THE GREAT GATSBY: Study Questions
1. We see all the action of The Great Gatsby from the perspective of one character whose narration seems to be shaped by his own values and temperament. What is Nick Carraway like, what does he value, and how do his character and his values matter to our understanding of the action of the novel?
2. Early in the novel, Nick says of Gatsby that he “turned out all right at the end” (p.2) Later, however, after he tells Gatsby “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together” (154) he abruptly calls this “the only compliment I ever gave him because I disapproved of him from beginning to end.” What does this curiously ambivalent admiration for Gatsby tell us about Nick, and especially about his relation to Gatsby’s “incorruptible dream?” 3. From his first appearance, Tom Buchanan is a mouthpiece of racism. For instance, he sees himself as one of the “Nordics” who “make civilization;” and who must prevent “these other races” from having “control of things” [p.13]. Elsewhere, he complains of the lack of “self-control” of people who “begin by sneering at family life and family institutions,” and threaten to “throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white” . How does Tom’s expression of such attitudes illuminate his character, his relations with Daisy, and his sense of his place in the world?
4. How is Wolfsheim, along with the anti-Semitism informing his characterization, important to shaping the conflicts of the novel?
5. One of the concluding images of The Great Gatsby is Nick’s description of “the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes---a fresh, green breast of the new world.” (180). This imagery reminds us of the predominance in the novel of fantasies insistently associated with men. What is the place for Daisy, and for the novel’s female characters generally, in such fantasies? Are the dreams of the women in the novel consistent with those fantasies, or do we encounter any...
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