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Group Questions on The Great Gatsby (Spring 2013)

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Group Questions on The Great Gatsby (Spring 2013)

  1. 1. THE GREATGATSBYGROUP QUESTIONS AND ACTIVITIES
  2. 2. POINTS OFDEPARTURE• Does Gatsby represent the American Dream?• How does geography shape social class in the Great Gatsby?• Is Nick a reliable narrator? Why or why not?
  3. 3. ENVIRONMENTHow does Fitzgerald compare andcontrast the city with East Egg?Find two specific, short quotesthat set up that comparison.
  4. 4. RELATIONSHIPSHow would Nick and Jordancompare to John and May? Howwould Tom and Daisy compare toDesiree and Armand? Pick tworelationships—one from TheGreat Gatsby and one fromanother text we’ve read thissemester—and compare them.
  5. 5. GOSSIPWhat sorts of things are gossipedabout in this book? Pick twoexamples of things that aregossiped about and trace themthrough the text. Is there ever aninstance in which reality is just asexciting as the hype?
  6. 6. WOMEN DRIVERSNick and the other male characters in this text assume thatwomen are “rotten drivers.”• While nearly everyone in this book drives recklessly (see: the first car accident outside of Gatsby’s party), women are singled out as being unable to properly operate the vehicle itself. Jordan, according to Nick, is a “rotten driver” because she assumes everyone else will avoid the path of her car, saying breezily, “it takes two to make an accident.” (That could be a tagline for the entire novel!) Nick scolds her: “Either you ought to be more careful, or you oughtn’t to drive at all.”• Similarly, when Daisy runs over Myrtle, she is physically unable to control the vehicle at the key moment, and Gatsby takes the wheel after the yellow roadster has struck Mrs. Wilson. Why aren’t there any skillful women drivers in this book?
  7. 7. WOMEN WHO DRINKEveryone in The Great Gatsby drinks, and most to excess. And many experience extremeemotions when drunk—Tom’s anger and Gatsby’s passionate desire for Daisy are twoexamples. But it is women who in Fitzgerald’s novel get into the most uncontrollable stateswhen drunk.• Daisy first drinks to excess just before her wedding (according to Jordan, who is scared by the experience). She receives a letter from Gatsby that moves her to excessive tears. She will not physically let go of the letter, not even when the maid gets her into the bath. There is so much excess water—both from tears and from bathing—that the letter cannot remain physically intact—it “com[es] to pieces like snow” once Jordan can finally pry it from her hand.• At Gatsby’s parties, the women who drink often exhibit excessive emotion, to the point that they are considered non-functional not by themselves but by the men around them. Miss Baedeker, for example, is prone to outburst: “When she’s had five or six cocktails she always starts screaming like that.” But a doctor at the party, when called to attend the woman, sticks her head in the pool despite her own protestations. Nick, too, sees the woman as nonfunctional: “The girl was trying, unsuccessfully, to slump against my shoulder.” (pg. 106)• This is also true in an earlier scene when a female professional singer (& party guest), having “drunk a quantity of champagne,” decides her song “was very, very sad,” and cries her way through it until another guest comments on her mascara running. At which point she “throws up her hands” and goes away to sleep it off. The song remains unfinished. (pg. 51 in my version.)• And of course, alcohol was involved in Daisy’s accident. Why are women uncontrollable when drunk in The Great Gatsby?
  8. 8. MOTHERHOODDaisy and Tom’s three-year-old daughter Pamela appearstwice in the text—once simply through Daisy mentioning herbirth (“let her be a fool”), and once when she is dressed upby her nursemaid in order to make an appearance in front ofthe adult partygoers. While some of the distance betweenDaisy and her child is convention, that distance isexacerbated by modern-day chemicals (Daisy gives birthunder ether, for example, and is usually drunk when talkingabout her child). Do you think Daisy is seen (through Nick’s eyes) as a good mother? Why or why not?

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