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Scott Fitzgerald Title: The Great Gatsby Main Character(s) name and one sentence description: Jay Gatsby, the title character of The Great Gatsby, was born Jimmy Gatz, a poor boy from an undistinguished family. Dazzled by Daisy Fay at a party when he was a young soldier on his way overseas, he is determined to win her love by accumulating enormous wealth and by developing a personal style of such glowing force that she will be unable to resist his courtship. He is a natural leader of men; he is extremely poised, physically gifted, understated about his accomplishments but riveting in terms of his presence. At the age of thirty-two, having accumulated his wealth through shady enterprises connected with major-league criminality, he is a bizarre combination of an elegant, gallant man and a love-struck youth. At the heart of his character is the conviction that his love can rescue Daisy from a bad marriage and redeem his own life, which has been sliding further into corruption. His willingness to commit himself totally to his vision of a bright future makes his death tragic. Two Important Minor Characters and their relationship with the main character: Daisy is extremely attractive, her allure projected by her voice, which Fitzgerald describes as 'the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again.' She has a radiance that Nick sees as 'a wild tonic in the rain,' and she communicates her sense of love with extraordinary intensity. But she sees everything from the perspective of her own happiness and well-being, and without being cruel or evil, she is a little bit too careless. In fact, her carelessness leads to the death of Myrtle Wilson, the woman her husband has been seeing. Daisy's faults are minor, though, in comparison with those of her husband. Tom Buchanan is very rich and privileged, but he is also physically imposing, a star athlete used to having his way. He is a thug and a bully, full of self-importance and unjustified self-regard. But inside the 'cruel body' he remains a coward with no moral courage, a quitter with no sense of perseverance, a man of average intelligence that he has never developed, and a man concerned with appearances who, as Nick observes, has no real reason for doing anything. He competes with Gatsby through deception and treachery. It is a mark of Fitzgerald's achievement that one actually feels sorry for him at times.
The setting of the work (Time and Place) and one sentence as to why it is important: Set in the summer of 1922, most of the story takes place in the fictitious New York towns of East and West Egg, Long Island, and in New York City. Nick Carraway, who has rented a cottage in West Egg next door to the rented estate where the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby lives, renews his acquaintance with his cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom, who live in East Egg. When Gatsby wishes to meet the charming Daisy, whose voice rings like the sound of money, he selects Nick as his confidant. The glitter and intrigue of the 1920s permeate the story, and the details of the setting are important to the development of the theme. In chronological order, list the five most important events in the work: 1. Nick goes to one of Gatsby’s parties and meets Gatsby 2. Gatsby and Tom go into town with Myrtle, see other life 3. Gatsby and Daisy meet 4. Myrtle Wilson is killed by Daisy but Gatsby covers it up. 5. Gatsby is killed What is the dominant symbol in the work and give one specific example of where it is used: - Gatsby's car is not just an ostentatious display of wealth, it is a mobile realm, his drawer of unusual shirts is more than a display of buying power, it suggests the generosity of abundance - The Buchanans' mansion is not just an example of conspicuous consumption, it is a symbol of a limitless power, almost a natural force - Gatsby's gestures are not just calculated effects, they are manifestations of genuine aristocracy - Daisy's voice is not just 'full of money,' it is an expression of the magic that stirs the senses. - Green light at end of the dock Describe the narrative style in the book and briefly explain how it is used effectively: As critic Matthew Bruccoli points out, his 'narrative control solved the problem of making the mysterious—almost preposterous—Jay Gatsby convincing by letting the truth about him emerge gradually during the course of the novel.' Fitzgerald greatly admired novelist Joseph Conrad's employment of a partially involved narrator, and everything that occurs in the novel is presented through Nick's perceptions, thus combining, as Bruccoli puts it, 'the effect of a first-person immediacy with authorial perspective.'
Nick's tempered approach to life and his undeniable honesty lend an authenticity to his observations. In Nick's narration, Fitzgerald skillfully merges the language of the lyric poet with subjects not traditionally associated with a lyrical sensibility. One of Fitzgerald's greatest strengths is his ability to animate the vision of the American dream even as he reveals the forces that have tainted, if not destroyed, that idyll. How does the ending resolve the issues presented in the work: Fitzgerald was also a thoroughly romantic artist in the most traditional sense, and for him, women like Daisy represented the deepest seductive power of the American dream as well as its greatest dangers. Even if pursuing the dream—or the woman—doomed a man, the undertaking was worth the risk; indeed, the pursuit was essential for the exceptional man who wished to fully realize his character. Thus, Gatsby's (and possibly America's) greatness lay in the ability to put aside the lessons of bitter experience. As Gatsby says when Nick tells him he cannot recapture the past, 'Of course you can, old sport.' Gatsby's full participation and heedless pursuit make him the quintessential American hero. His death, in a sense, serves as a warning, but it also ennobles him. Fitzgerald hoped that there would always be men such as Gatsby whose nature it was to 'beat on, boats against the current,' to make the gorgeous gesture that animates existence. Nick, the observer and artistic conscience, serves as a necessary counterweight to Gatsby's wild extravagance. His support of Gatsby, his participation to some extent in Gatsby's heartdriven surge toward romantic beauty, and his ability to judge other people's actions with compassion exemplify fundamental decency carried beyond complacency. As Gatsby reanimates the dream, Nick conserves it. His appreciation of beauty is as vital to its existence as is Gatsby's immediate celebration. 'Reserving judgment,' he says, 'is a matter of infinite hope.' That is what The Great Gatsby is ultimately about. Briefly describe the major theme of the work: The theme of The Great Gatsby is decadence and the decline of society. Although the story is told with grace and beauty, its events are intended to be shocking. True to the spirit of the times, the story involves marital infidelity, murder, and wealth earned through racketeering. Many of the characters thrive on emotional dishonesty, and live for appearance rather than substance of character. But the novel is also a moral tale in which the characters get their 'just
deserts.' Ultimately Nick understands the meaning of their lives and the sadness of their worlds. Why is this work important to read?: In 1922 Fitzgerald coined the term 'the jazz age,' and his stories brought him both fame and wealth. Scott was the darlings of the rich; and socialized with the Astors and the Vanderbilts in New York; he lived on the French Riviera; and was the envy of the expatriate writers in Paris during the 1920s. But following the stock market crash in 1929, the lifestyle of the rich fell apart. The world that had given Fitzgerald his literary material, as well as social acceptance, no longer existed. He faced personal and professional decline. In 1930 she was institutionalized for insanity, and his alcoholism became acute. Fitzgerald's marketability also suffered; although some Depression literature was escapist, in general Americans were not eager to read magazine fiction about idealistic youths or carefree flappers. Although he adapted the tenor of his work to the spirit of the times, often focusing on the attendant evils of great wealth. However, the Great Gatsby chronicles the fall from the grace of the glamorous. Find 3 quotations from the work that speak to you about one of the following: theme, characterization, symbol/metaphor, narrative styles, or…: • “One of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savours of anti-climax” • “I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited—they went there” • “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
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