Suggested Essay Topics
1. Consider the references to people in literature or history in the chapter. What purpose(s) do they serve?
2. Write a character sketch of Daisy (or Tom or Jordan), focusing on the recurring “tag” used to describe them. Daisy leans forward and talks in a low voice; Tom is restless and hulking; Jordan balances something on her chin almost in an athletic stance. What is Fitzgerald’s purpose in thus describing them?
3. Explain how the first chapter of this novel is critically important in the development of plot, characters, and themes.
1. Consider the possibilities of an agrarian society being the epitome of the American Dream. Find evidences of farming or pastoral scenes and diction in the first two chapters which suggest the belief that such a society fulfills the ideal American Dream.
2. Contrast the green light at the end of chapter 1 and the gray images in the Valley of Ashes in chapter 2. What thematic statement do the contrasting images reveal?
3. How can George Wilson be said to symbolize the American Dream? Consider the Horatio Alger (“rags-to-riches”) motif, as well as his undying desire to better his situation.
4. Write about Fitzgerald’s poetic style, focusing especially on the vivid metaphors and images, such as this description from Catherine: “Her eyebrows had been plucked and then drawn on again at a more rakish angle, but the efforts of nature toward the restoration of the old alignment gave a blurred air to her face.” How is Fitzgerald a disciplined writer with great control of his prose?
5. Research descriptions of archetypal heroes, including their mysterious beginnings associated with rumors and mythical power. Consider Gatsby as such a hero, based upon the rumors surrounding him.
1. Trace references to music in the Jazz Age—specific songs, types of instruments, description of the sounds—and draw a conclusion about their purpose(s). Discuss the dominant musical types of the 1920s.
2. Find a list of the seven deadly sins and the seven cardinal virtues. Write a paper in which you analyze some or all of the characters in regard to these sins and virtues. Which vice or virtue does each manifest?
3. Study Nick as a symbol of honesty and Jordan as a symbol of dishonesty. Write a character sketch which reveals their likenesses and differences in terms of veracity and credibility.
1. Show how the American Dream associated with America’s past has succumbed to mercenary, almost exclusively materialistic values, derived from get-rich-quick schemes. Find evidence of the historical basis in fact and corresponding evidence in the novel.
2. Elaborate on the epigram: “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired.” Show how it contributes to the development of plot, character, and theme in the novel. Give justification for its being the single most important line in the novel.
3. Determine where this chapter fits on the...
(The entire section is 1287 words.)
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