1. The American Dream--as it arose in the Colonial period and developed in the nineteenth century--was based on the assumption that each person, no matter what his or her origins, could succeed in life on the sole basis of his or her own skill and effort.
The Great Gatsby is a novel about what happened to the American dream in the 1920s, a period when the old values that gave substance to the dream had been corrupted by the vulgar pursuit of wealth.
What Fitzgerald seems to be criticizing in The Great Gatsby is not the American Dream itself but the corruption of the American Dream. What was once--for Ben Franklin, for example, or Thomas Jefferson--a belief in hard work has become what Nick Carraway calls "...the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty." The energy that might have gone into the pursuit of noble goals has been channeled into the pursuit of power and pleasure, and a very showy, but fundamentally empty form of success.
Carefully discuss how this idea is shown in the book.
2. Style refers to the way a writer puts words together: the length and rhythm of his sentences; his use of figurative language and symbolism; his use of dialogue and description.
How does Fitzgerald’s styling and structuring of the narrative emphasize the novel’s major themes?
3. The word “careless” sums up one of the most important ideas in the book. Nick refers to Jordan, Tom, and Daisy as careless in one form or another. Their actions are careless and they are careless people. This is due to the ease of their life. These people live the decadent life of the roaring twenties that many of the writers of this era were criticizing. The mindless, indulgent, irresponsible lifestyle where consequence is just an afterthought. Fitzgerald uses these characters to expose this life with their selfish actions.
It has been said that this is a statement of the moral differences in the social classes. Fitzgerald’s story shows the clear delineations between different social/ economic classes: new money/ old money, “the haves”/ “the have-nots.” How are readers to interpret his comments on each of these groups? Does he hold any one group above the other? Are there ways in which people of all groups are alike? How are these ideas shown in the text?
4. In Chapter VII, Nick remembers that it is his thirtieth birthday. He, like Gatsby, Tom, and Daisy, came East to get away from his past; now that his youth is officially over, he realizes that he may have made a mistake to come East, and begins a period of reevaluation that leads to his eventual decision to return to the Middle West. The Great Gatsby is the story of Nick's initiation into life. His trip East gives him the education he needs to g row up. The novel can, therefore, be called a bildungsroman--the German word for a story about a young man. We simply call them by the more general description of “Coming of Age” or “Rite of Passage” stories. (Other examples of a bildungsroman are The Red Badge of Courage, David Copperfield, and The Catcher in the Rye.) Nick, in a sense, writes The Great Gatsby to show us what he has learned.
So, what has he learned? What is the lesson Nick is offering his reader? How is the lesson made clear considering Nick’s inability to judge?
5. The past is of central importance in the novel, whether it is Gatsby's personal past (his fling with Daisy in 1917) or the larger historical past to which Nick refers in the closing sentence of the novel: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." The past holds something that both Gatsby and Nick seem to long for: a simpler, better, nobler time, perhaps, a time when people believed in the importance of the family and the church. Tom, Daisy and