The Great GatsbyBy: F. Scott Fitzgerald Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes Love is sometimes the result of self- deception and denial.The American Dream is futile and corrupt. The desire of wealth and power can sometimes replace morality. No man can step in the same river twice. Appearances are often deceiving.
Critical Lens Quotes All extremes of feeling are allied with madness – Virginia WoolfMoving on is simple, it’s what you leave behind that makes it so difficult. – Anonymous “To thine own self, be true.” - William Shakespeare (Hamlet)
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov Humbert Humbert is a middle -aged manwho is enamored by a 12 year old girl thathe nicknames Lolita. He will not accept the fact that Lolita will never return his deeppassion for her and that he is nothing more than a pedophile. “ T h e n s h e c r e pt i n t o m y w a i t i n g a r m s , r a di a n t , r e l a x e d, c a r e s s i n g m e w i t h h e rt e n de r , m y s t e r i o u s , i m pu r e , i n di f f e r e n t ,t w i l i g h t e y e s - - f o r a l l t h e w o r l d, l i ke t h e c h e a pe s t o f c h e a p c u t i e s . F o r t h a t i s w h a t n y m ph e t s i m i t a t e - - w h i l e w e m o a n a n d di e . ”
Setting: Summer of 1922 Long Island & New York City Social class is irrevocable. Gatsby andMyrtle try to escape their social classes and are killed in the process. Even in a world of wealth and power, there is a social caste system. The people of WestEgg are described as new money. East Egg is home to people born into a long legacy ofwealth and power. Despite their differences,the two groups are exactly the same: corrupt and immoral.
The Valley of Ashes is thewasteland left behind by the rich. The people who call it home live in extreme poverty. The Valley symbolizes the delusion and futility of the American Dream.Poor people like the Wilsons must scrape for a living in a placedestroyed and abandoned by the rich.
Point of View The Great Gatsby is narrated in the 1st person point of view by Nick Carraway. He is a from the Midwest. He is totally detached from the lavish and corrupt society of the East Coast. He is likable, moral, and highly reliable. Yet, his mostimportant trait, mentioned very early in the novel, is his refrainment of judgment upon others.Nick is essentially an outsider looking in. Nick’s refrainment from judgment gives him the opportunity to become invisible, This POVsupports the themes because Nick tells the storyas is, uncut and without much side comments or opinions.
Characterization Protagonist: Jay Gatsby Jay Gatsby is a wealthy man who resides in West Egg. He is madly in love with Daisy Buchanan, a lost love from his past. He is a static character because he is introduced as ambitious and lovesick over his beloved Daisy and dies the same way. In addition, he is a tragic hero because Gatsby is powerful, successful, and incredibly wealthy. Heembodies the so-called American Dream. He has it all, but that isn’t enough, he has to have Daisy.
Antagonist: Gatsby’s DreamThis very dream built him up andultimately tore him down. It drove his actions and made him successful. Yet, it clouds his judgments and prevents Gatsbyfrom coming to grips with reality. This dreams digs an early grave for Gatsby.
Daisy Buchanan: the object of Gatsby’s obsession and the driving force to his life of crime. Daisy is cavalier and is in love with money, ease, and material luxury. Her love for Tom is not true love. She is in love with the lifestyle that Tom provides for her. She is the epitome of the decadence and immoral values of high society in the 1920s.George Wilson: the lifeless and exhausted owner of a run-down garage in The Valley of Ashes. Like Gatsby, he is a dreamer. He represents the futility and deceit of the American Dream, a dream that is nothing more than an unfeasible nightmare.
Characterization drives a story forward bygiving motives and reasons for what characterssay or do. There is frequently establishment of background information about characters, which tells a reader more about them soreaders can identify with them and/or furtherunderstand what the characters do. Fitzgeraldpurposefully makes the characters overly histrionic and exaggerated because this helps stress and draw attention to his overall message.
ConflictThe major conflict in The Great Gatsby is the internal battle that Jay Gatsby is fighting. He is obsessed with winning back the affections of Daisy Buchanan. The conflict is his inability to let go of the past and the realization that Daisyhas moved on with life without him. He cannot and will not accept this and hisstubbornness and hopeless obsession is what leads to his death.
PlotExposition: Nick moving into the cottage next to Gatsby’s mansion and meeting the mysterious Jay Gatsby. Rising Action: Gatsby’s lavish parties and his arrangement of meeting Daisy at Nick’s.Climax: Gatsby’s long awaited reunion with Daisy and the confrontation between Gatsby and Tom at the Plaza Hotel.Falling Action: Daisy’s rejection of Gatsby, Myrtle’s death, and Gatsby’s murder. Resolution: Gatsby’s funeral, Nick’s last meeting with Tom and Jordan Baker, and Nick moving back into the honesty and morality of the Midwest
Myrtle Wilson’s affair with Tom Buchanan represents the desire of the have-nots to escape the confines of theirsocial classes. In actuality, Myrtle does not love Tom. She loves what he can do for her socially. With Tom, she is capable of embodying a woman of high society rather than her second-class self in reality. Myrtle’s desire for the glamorous life of aristocracy causes her morality to take a backseat. After the Plaza Hotel debacle, Nick finds Gatsby standing alone in the darkness outside of the Buchanan house. Heis waiting to save Daisy from a belligerent Tom. However, that doesn’t come to pass and the next day Gatsby decides to take a swim, ordering his butler to wait for Daisy’s call. Gatsby never gets that call and he has a life- changing epiphany. Daisy has moved on and the world is no longer idyllic and therefore he must die.
Tone Fitzgerald is critical of the Jazz Age and the American Dream. the American dream was originally about discovery, individualism, andthe pursuit of happiness. In the 1920s depictedin the novel, however, easy money and relaxed social values have corrupted this dream, especially on the East Coast.America became a place where the corrupt finish first, pockets lined with gold, whilethe dreamers, holding fast to the American Dream, aren’t even in the race to true success and happiness.
Fitzgerald met and fell in love with Zelda Sayre when, during the Great War, was assigned to a camp near Montgomery, Alabama. Like Daisy, Zelda was a southernbelle, rich, and beautiful. After the war, Fitzgerald moved to New York to seek his fortune so that he can marry Zelda. However, Zelda was unwilling live off his smallsalary. She broke their engagement. Fitzgerald went on to write The Side of Paradise, which made him an instant celebrity. A week later, Zelda became Mrs. F. Scott Fitzgerald. While reading, we take Nick’s retelling of thestory as the truth because of Fitzgerald’s pristine description of him. Yet, Nick’s account of the story is laced with cynicism, the attitude that Fitzgerald possessed about the 1920s.
Mood “The day that it was pouring rain was the day thatGatsby planned to meet daisy. The rain creates a melancholic and anxious mood. When the weather clears up, this represents the change in the character’s feelings. Jay and Daisy are now comfortable and enjoying their memories and being together. As tension begins to rise, the weather becomes very hot. The climatic confrontation between Tom and Gatsby happens on the hottest day of the summer.
Literary Techniques Symbolism: Dr. TJ Eckleburg is an old billboard that overlooks TheValley of Ashes. The billboard is almost a Godlike figure in The Great Gatsby as it symbolizes the morality (commonly associated withreligion) that is absent in a period in which evil and corruptions runs rampant. Foreshadowing: throughout the novel, foreshadowing is prevalent. One example is the constant mentioning of Gatsby’s pool. Thisforeshadows a big event that is going to be associated with that same pool. George Wilson ultimately kills Gatsby in his pool. Flashback: in some points of the novel, Nick deviates from the present to talk about Gatsby as a penniless young man. Prior to Gatsby’s funeral, Mr. Gatz, Gatsby’s father, tells Nick of hisdetermined son, evidenced in a strict schedule and specific to-do list he wrote as a young kid. Gatsby was always striving for that American Dream and it only intensified after he meets Daisy and loses her because of the war. Daisy, like the American Dream, is unattainable and impossible.
Yesterday – The Beatles Paul McCartney talks of longing for yesterday,where he and his love were together and he was at complete ease. However, today, she is gone, leaving without giving him a reason and his world erupts in problems. The shadow of thepast is hanging over him. He considers himself to be less than what he was yesterday and he believes in “yesterday”. This relates to The Great Gatsby because Gatsby wasliving in the past, where he and Daisy were together and madly in love. Like McCartney, Gatsby’s world isshrouded in the shadows of the past and he desperatelylongs for yesterday. He is not the man he used to be. He is now lovesick and forlorn.
Black SwanIn Black Swan, Nina Sayers is a young ballerina a part of a prestigious New York City dance company. Like Gatsby, she is obsessive and fixated on an unattainable dream. Her obsession is complete perfection and flawlessness. She makes a perfectionist look like an underachiever. Her obsession with striving for perfection is much more profound because of her schizophreniccondition. She ultimately meets her demise trying to attain that perfection she so longed for. UnlikeGatsby, she attains her dream. Her last words were: “Perfect. It was perfect.”
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