The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

  1. Is the title serious? Ironic? How does it focus the reader’s attention?
  2. What elements of this novel may be autobiographical? On what aspects of American experience after the First World War does it concentrate?
  3. Is Gatsby the hero? What role is played by Nick Carraway, his chronicler and analyst? What do we come to know about Nick’s character and values, as he himself conveys them?
  4. What are some features of the novel’s style? Do you like it? How does it differ from that of, say, Irving or Hawthorne?
  5. What does the reader learn in the introductory chapters of the book? What opinion are we supposed to form of Tom and Daisy? Of Tom’s social companions?
  6. In this novel, what roles are served by conversation? What are some instances of conversations which reveal character? (of Daisy, of Myrtle, of Gatsby, of Mr. Gatz, of Jordan Baker, of Mr. Wolfshiem)
  7. What are some ways in which we know the author’s attitude toward what he describes?
  8. What do you think this novel reveals about (some) American attitudes of the time toward:
    race and ethnicity, family origin
    regions of the country
    use of leisure time
    economic values
    marriage and family relations
    use of automobiles; physical mobility
    crime, police, functions of the law
  9. What are some ways in which the novel creates suspense?
  10. What is the importance of the sequence in which events unfold?
  11. What are some recurrent objects or symbols which appear in the novel?
  12. Would you say this is a well-crafted novel, and why?
  13. Can you describe some of the important traits of the major characters--Daisy, Tom, Gatsby, Wilson, Myrtile, Mr. Wolfhiem, Mr. Gatz, Jordan Baker, and others? What purpose is served by the subplots, especially the (tepid) romance between Nick and Jordan?
  14. How does the novel use humor? Irony?
  15. What does the novel seem to imply about romantic or marital relationships? Are those presented highly meaningful? How would you describe the novel’s portrayal of women?
  16. What are important features of the ending? How do the deaths of Gatsby and Myrtle affect our view of the events and people described? The revelations about Gatsby’s actual occupation and the sources of his wealth?
  17. Does this novel mythologize its subject? Create an “American myth”? To what extent does it romanticize this myth, or alternately, critique it?
  18. Discuss some of the novel’s specific passages: e. g. pp. 6. 40, 116-18, 127, 162, 169, 184-85, 189, or others of your choice.

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