The Great Gatsby questions
Identify three scenarios (specific events or experiences) from The Great Gatsby which portray how some imagine and live out the Dream. Then, comment on what the experience suggests about the character’s underlying belief and motivation about “getting ahead” or having “a better life,” in connection with the greater insight of the novel. Finally, depict three expressions/experiences in cultural life today that bear striking similarity to the novel and comment freely on any relationships they have with its larger theme(s).
Fitzgerald, as a novelist, has a gift for getting beneath the troubling realities of a society. One way he does this is by masterfully distinguishing appearance from reality, but doing so while slowly leading the reader away from original impressions to change their mind and open their eyes to a hidden truth, a disguise or deeper meaning. Some say the effect is to simulate reality itself, where his way of unfolding theme and character corresponds to our experience in the world – initially being naïve but later made wise to an illusion. With this in mind, consider how his theme creeps up on you as you read – noting in particular how you developed early sympathies for a character, or thought little of their motivations and flaws but later “experienced a transition” in your viewpoint. For example, what are your earliest thoughts about Daisy, Nick or Jay? Did your view change, and if so, when and why? Give thought to how this makes the writing more effective, and especially how reading this way may have opened your eyes to appearances and illusions in our time and place.
Is Gatsby heroic or tragic in your eyes? In what ways do you sympathize with him and/or loathe him; how is he alike and different from you; and, why is he considered a timeless character in literature? Reference other characters in history, literature or society to arrive at a fuller analysis of this character and his motivations, and freely comment on human nature, as it is represented here, more generally.
Culture and dreams – some of you come from another cultural background than a European or North American one; or, you may have a belief tradition that conflicts with the Dream as a social doctrine for getting ahead; and, still others see the value of this social doctrine and subscribe to it wholeheartedly as a strategy for realizing your own fullness or success. In this question, reflect on similarities and differences between your own background and that of the Dream as it is represented in The Great Gatsby. Cite an example or two from the text to support your insight/point. Note some of your own highest meanings/values and where they may be in tension with the Dream. It should be apparent in your response whether you are an advocate or critic of the Dream as it’s represented in the novel and/or society.
“In a dream, the mind will invent a character; in life, the heart will invent a dream.” Offer an interpretation of this anonymous quote as it strikes you, then interweave it with any two quotes you draw from the “quote and insight” tab (Part 4 of the Novel Study) to support its significance in the novel and in life; additionally, feel free to make use of any other quotes or verses to pull together a personal insight on what the quote means to you after reading and reflecting on The Great Gatsby. Refer to moments in the text as you can.