Ideas for Group Discussions
One approach to this novel would be to compare and contrast it with This Side of Paradise, with an eye to seeing the numerous technical differences and thematic similarities. Readers may wish to consult some of the critics who did just this, to see if there is merit in these studies.
1. Do the perhaps digressive passages, such as the "Flash-back," distract you from the forward motion of the plot? Would the book gain from their removal?
2. Fitzgerald did a considerable amount of rewriting of this novel, largely at the solicited suggestions of friends. If you had been so consulted, what further alterations would you have recommended?
3. Does Anthony's extramarital affair with Dot, while he is in the army, really contribute anything to your estimate of the man's character?
4. One criticism leveled at this book is that the author was "too close" to the characters and events, had not thought them through enough — do you believe that a greater aesthetic distance would have improved the novel?
5. One absolute digression is the passage about the Japanese butler employed by Anthony and Gloria — has the section any merit apart from its presumably amusing features?
6. Try to find as many of the often noted "cynical" passages, especially those spoken by major characters, as possible — do they reach the level of true epigrams, and is there any wisdom in them?
7. Does the section about...
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All of Fitzgerald's fiction deals with the ambitions, illusions, and disappointments of people who were molded by the American dream and the enormous prosperity generated by American entrepreneurship at the turn of the twentieth century. The novel that closely parallels the characters and their destinies is This Side of Paradise (1920), in which the young men and women undertake rites of passage that test their perception of reality.
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Chelsea House, 1985. A short but important collection of critical essays, this book provides an introductory overview of Fitzgerald scholarship, plus readings from a variety of perspectives on his fiction.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., ed. New Essays on “The Great Gatsby.” Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1985. This short but important collection includes an introductory overview of scholarship, plus interpretive essays on Fitzgerald’s best-known novel.
Bruccoli, Matthew J. Some Sort of Epic Grandeur. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981. In this outstanding biography, a major Fitzgerald scholar argues that Fitzgerald’s divided spirit, not his lifestyle, distracted him from writing. Claims that Fitzgerald both loved and hated the privileged class that was the subject of his fiction.
Eble, Kenneth. F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Twayne, 1963. A clearly written critical biography, this book traces Fitzgerald’s development from youth through a “Final Assessment,” which surveys scholarship on his texts.
Hook, Andrew. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Literary Life. New York: St. Martin’s, 2002. Part of the Literary Lives series. Concise rather than thorough, but with some interesting details....
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