The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” was his third book, and possibly his best work written. A highly Charismatic Jay Gatsby, for his love of life, parties, high society of the 1920’s, and one woman, is exposed. What seems like a simple romantic story is actually a very complex creation. The trio of Gatsby, Nick Carraway, and the lovely Daisy, are used by Fitzgerald to weave this wonderfully complex tale.
Jay Gatsby, a millionaire from out of the blue, comes to New York in 1922. But no matter how much he spends, how many parties he throws, and how many women he has over the night, he is still alone. He meets Nick, and slowly they become a duo and in which draws Nick further into this great Modern Greek tragedy.
The beautiful Daisy Bucchannan with a tale almost as complex as Jay’s. They had met while Jay was still in the military during WWI, and she had gone out with him, and seen Jay’s affection for her. Now married to Tom Buccannan, and learned of Jay Gatsby coming into New York. Jay learns that Nick is Daisy’s cousin, and sets up a rendezvous at Nick’s house.
Nick Carraway, is beginning in the financial world, but striving to be a writer. He comes into the illusion created by Jay Gatsby. Bringing him into a world where not all is as it seems, and yet is actually much more. He is asked by Jay Gatsby, to write his story, after all Nick wants to write. Then this is the Jazz age, and almost everything is an illusion to the rich and powerful. And Jay is just that, or is he? Nick and Jay bond as only two good friends can.
Daisy’s Husband, Tom Buchanan, is the main aggressor of the story. A crass and obnoxious man, that hides behind a well-trained mask nobility. He is an unfaithful husband, and has a very hot temper and abusive to those he feels are not his equal.
The Great Gatsby is an interesting story that will keep you wanting to know what will happen next. Published in 1925, this tale will be one read for a long time. Having already been made into several movies, the first one was published a year after the book. The Great Gatsby is a semi autobiography, based around the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Maybe this is what has and will make it such a great story.
The Great Gatsby Essay Topics
1. Explain how the novel does or does not demonstrate the death of the American Dream. Is the main theme of Gatsby indeed “the withering American Dream”? What does the novel offer about American identity? (Reference the characteristics of the American Dream within the body of your paper.)
2. Explain how the novel demonstrates the characteristics of modernism.
3. Discuss whether or not Gatsby is a romantic hero in the modern era.
4. Discuss how the novel exemplifies the dehumanizing/corrupting nature of wealth (consider examining characters, plot, symbols, etc.). Consider doing a Marxist interpretation. Or, more generally, explain the theme of the corruption of people and society through an examination of characters in the novel who are corrupt.
5. Describe Fitzgerald’s satirical portrait of modern society using Gatsby’s parties as support.
6. Compare and contrast the homes of characters (consider Nick, Gatsby, Tom, and George/Myrtle Wilson). How does each home to (is a symbol for) its owner/renter (how does each home reflect the personality of its renter/owner)? Consider comparing and contrasting the characters, also focusing on their attitudes/ beliefs/values.
7. Argue who is/are the most admirable and/or despicable character(s) in the novel and why.
8. Compare and contrast the major female characters in the novel: , and Myrtle. How does each act towards men? What are their motivations/goals/interests/values? How are they treated by men (including the narrator/author)?
9. Show how Fitzgerald uses clothing (and the changing of costumes) to tell the reader more about the characters and/or express theme(s). Consider discussing colors, fabrics, etc.
10. Do a close reading of a passage of your choosing, explaining the passage in light of the entire novel. *Note: the passage must be approved by me first!
Example: In reference to Tom and Daisy, Nick remarks, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy; they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (180-181).Explain this passage in light of the entire novel.
11. Discuss Fitzgerald’s use of symbolism (this is a large topic that must be significantly narrowed – such as focusing on one symbol and analyzing it in detail - with a specific thesis). How does it function in the novel (consider discussing how it relates to theme, communicates information about characters, develops the plot, etc.)? Possible symbols to discuss include: colors, eyes of T.J. Eckleburg, clothing, cars, the green light, biblical allusions (God, Jesus, grail), characters’ houses, weather, water, music, celestial bodies (moon, stars, planets), nature’s bounty (flowers, shrubs, trees, fruit), etc.
12. Trace the development of the narrator, Nick Carraway – how does he change, and how are these changes significant (how do they relate to the themes of the novel)?
13. Discuss how an aspect of 1920s society appears to change throughout the novel.
14. Is what Gatsby feels for Daisy love, obsession, affection, or accumulation/objectification?What is Fitzgerald’s message here? Consider discussing whether or not Gatsby can really love, given his characteristics.
15. Who is the real person: Jay Gatsby or Jimmy Gatz? Does he become “the Platonic conception of himself”? What does that mean? Is it a peculiarly American phenomenon?
16. Discuss how The Great Gatsby is the quintessential American novel. What does it have to offer about the American identity and the American Dream?
17. Morally ambiguous characters—characters whose behavior discourages readers from identifying them as purely evil or purely good—are at the heart of many works of literature.Choose a character from the novel who is morally ambiguous and write an essay in which you explain how the character can be viewed as morally ambiguous and why his/her moral ambiguity is significant to the work as a whole.
18. Discuss the novel’s theme that the American Dream is corrupted by the desire for wealth. What does the novel and its theme offer about the American identity?
19. Discuss the novel’s theme that outward appearances can be deceptive. What does the novel and its theme offer about the American identity?
20. Create a topic of your own or alter one of the above topics. *You must have this topic approved by Ms. G before you begin working on your essay.