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me, I’ve written it into the book”. Moreover, Fitzgerald claims to have finalized the novel on November 14, 1924. This ambiguous letter leaves the reader to seek out the influence of the painting on the novel.
The different elements of the painting on the dusk jacket appear to emerge in different parts of the novel. Some critics equate the woman’s eyes to the ominous stare of Doctor T.J Ekckleburg. However, the dissimilarities between the images on the jacket of the description of the billboard imply that the Doctor was not completely inspired by the painting. Another frequently discussed connection grows out of Nick’s statement at the end of chapter five. He observes, “Unlike Gatsby and Tom Buchanan I had no girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs”. This passage is almost an exact description of the cover of the book. Furthermore, the green tear has striking similarity to the light “that burns all night” opposite the sound of Gatsby’s mansion. Although Nick’s quotation is short, it encompasses several of the key aspects of the painting. Unfortunately, these connections between the text and the painting can only be speculated due to the lack of specificity in Fitzgerald’s letters. In any event, the cover lends itself to a central theme in the novel. The image captures Fitzgerald’s idea of a society that is constantly watching and judging.
Cugat’s painting contributes to Fitzgerald’s effort to change his image as writer for the Flapper. In one correspondence to Perkins he claims The Great Gatsby will be “a consciously artistic...