An overview of the main events and fashions of the 1920s
This is a video I created, showing important places in St. Paul that are associated with F. Scott Fitzgerald's young life.
Check out this video on the Long Island house that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write The Great Gatsby. April 17, 2011.
Please write a 2-3 page informal essay answering one of the following two critical questions. Use evidence and quotations from the book to support your argument.
* Nick says that Gatsby “represented everything for which I have unaffected scorn,” and yet he also says that Gatsby “turned out all right at the end,” and is “worth the whole damn bunch put together. How do you explain Nick’s change of opinion? (or, alternatively, does his opinion really change?)
* One critic has written that “the theme of Gatsby is the withering of the American Dream.” Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
In this essay, I will not be looking at form, spelling, grammar or anything like that. This is a freewriting assignment, in which I want you to wrestle with your ideas about the book as a whole. Make an argument, defend it, challenge and question it, and restate it if necessary. What I’m looking for is your engagement with the text, your close reading, and specifics. The questions above are frequently asked of this novel, and their interpretations are still the subject of scholarly debate. I want to hear your voice enter that debate ~ I want to hear what YOU think (your interpretation, after all, is the one that matters).
The goal of this paper is to 1) help you become comfortable and confident with developing your ideas into an arguable thesis, 2) communicating that thesis in a cohesive and complete manner, 3) demonstrate your skills of close-reading analysis and organized creative thinking.
Copies of your first draft, along with your Reader Response letter, are due to your group in class on Tuesday, September 27. Your draft should be rough and open to serious revision, but should be complete (with thesis, introduction, support, and conclusion).
Final drafts of paper I (along with your portfolios) are due in class on Thursday, September 29.
You may write about any issue in The Great Gatsby. What you are looking for is some pattern that you find interesting or striking, or a possible explanation for a part of the text you found ambiguous or confusing. You should be asking questions while reading the text; your thesis should be your theoretical answer to one of the questions you posed. It should, therefore, be arguable (in other words, not stating the obvious). You have a host of possible issues to consider when finding your thesis, for example: issues of privilege, what makes Gatsby “Great,” Gatsby and the “American Dream,” how women are portrayed in the novel, how the nouveau riche are portrayed, how is FSF’s Midwestern connection displayed/used in the novel, success, morality, does Gatsby’s character experience a tragedy or a triumph, or our course theme…illusion versus reality. You could also focus on FSF’s style or use of imagery, language, symbolism, motif, or use of first person narrator. Furthermore, you could focus on doing a close reading of a particular scene or character. In many cases, you may a combination of these (for instance, how an aspect of FSF’s style reveals something about a theme, or how a character symbolizes a broader issue in the novel).
Your task is to illustrate with specific examples and specific language the theory you are proposing ~ allow your reader to follow the trail of your thought and how you came to reach your conclusion. You are persuading your audience that your thesis has merit (textual evidence), and that your authority is to be trusted (by using specific examples and demonstrating a clear understanding of your chosen topic). Remember: what you have concluded is your thesis; why and how you reached that conclusion is the bulk of your paper.
Your audience is the class ~ assume that your reader is as familiar with the text as you are. Length: 4-5 pages, double-spaced, 12 point font. Titled, with your name at top, pages numbered and stapled.
A Research Guide to The Great Gatsby: This is a good place to find a collection of links relating to material about the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and his novel The Great Gatsby, including pop culture (like movies), background information, study guides, and critical reviews.
C-Span video about The Great Gatsby: This is a great 2-hour video about F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby. Highly recommended.
Fitzgerald's Radiant World: This is an interesting article by Thomas Flanagan, from The New York Review of Books.