Introductory Lecture and Objectives

Although F. Scott Fitzgerald did not live long enough to witness its eventual critical acclaim, The Great Gatsby is considered a masterpiece of twentieth century American literature. Hunter S. Thompson, the eccentric, “Gonzo” adventurer and journalist, even retyped all of The Great Gatsby once to get a feel for writing a great novel! With its compressed lyrical style, masterful descriptions, and sharp dramatic focus, Gatsby is a remarkable achievement. The novel, published in 1925, serves as excellent social commentary, capturing a unique period in American history. Occurring between the unimaginable carnage of World War I and the bleakness of the Great Depression, the 1920s, sometimes called the “Roaring Twenties” or, as Fitzgerald coined it, the “Jazz Age,” was both a time of great hope and optimism and a decade of disillusionment and wasteful excess. Fitzgerald, via Nick Carraway’s detached perspective, chronicles this turbulent period and weaves a page-turning story, rich in evocative language and peopled with fascinating and complex characters.

Marking the beginning of what we consider the modern era in American culture, the twenties saw the rise of the automobile culture, a swell in industrialization, the enormous increase of wealth and power in the hands of a relative few, the advent of advertising and materialism, and a growing sense of disillusionment felt by a generation who witnessed the ravishes of a world war. It was also a time of unprecedented societal freedom, at least for those who were young and white and had some cash to spend. The strict morals of the 19th century were tossed out the speakeasy window. The intoxicating rhythms of jazz were in the air, and the illicit taste of grain alcohol was on the tongue. Prohibition was the law of the land, but few followed the rules; speakeasies flourished, opening their doors to a diversity of people who would not normally have socialized together.

While The Great Gatsby is a decidedly specific portrait of American society during the Jazz Age, it’s also a universal tale, as old as the union itself: it’s the rags-to-riches, Horatio-Alger-with-a-twist, story. It centers on America’s complex relationship with class, at once dismissing its importance while staunchly maintaining its existence. Rampant materialism is also a major theme of the book and one of the downsides of this new age, embodied by the purposeless wealthy that Fitzgerald examines in The Great Gatsby, describing them as “careless people,” those who “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 . . . .”

In the self-invented Jay Gatsby and his tireless, single-minded pursuit of Daisy Buchanan, her voice “full of money,” The Great Gatsby dramatizes the still alluring pull of the American Dream while warning us of its perils and limitations. It is a cautionary tale at its heart—a story focused on a small group of people in a small village on Long Island that opens up to encompass the social history of not only New York or the East but the whole of America itself, where the desire to reinvent oneself is all but irresistible. Some who yield to this urge are rewarded with power and wealth, while others, as the author is quick to warn, are destroyed by their dreams and the illusions they created.

By the end of the unit the student will be able to:

1. Identify and discuss the first person narrative point of view of Nick Carraway and its importance to the story.

2. Discuss the significance of the title of the novel, and relate it to a major theme in the book.

3. Describe the key character traits of Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby, and discuss motivations for their actions in the novel.

4. Gain a basic understanding of the setting of the novel and the historical/cultural background of Jazz Age America.

5. Identify key images and symbols from the novel—the valley of ashes, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, Daisy’s voice, etc.—and discuss their significance.

6. Explain the idea of the American Dream and how the novel shows the perils and limitations of this concept.

7. Identify the themes of both artificiality and reinvention in the novel, and cite specific examples from the story.

8. Gain an appreciation for Fitzgerald’s fine, lyrical use of language, masterful description, and skillful development of plot.

9. Explain why the novel is considered a classic, and describe what aspects of this story are timeless.

Instructional Focus: Teaching With an eNotes Lesson Plan

ESL and Differentiated Instruction

This eNotes lesson plan is designed so that it may be used in numerous ways to accommodate ESL students and to differentiate instruction in the classroom.

Student Chapter Guide

The Chapter Guide is organized for a chapter-by-chapter study of the novel. Chapter Guide pages may be assigned individually and completed at a student’s own pace.

Chapter Guide pages may be used as pre-reading activities to preview for students the vocabulary words they will encounter in reading each chapter and to acquaint them generally with the chapter’s content.

Before Chapter Guide pages are assigned, questions may be selected from them to use as short...

(The entire section is 498 words.)

Essay and Discussion Questions

1. We view the events and characters of The Great Gatsby through the eyes of Nick Carraway. What is he like? Can we trust him? How might his character, values, and experiences color the story and the way we see the other characters in the book?

2. Geography, specifically East vs. West, is a recurring theme in this novel; in fact, Nick even says near the end of the book that “this has been a story of the West . . . .” What part does geography play? Give some examples of how geography is used and what you think these places represent. How is this a story of the West?

3. Class is another recurring theme in The Great Gatsby. Give some examples of how class and social order are manifest...

(The entire section is 1092 words.)

Chapter 1


abortive: unsuccessful, failed

complacency: self-satisfaction accompanied by unawareness

discontented: unhappy, restless, dissatisfied

dissimilarity: unlikeness, difference

epigram: a saying or witticism

extemporizing: improvising, ad-libbing

fractiousness: contentiousness, irritability, unruliness

incredulously: doubtfully, skeptically

plagiaristic: copied, unoriginal

preemptory: seized upon, taken for oneself

revelation: an act of revealing to view or making known

riotous: violent, disorderly, unruly

supercilious: arrogant, condescending

turbulence: commotion, confusion

wistfully: in a manner full of yearning or...

(The entire section is 856 words.)

Chapter 2


anaemic: weak, feeble, pale

apathetically: indifferently, lazily

contiguous: adjoining, attached

desolate: bleak, deserted, isolated

ectoplasm: a substance held to produce spirit materialization and telekinesis

hauteur: snobbishness, arrogance

immoderately: extravagantly, wastefully

impenetrable: impassable, dense, solid

inexhaustible: endless, limitless

languid: unhurried, lazy

oculist: an eye doctor

pastoral: rustic, rural

rakish: stylish; casual; confident

shiftlessness: inefficiency, the lack of ambition, laziness

strident: forcefully, noisily

sumptuous: luxurious, extravagant


(The entire section is 861 words.)

Chapter 3


apparition: ghost, specter, spirit

ascertain: determine, establish

cataracts: cascades, waterfalls

caterwauling: a shrill howling or wailing sound

contemptuous: disapproving, scornful, condescending

corpulent: fat, fleshy

dissension: disagreement that leads to discord

florid: fancy, ornate, extravagant

gaudy: showy, flashy, garish

homogeneity: similarity in nature

impetuously: impulsively, rashly

innuendo: implication, insinuation

jauntiness: dash, self-confidence, spryness

obstetrical: of or relating to childbirth

provincial: simple, unsophisticated

provocation: aggravation, irritant

rivulets: very...

(The entire section is 1171 words.)

Chapter 4


Armistice: truce, peace agreement (in this case, referring to the truce that ended WWI)

beaux: boyfriends

bootlegger: someone who illegally produces and/or sells alcohol

juxtaposition: combination or concurrence that shows contrast

knickerbockers: baggy-kneed trousers

labyrinth: maze, web

punctilious: scrupulous, meticulous

retribution: vengeance, justice

skepticism: doubt, cynicism

somnambulatory: carried out while sleepwalking; going through the motions

succulent: juicy, moist

wan: pale, ashen

Study Questions

1. Gatsby takes Nick on a ride and tells him some things about his family, his...

(The entire section is 562 words.)

Chapter 5


colossal: massive, immense

confounding: mystifying, puzzling

counterfeit: fake, imitation, sham

distraught: troubled, distressed

exultation: ecstasy, delight

harrowed: distressed

innumerable: countless

postern: a secondary door or gate

recurrent: repeated, regular

reproach: scolding, blame, accusation

scrutinized: examined closely

vestige: trace, sign

Study Questions

1. At the beginning of the chapter, what sight does Nick discover upon returning home late the night of his talk with Jordan?

Gatsby’s house is all lit up “like the World’s Fair.” Gatsby himself soon emerges to...

(The entire section is 834 words.)

Chapter 6


antecedents: background, past history

contingencies: provisions for future events

debauchee: a person given to excessive indulgence

dilatory: slow, dragging

euphemisms: a mild or vague term used in substitution for a harsher more direct one

incalculable: countless

incarnation: embodiment, materialization

ineffable: indescribable, overwhelming

ingratiate: curry favor by flattering someone or trying to please

laudable: praiseworthy, admirable

lethargic: sluggish, tired

menagerie: strange or diverse collection

meretricious: attractive but having no intrinsic value or worth

notoriety: reputation, infamy


(The entire section is 804 words.)

Chapter 7


abyss: void

boisterously: exuberantly, energetically

caravansary: a large inn built to accommodate caravans in central and western Asia

clamorously: a loud outcry

coupé: a sports car

expostulation: earnest reasoning in an effort to dissuade or correct

incoherent: confused, unintelligible

inviolate: free and safe from harm

libertine: a person who behaves without moral principles

locality: area, neighborhood

luminosity: radiance, shine

medium: a psychic, someone who can talk to the dead

precipitately: hastily

prig: a self-righteously moralistic person

rancor: resentment, bitterness

scalloped: wavy, like the...

(The entire section is 1152 words.)

Chapter 8


amorphous: shapeless

cahoots: colluding or conspiring together secretly

corroborate: confirm

corrugated: ribbed, wavy

extravaganza: show

fortuitously: casually, luckily by chance

garrulous: talkative, chatty

holocaust: destruction or slaughter on a massive scale

interminable: endless

pneumatic: operated by air or gas under pressure

ravenously: hungrily, greedily

redolent: scented

stratum: level, echelon

unscrupulously: dishonestly

Study Questions

1. “’Jay Gatsby’ had broken up like glass against Tom’s hard malice.” This is a wonderfully descriptive sentence....

(The entire section is 679 words.)

Chapter 9


adventitious: coming from outside, not native

bulbous: swollen

commensurate: in proportion

defiance: open resistance

incessantly: ceaselessly, continually

orgiastic: frenzied

pasquinade: a satire or lampoon

squeamishness: easily sickened or shocked

superfluous: unnecessary

unpunctual: after the appointed time

Study Questions

1. The true story of why Wilson murdered Gatsby never comes out in the press. What becomes the “simplest” story instead?

Wilson was a man “deranged by grief” who acted irrationally and randomly.

2. Nick is almost haunted by Gatsby after his...

(The entire section is 597 words.)

Multiple-Choice Test and Essay Exam Questions

Part I: Multiple Choice

1. Nick and Gatsby live (and much of the story is set) in

A. West Egg, New York.

B. East Egg, New York.

C. Manhattan.

D. an unnamed Midwestern City.

E. New Haven.

2. The Great Gatsby is set in what time period?

A. just after World War II

B. just before the turn of the century

C. just before the Vietnam War

D. just after World War I

E. during the Great Depression

3. How does Nick describe his mood as he leaves Tom and Daisy’s house after the dinner party?


(The entire section is 4140 words.)