The Great Gatsby



Students will be able to:

  •  Read, comprehend and analyze a literary text.
  •   Identify and interpret various themes throughout the book.
  • Synthesize the author's use of symbols and elaborate on their meaning and purpose within the story.
  • Analyze the characters and their roles in relation to the author's purpose and craft.
  • Apply their understanding of the Roaring Twenties to the conflict and background in The Great Gatsby.
  • Illustrate their vision of the story through setting maps.
  • Synthesize their knowledge and understanding of both The Great Gatsby and of the Roaring Twenties through the creation of a 1920's newspaper.

Common Core Standards:

·         11.RL.1 "Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text..."

·         11.RL.2 "Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text..."

·         11.RL.3 "Analyze the impact of the author's choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or a drama..."

·         11.RL.5 "Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text contribute to its overall structure and meaning..."

·         11.W.1 "Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics of texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence".

·         11.W.4 "Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to task, purpose and audience".

·         11.SL.1 "Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions..."

·         11.SL.3 "Evaluate a speaker's point of view..."

·         11.SL.4 "Present information, findings and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning..."

·         11.L.1 "Demonstrates command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking".

Background Information:


What is the American Dream?

James Truslow Adams, in his book The Epic of America, which was written in 1931, stated that the American dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position." (p.214-215)

The authors of the United States’ Declaration of Independence held certain truths to be self-evident: that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." Might this sentiment be considered the foundation of the American Dream?

Were homesteaders who left the big cities of the east to find happiness and their piece of land in the unknown wilderness pursuing these inalienable Rights? Were the immigrants who came to the United States looking for their bit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their Dream? And what did the desire of the veteran of World War II - to settle down, to have a home, a car and a family - tell us about this evolving Dream? Is the American Dream attainable by all Americans?

Some say, that the American Dream has become the pursuit of material prosperity - that people work more hours to get bigger cars, fancier homes, the fruits of prosperity for their families - but have less time to enjoy their prosperity. Others say that the American Dream is beyond the grasp of the working poor who must work two jobs to insure their family’s survival. Yet others look toward a new American Dream with less focus on financial gain and more emphasis on living a simple, fulfilling life.

Thomas Wolfe said, "…to every man, regardless of his birth, his shining, golden opportunity ….the right to live, to work, to be himself, and to become whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make him."

Is this your American Dream?


Biography & Obituary


The dominant influences on F. Scott Fitzgerald were aspiration, literature, Princeton, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, and alcohol.

F. Scott Fitzgerald
and the American Dream

F. Scott Fitzgerald's life is a tragic example of both sides of the American Dream - the joys of young love, wealth and success, and the tragedies associated with excess and failure. Named for another famous American, a distant cousin who authored the Star Spangled Banner, Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul Minnesota on September 24, 1896. The son of a failed wicker furniture salesman (Edward Fitzgerald) and an Irish immigrant with a large inheritance (Mary "Mollie" McQuillan), Fitzgerald grew up in a solidly Catholic and upper middle class environment.

1935 Portrait by David Silvette, courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

F. Scott Fitzgerald Portrait

Fitzgerald started writing at an early age. His high school newspaper published his detective stories, encouraging him to pursue writing more enthusiastically than academics. He dropped out of Princeton University to join the army and continued to pursue his obsession, writing magazine articles and even musical lyrics.

At 21 years of age, he submitted his first novel for publication and Charles Scribner's Sons rejected it, but with words of encouragement. Beginning a pattern of constant revising that would characterize his writing style for the rest of his career, Fitzgerald decided to rewrite "The Romantic Egoist" and resubmit it for publication. Meanwhile, fate, in the form of the U.S. army, stationed him near Montgomery, Alabama in 1918, where he met and fell in love with an 18-year-old Southern belle - Zelda Sayre. Scribners rejected his novel for a second time, and so Fitzgerald turned to advertising as a steady source of income. Unfortunately, his paltry salary was not enough to convince Zelda to marry him, and tired of waiting for him to make his fortune, she broke their engagement in 1919. Happily, Scribners finally accepted the novel after Fitzgerald rewrote it for the third time as "This Side of Paradise", and published it a year later. Fitzgerald, suddenly a rich and famous author, married Zelda a week after its publication.

In between writing novels, Fitzgerald was quite prolific as a magazine story writer. The Saturday Evening Post in particular served as a showcase for his short works of fiction, most of which revolved around a new breed of American woman - the young, free-thinking, independent "flapper" of the Roaring Twenties.

F. Scott Fitzgerald PhotoThe Fitzgeralds enjoyed fame and fortune, and his novels reflected their lifestyle, describing in semi-autobiographical fiction the privileged lives of wealthy, aspiring socialites. Fitzgerald wrote his second novel - "The Beautiful and the Damned" a year after they were married. Three years later, after the birth of their first and only child, Scottie, Fitzgerald completed his best-known work: "The Great Gatsby."

The extravagant living made possible by such success, however, took its toll. Constantly globe-trotting (living at various times in several different cities in Italy, France, Switzerland, and eight of the United States), the Fitzgeralds tried in vain to escape or at least seek respite from Scott's alcoholism and Zelda's mental illness.

Zelda suffered several breakdowns in both her physical and mental health, and sought treatment in and out of clinics from 1930 until her death (due to a fire at Highland Hospital in North Carolina in 1948). Zelda's mental illness, the subject of Fitzgerald's fourth novel, "Tender is the Night," had a debilitating effect on Scott's writing. He described his own "crack-up" in an essay that he wrote in 1936, hopelessly in debt, unable to write, nearly estranged from his wife and daughter, and incapacitated by excessive drinking and poor physical health.

Things were looking up for Fitzgerald near the end of his life - he won a contract in 1937 to write for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Hollywood and fell in love with Sheilah Graham, a movie columnist. He had started writing again - scripts, short-stories, and the first draft of a new novel about Hollywood - when he suffered a heart attack and died in 1940 at the age of 44, a failure in his own mind. Most commonly recognized only as an extravagant drunk, who epitomized the excesses of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald's work did not earn the credibility and recognition it holds today until years after his death.

F. Scott & Zelda

F. Scott Fitzgerald

It was only twenty years ago that a novel called “This Side of Paradise” was published, and the world became aware of the existence of the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, a young man of rare talent. The story was deft, romantic, gay, alcoholic and bitter. It was the first year of prohibition. Flaming youth was rampant. People talked of the post-war moral let-down. Raccoon coats were coming in. There were rumors of strange goings-on in the colleges. It was the beginning of a fantastic era (how long ago it seems!), and Fitzgerald, handsome, insouciant and possessing unusual gifts for story telling, instantly became its prophet and its interpreter. Flappers adored him; moreover, the grave gentlemen who sit in judgment on literary products agreed that here, indeed, was one who showed magnificent “promise.”

Fitzgerald, who died yesterday at the tragically early age of forty-four, continued to show “promise” all through his tortured career. He turned out many glittering short stories which were commercial successes. His admirers kept hoping for the elusive something which would be called great. In 1925, with a compact and brilliant novel, “The Great Gatsby,” the story of the rise and fall of a Long Island bootlegger, he renewed their faith. As literature it was perhaps the best thing he ever did. Then came long periods when he did little, or nothing. He was ill, troubled, unhappy. In 1934, with “Tender Is the Night,” he had another success but again the critics, while admiring much of it, confessed that they had been expecting something better. Once more he had shown the high promise that somehow always fell just short of fulfillment. And yet, it cannot be taken away from him that he left a substantial literary legacy. He could write prose that was extraordinarily smooth, but it was never soft. It had, as the saying has it, “bones” in it.

The gaudy world of which Fitzgerald wrote the penthouses, the long week-end drunks, the young people who were always on the brink of madness, the vacuous conversation, the lush intoxication of easy money has in large measure been swept away. But Fitzgerald understood this world perhaps better than any of his contemporaries. And as a literary craftsman he described it, accurately and sometimes poignantly, in work that deserves respect.

New York Herald Tribune, 23 December 1940, p. 18.






The Roaring Twenties Background

The "New Woman"

The most familiar symbol of the “Roaring Twenties” is probably the flapper: a young woman with bobbed hair and short skirts who drank, smoked and said what might be termed “unladylike” things, in addition to being more sexually “free” than previous generations. In reality, most young women in the 1920s did none of these things (though many did adopt a fashionable flapper wardrobe), but even those women who were not flappers gained some unprecedented freedoms. They could vote at last: The 19th Amendment to the Constitution had guaranteed that right in 1920. Millions of women worked in white-collar jobs (as stenographers, for example) and could afford to participate in the burgeoning consumer economy. The increased availability of birth-control devices such as the diaphragm made it possible for women to have fewer children. And new machines and technologies like the washing machine and the vacuum cleaner eliminated some of the drudgery of household work.

The Birth of Mass Culture

During the 1920s, many Americans had extra money to spend, and they spent it on consumer goods such as ready-to-wear clothes and home appliances like electric refrigerators. In particular, they bought radios. The first commercial radio station in the U.S., Pittsburgh’s KDKA, hit the airwaves in 1920; three years later there were more than 500 stations in the nation. By the end of the 1920s, there were radios in more than 12 million households. People also went to the movies: Historians estimate that, by the end of the decades, three-quarters of the American population visited a movie theater every week.

But the most important consumer product of the 1920s was the automobile. Low prices (the Ford Model T cost just $260 in 1924) and generous credit made cars affordable luxuries at the beginning of the decade; by the end, they were practically necessities. In 1929 there was one car on the road for every five Americans. Meanwhile, an economy of automobiles was born: Businesses like service stations and motels sprang up to meet drivers’ needs.

The Jazz Age

Cars also gave young people the freedom to go where they pleased and do what they wanted. (Some pundits called them “bedrooms on wheels.”) What many young people wanted to do was dance: the Charleston, the cake walk, the black bottom, the flea hop. Jazz bands played at dance halls like the Savoy in New York City and the Aragon in Chicago; radio stations and phonograph records (100 million of which were sold in 1927 alone) carried their tunes to listeners across the nation. Some older people objected to jazz music’s “vulgarity” and “depravity” (and the “moral disasters” it supposedly inspired), but many in the younger generation loved the freedom they felt on the dance floor.


During the 1920s, some freedoms were expanded while others were curtailed. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1919, had banned the manufacture and sale of “intoxicating liquors,” and at 12 A.M. on January 16, 1920, the federal Volstead Act closed every tavern, bar and saloon in the United States. From then on, it was illegal to sell any “intoxication beverages” with more than 0.5% alcohol. This drove the liquor trade underground–now, people simply went to nominally illegal speakeasies instead of ordinary bars–where it was controlled by bootleggers, racketeers and other organized-crime figures such as Chicago gangster Al Capone. (Capone reportedly had 1,000 gunmen and half of Chicago’s police force on his payroll.)

To many middle-class white Americans, Prohibition was a way to assert some control over the unruly immigrant masses who crowded the nation’s cities. For instance, to the so-called “Drys,” beer was known as “Kaiser brew.” Drinking was a symbol of all they disliked about the modern city, and eliminating alcohol would, they believed, turn back the clock to an earlier and more comfortable time.




See the link below to access the Modernism in Literature PowerPoint.

Close Reading of a Literary Passage

To do a close reading, you choose a specific passage and analyze it in fine detail, as if with a magnifying glass. You then comment on points of style and on your reactions as a reader. Close reading is important because it is the building block for larger analysis. Your thoughts evolve not from someone else's truth about the reading, but from your own observations. The more closely you can observe, the more original and exact your ideas will be. To begin your close reading, ask yourself several specific questions about the passage. The following questions are not a formula, but a starting point for your own thoughts. When you arrive at some answers, you are ready to organize and write. You should organize your close reading like any other kind of essay, paragraph by paragraph, but you can arrange it any way you like.

I. First Impressions:

  • What is the first thing you notice about the passage?
  • What is the second thing?
  • Do the two things you noticed complement each other? Or contradict each other?
  • What mood does the passage create in you? Why?

II. Vocabulary and Diction:

  • Which words do you notice first? Why? What is noteworthy about this diction?
  • How do the important words relate to one another?
  • Do any words seem oddly used to you? Why?
  • Do any words have double meanings? Do they have extra connotations?
  • Look up any unfamiliar words. For a pre-20th century text, look in the Oxford English Dictionary for possible outdated meanings. (The OED can only be accessed by students with a subscription or from a library computer that has a subscription. Otherwise, you should find a copy in the local library.)

III. Discerning Patterns:

  • Does an image here remind you of an image elsewhere in the book? Where? What's the connection?
  • How might this image fit into the pattern of the book as a whole?
  • Could this passage symbolize the entire work? Could this passage serve as a microcosm--a little picture--of what's taking place in the whole work?
  • What is the sentence rhythm like? Short and choppy? Long and flowing? Does it build on itself or stay at an even pace? What is the style like?
  • Look at the punctuation. Is there anything unusual about it?
  • Is there any repetition within the passage? What is the effect of that repetition?
  • How many types of writing are in the passage? (For example, narration, description, argument, dialogue, rhymed or alliterative poetry, etc.)
  • Can you identify paradoxes in the author's thought or subject?
  • What is left out or kept silent? What would you expect the author to talk about that the author avoided?

IV. Point of View and Characterization:

  • How does the passage make us react or think about any characters or events within the narrative?
  • Are there colors, sounds, physical description that appeals to the senses? Does this imagery form a pattern? Why might the author have chosen that color, sound or physical description?
  • Who speaks in the passage? To whom does he or she speak? Does the narrator have a limited or partial point of view? Or does the narrator appear to be omniscient, and he knows things the characters couldn't possibly know? (For example, omniscient narrators might mention future historical events, events taking place "off stage," the thoughts and feelings of multiple characters, and so on).

V. Symbolism:

  • Are there metaphors? What kinds?
  • Is there one controlling metaphor? If not, how many different metaphors are there, and in what order do they occur? How might that be significant?
  • How might objects represent something else?
  • Do any of the objects, colors, animals, or plants appearing in the passage have traditional connotations or meaning? What about religious or biblical significance?
  • If there are multiple symbols in the work, could we read the entire passage as having allegorical meaning beyond the literal level?