May 12 marks a trip to West Egg for New College—a trip into the decadence, desperate love and the glistening grandeur of the Roaring 1920s as imagined in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and coordinated solely by thesis student Tatiana Pillsbury and second-year Hannah Barker.
A long-standing New College tradition—or perhaps ‘old sport’—the Gatsby party isn’t managed by any existing campus organizations like Student Activities and Campus Engagement (SAUCE), so students have to organize the event each year themselves. New College’s upperclassmen have had to shoulder many traditions since the coronavirus pandemic crumpled the campus’ usual operations, and doubly so in the wake of sweeping changes by the Board of Trustees (BOT) in how the campus will operate and how the institution will market itself.
Pillsbury—one of the key coordinators of the event—shared her thoughts with the Catalyst over email.
“Last year, Megan Ballard (‘22) hosted Gatsby and had an attendance of upwards of 150-180 people,” Tatiana wrote.
Though Ballard’s parting wish for the next Gatsby party to be held on Caples campus as it had before the pandemic was unable to come to fruition, the Gatsby party will continue to operate from out of Cook Hall.
Pillsbury expressed her confidence that everything had proceeded smoothly in organizing the event.
“So far [we’ve had] no obstacles,” Pillsbury wrote via email. “We may have problems though if it rains on the event.”
Outlining her aspirations for the event, Pillsbury made it clear she intended to lean into the glamor of the 1920s.
“Dressing up in period-appropriate attire can be a fun and exciting experience, allowing guests to feel like they are part of the era and adding to the overall ambiance of the party,” Pillsbury said. “Everyone gets a chance to feel beautiful with glitz and glam. The 1920s [were] a time of glitz and glamor, so a Great Gatsby themed party can be an opportunity to create elaborate and creative decorations that add to the overall ambiance and excitement of the party.”
Within the namesake book itself, the titular Jay Gatsby organized grandiose parties in his abode with the hopes of catching the eye of and rekindling his lost love with socialite Daisy Buchanan—whom had already married millionaire Tom Buchanan. This motivation—Gatsby’s jealousy and passion, as seen through protagonist Nick Carraway’s comparative greenness to the rot of upper-class New York—eventually spirals out of control and begins to build a bodycount. As the tagline to the 2023 edition of the Gatsby party proclaims, “A little party never killed nobody!”
“This event is inspired by both the book and the films,” Pillsbury wrote. “We hope to recreate the same 1920s setting and a time of fun and celebration! I personally like the book and films, and they have always been among my favorites.”
Though Gatsby’s parties within the novel served selfish ends, Pillsbury’s vision of the New College Gatsby party is an opportunity for everyone to come together dressed their best and revel one last time in the afterglow of a century ago.