The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scott Key Fitzgerald was born on September 24,
and named after his ancestor Francis Scott Key, the author of The Star-Spangled
Banner. Fitzgerald was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. Though an intelligent
child, he did poorly in school and was sent to a New Jersey boarding school in 1911.
Despite being a mediocre student there, he managed to enroll at Princeton in 1913.
Academic troubles and apathy plagued him throughout his time at college, and he
never graduated, instead enlisting in the army in 1917, as
World War I neared its end.
became a second lieutenant, and was stationed at Camp Sheridan, in Montgomery,
Alabama. There he met and fell in love with a wild seventeen-year-old beauty
named Zelda Sayre. Zelda finally agreed to marry him, but her overpowering
desire for wealth, fun, and leisure led her to delay their wedding until he
could prove a success. With the publication of This
Side of Paradise in 1920, Fitzgerald became a
literary sensation, earning enough money and fame to convince Zelda to marry
Many of these events from Fitzgerald’s early life
appear in his most famous novel, The Great Gatsby,
published in 1925. Like Fitzgerald, Nick Carraway is
a thoughtful young man from Minnesota, educated at an Ivy League school (in
Nick’s case, Yale), who moves to New York after the war. Also similar to
Fitzgerald is Jay Gatsby, a sensitive young man who idolizes wealth and luxury
and who falls in love with a beautiful young woman while stationed at a
military camp in the South.
Having become a celebrity, Fitzgerald fell into a
wild, reckless life-style of parties and decadence, while desperately trying to
please Zelda by writing to earn money. Similarly, Gatsby amasses a great deal
of wealth at a relatively young age, and devotes himself to acquiring
possessions and throwing parties that he believes will enable him to win
Daisy’s love. As the giddiness of the Roaring Twenties dissolved into the
bleakness of the Great Depression, however, Zelda suffered a nervous breakdown
and Fitzgerald battled alcoholism, which hampered his writing. He published Tender Is the Night in 1934, and
sold short stories to The Saturday Evening Post to
support his lavish lifestyle. In 1937, he
left for Hollywood to write screenplays, and in 1940, while
working on his novel The Love of the Last Tycoon,
died of a heart attack at the age of forty-four.
Fitzgerald was the most famous chronicler of 1920s
America, an era that he dubbed “the Jazz Age.” Written in 1925,
The Great Gatsby is one of the greatest
literary documents of this period, in which the American economy soared,
bringing unprecedented levels of prosperity to the nation. Prohibition, the ban
on the sale and consumption of alcohol mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment to
the Constitution (1919), made millionaires out of
bootleggers, and an underground culture of revelry sprang up. Sprawling private
parties managed to elude police notice, and “speakeasies”—secret clubs that
sold liquor—thrived. The chaos and violence of World War I left America in a
state of shock, and the generation that fought the war turned to wild and
extravagant living to compensate. The staid conservatism and timeworn values of
the previous decade were turned on their ear, as money, opulence, and
exuberance became the order of the day.
Like Nick in The Great
Gatsby, Fitzgerald found this new lifestyle seductive and exciting, and,
like Gatsby, he had always idolized the very rich. Now he found himself in an
era in which unrestrained materialism set the tone of society, particularly in
the large cities of the East. Even so, like Nick, Fitzgerald saw through the
glitter of the Jazz Age to the moral emptiness and hypocrisy beneath, and part
of him longed for this absent moral center. In many ways, The Great Gatsby represents Fitzgerald’s attempt
to confront his conflicting feelings about the Jazz Age. Like Gatsby,
Fitzgerald was driven by his love for a woman who symbolized everything he
wanted, even as she led him toward everything he despised.
- Why are we still
reading a book written in the 1920's? What gives a book its longevity?
- How was the 1920's a
reaction to WWI?
- Some people think that
having money leads to happiness. Do you agree? Why or why not? What are
the advantages or disadvantages of being wealthy.
- What is the
"American Dream?" Where did it originate, and how has it changed
over the centuries?
- Have you ever wanted to
relive a moment from your past, to redo it? Describe the situation. How
and why would you change the past?
each of the nine chapters you will be expected to write a journal entry. The journal entries will be graded as nine
separate quizzes. The following are the
requirements for your Gatsby journal:
- Title each entry and
include the chapter number.
- Write a five sentence
- For each chapter choose
a different character to focus on.
- Name the character.
- Choose a quote that
you think best represents the character and explain why you chose that
- Describe his/her best
and worst qualities.
- In one paragraph
describe the character’s role in the novel.
- For each chapter choose
one meaningful quote, and then describe its significance in the novel.
- For each chapter note at least two sightings of one
or more of the following symbols: the color green, the color white, silver
and gold, the ash heap, the eyes of T.J. Eckleberg, Gatsby's career/Nick's
career, Gatsby's library of uncut books/Nick's unread books, Dan Cody,
East verse West Egg, rain in chapter five, heat in chapter seven,
Wolfsheim's cufflinks, faded timetable (showing names of Gatsby's guests),
Great Gatsby Journals
Best/Worst Qualities……………3 points
Who’s Who in The Great
- Feign 5. Reciprocal
- Supercilious 6. Complacent
- Conscientious 7. Intimation
- Incredulous 8. Infinite
- Notice how many times
Fitzgerald uses the words hope and dream. Why does he do this?
- Nick starts the novel
by relaying his father's advice, "Whenever you feel like criticizing
anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the
advantages that you've had." List Nick's advantages. Does he reserve
judgment in the novel?
- Pay attention to time.
What is the day and year during the first scene at Daisy's house?
- Describe Nick. What
facts do you know about him, and what do you infer about him? What kind of
a narrator do you think he will be?
- What image does the
author use to describe Jordan Baker? What does it mean?
- How does Nick react to
- What does Tom's
behavior reveal about his character?
- Contiguous 6. Languid
- Facet 7. Imply
- Cower 8. Strident
- Interpose 9. Deft
- Apathetic 10. Clad
- Describe the
"valley of ashes." What does it look like and what does it
- Describe Mr. Wilson and
Myrtle. Do they seem to fit into the setting?
- What more have you
learned about Nick in this chapter? Is he similar or different than the
people he spends his time with?
- Describe the violent
act Tom committed against Myrtle. What does this reveal about him?
- Permeate 6. Impetuous
- Innuendo 7. Vacuous
- Erroneous 8. Corpulent
- Vehement 9. Provincial
- Cordial 10. Din
- Pay attention to Nick's
judgments. What do they reveal about his character that he does this
(especially in relation to his opening comments)?
- Describe Gatsby the
first time Nick sees him.
- What rumors have been
told about Gatsby? Why does Fitzgerald reveal rumors rather than fact?
- What does Nick think of
Gatsby after meeting him?
- How is Gatsby different
from his guests?
- Why does Nick choose to
share his thoughts and
feelings with Jordan?
- Nick thinks he's one of
the few honest people he
knows, why? Do you think he is honest?
- Fluctuate 4. Valor
- Sporadic 5. Denizen
- Elicit 6. Jaunt
- List all of the rumors
told about Gatsby.
- Why does Fitzgerald
list all of Gatsby's party guests?
- Why does Gatsby tell
Nick about his life? Do you believe Gatsby? Does Nick?
- What role does Meyer
Wolfsheim play in the novel? Why is there so much focus on his nose and
what does this tell you about Fitzgerald's politics?
- What does Jordan's
story of Daisy's marriage reveal about Daisy?
- Why did Gatsby want
Daisy to see his house?
- Nick says, "There
are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired." What
does Nick mean? How does each character in the novel fit into this schema?
- Suppressed 4. Reproach
- Innumerable 5. Obstinate
- Ecstatic 6. Exultation
- Why does Gatsby deliver
so many goods and services to Nick's house?
- Describe the effect of
rain on the plot.
- Why does Gatsby offer
Nick work? How does Nick feel about this?
- Explain the
significance of the green light.
- Why does Gatsby get so
many phone calls? What does this say about him?
- Laudable 6. Ingratiate
- Insidious 7. Perturb
- Repose 8. Dilatory
- Debauch 9. Desolate
5. Antecedent 10. Elusive
- How truthful was Gatsby
when he relayed the story of his life to Nick? Why does Fitzgerald tell
the story of Jay Gatz now?
- Describe the meeting of
Tom and Gatsby. What does this meeting reveal about them?
- Why did Daisy and Tom
find Gatsby's party loathsome?
- How did Gatsby measure
the success of his party?
- When Nick told Gatsby
that, "you can't repeat the past," Gatsby replied, "Why of
course you can!" Do you agree with Nick or Gatsby?
- Lapse 6. Portentous
- Insistent 7. Irreverent
- Tentative 8.
- Abrupt 9. Rancor
- Tumult 10. Formidable
- Describe Daisy and
Gatsby's new relationship.
- Compare George Wilson
and Tom. What did each man learn about his wife and how did they each
- If Daisy says she's
never loved Tom, is there someone whom she thinks she loves?
- Describe the fight
between Gatsby and Tom. What do these men think of each other? How are
they similar and how are they different?
- What was significant
about Nick's 30th birthday?
- What do you think Tom
and Daisy were saying to each other in the kitchen? Do you think that Tom
knew Daisy was driving the "death car?" Why, why not?
7. At this
point, how would you end the novel?
- Indiscernible 4. Conceivable
- Garrulous 5. Forlorn
- Incoherent 6. Laden
- How does Fitzgerald
achieve a melancholic mood in the beginning of this chapter?
- How are seasons used in
constructing this novel?
- Who is Dan Cody and
what is his significance in Gatsby's life?
- How does Nick's
statement "You're worth the whole bunch put together" show a
change in Nick from the beginning of the novel?
- How does T. J.
Eckleberg affect Mr. Wilson?
- Derange 5. Unutterable
- Surmise 6. Subtle
- Superfluous 7. Borne
- Elocution 8. Ceaselessly
- Why did Nick take care
of Gatsby's funeral?
- How was Jay Gatz's
childhood schedule consistent with the adult Gatsby's behavior?
- Who attended Gatsby's
funeral? How and why is this significant?
- What is the purpose of
Nick's last meeting with Jordan?
- Why does Nick call Tom
and Daisy "careless people?"
- Does this novel have
villains and heroes? Why, why not? If yes, who fits into these categories
- Nick is both part of
the action and acting as an objective commentator. Does this narration
style work? Why, why not?
- How did Fitzgerald use
weather to reflect the mood of the story?
- Again, why are we still
reading a book written in the 1920's? What gives a book its longevity? And
which of its themes are eternal in the American psyche.