So you're going to teach F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, this classic text has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While teaching The Great Gatsby has its challenges—an unreliable narrator, class and racial biases—exploring this text with your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Fitzgerald creates a richly atmospheric Jazz Age setting as the context for examining issues of American identity and values that continue to be relevant today.
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Facts at a Glance
- Publication Date: 1925
- Recommended Grade Levels: 10th and up
- Approximate Word Count: 47,100
- Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Country of Origin: United States
- Genre: Novel
- Literary Period: American Modernism
- Conflict: Person vs. Society
- Narration: First-Person
- Setting: New York City area during the Roaring ‘20s
- Literary Devices: Irony, Satire, Realism
- Mood: Witty, Philosophical
Texts That Go Well With The Great Gatsby
Cartoons from The New Yorker. The iconic magazine first appeared in 1925, and many of its early cartoons lampooned the same cultural phenomena that Fitzgerald portrays in The Great Gatsby. When Daisy says to Nick in chapter 1, “Sophisticated—God, I’m sophisticated!” she sounds like she could be quoting a New Yorker cartoon caption. Like Daisy and Nick, the New Yorker’s target readership considered itself worldly and self-aware. Share a selection of New Yorker cartoons with your students, and ask them whether that initial characterization seems true today.
- The most easily accessible source, the book The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker, is (despite its name) an edited collection that leaves out some cartoons now considered to be in poor taste. Subscribers to The New Yorker can look through all of the early issues in the comprehensive online archive.
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. Nick Carraway casts a jaundiced eye on the bustling, superficial world of post-World War I New York. A quarter century later, Holden Caulfield shares some of the same cynicism as he surveys the city in the years following World War II. The narrators of these two high school syllabus staples speak with distinctly different voices. Nick claims that “I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known,” whereas Holden brags that “I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life.” But beneath the surface they have traits in common.
“A Certain Lady” by Dorothy Parker. This short poem by one of the most prominent literary figures of the 1920s could be titled “A Flapper’s Lament.” It reads like an expression of the discontent smoldering inside Daisy.
The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot. The Waste Land, published three years before The Great Gatsby, was much admired by Fitzgerald. The imagery used to describe The Great Gatsby’s valley of ashes resembles the descriptions of landscapes found in Eliot’s groundbreaking modernist poem, and the two works both touch on themes of alienation and materialism. Unraveling the complexities of The Waste Land is a challenge, but advanced students are likely to recognize parallels between Eliot’s poem and Fitzgerald’s novel. Reading the two together can make The Great Gatsby’s darker undercurrents more feel more prominent and profound.
“The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes. Concurrent with the Jazz Age was the literary and intellectual flowering of the Harlem Renaissance, of which Hughes was the most acclaimed poet. “The Weary Blues” portrays a side of New York City life that feels a world away from The Great Gatsby. See if students can identify any points of connection between the poem and the novel.